Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i Articles i Editorials i Editorials 2020 i Towards happier times?

Towards happier times?

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

A Covid-19 vaccine with a 90% success rate was a longed-for piece of news as the Nordic region is facing the second wave of the pandemic. This crisis also impacts on the integration of newly-arrived immigrants.

Will this be a lost year for those who now have fewer opportunities to learn a language or do work training? New, digital ways of meeting cannot provide the social contacts that are so important to settle in a new country. 

“How many Nordic citizens will include immigrants in their circle of friends when, like in Norway, authorities are limiting people’s contacts to five people?” wondered Vilde Hernes, a researcher at the Norwegian university OsloMet, during the Nordic Council of Ministers’ annual integration conference.

The conference heard how some trends are the same across the region – like how housing costs are rising in a time of record-high unemployment. Other trends differ – unemployment in Finland rose less among immigrants than for native workers for instance.  

The OECD is also warning that migration to industrialised nations has halved and that immigrants are the ones hardest hit by the corona pandemic. 

”Talking about integration it should not be us and them. They were on the frontline during the pandemic and they will be an important part of recovering,” said EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson in a comment to the OECD Migration Outlook 2020. 

Migrants are needed now and will be needed for welfare societies to function. The MIPEX index, which looks at integration in different countries, says citizenship policies can send strong signals and have an impact on integration. Norway goes against the grain in this year’s index, dropping out of the top ten countries with the most generous policies. 

There are, however, sunshine stories, like Rafet Adem Daban who fled to Norway from Turkey and now has an internship as a photographer.

We are facing a time where dramatic decisions must be made quickly, like when Denmark’s government decided to kill 17 million mink because of the risk of them spreading a mutated version of covid-19. 

Tens of thousands of jobs will disappear as a result of the pandemic, not least in restaurants. In Denmark and Norway, where work Christmas parties represent an important tradition, this is a particular blow to the industry. 

It is also during some of these parties that too much alcohol is consumed and some people do things they regret – or they feel hurt but do not dare tell anyone since the boss was the one behind the harassment. 

The work Christmas party is the common denominator for two of the most talked-about Metoo stories in Denmark in recent months. A party leader and a deputy party leader have felt the consequences of a Denmark that no longer covers up sexual harassment.  

Meanwhile, in Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has so far had to manoeuvre through two potential government crisis – one about migration policies and one about rules covering the labour market, where his Social Democratic Party and LO faced off. The last word has not yet been had in either case.

Not everything was better before the pandemic. But as tourists have disappeared from Iceland, some have started to hark back to the time of “overtourism”. 

“The overtourism debate is only a bubble which will pop and disappear,” says Þór Skúlason, managing director at the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF).

The corona pandemic is also a time for new ideas.

“We control this development. Tourism is no natural catastrophe, it is something we can control ourselves,” points out Professor Gunnar Þór Jóhannesson at the University of Iceland.

That is why it also gives hope that places like Vaasa in Finland set themselves new, ambitious goals: “We will become the happiest city in the world.


Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment