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Nordic cooperation during extreme times

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

The Nordic Council of Ministers is 50 this year. Meanwhile, the cooperation between the Nordic countries is being challenged more than ever since 1971. But many things have also worked and we have gained new insight into the importance of our open borders.

During the Nordic Council’s 19th session in Copenhagen between 13 and 18 February 1971, the prime ministers announced that the Nordic governments would formalise their cooperation. One of the Council of Ministers’ first jobs was to establish a Nordic volcanological institute in Reykjavik. Nordvulk has recently been very busy with the first volcanic eruption in 800 years at Reyjkanes, 40 kilometres from Reykjavik. 

Nearly 50 year of volcanic research means the Icelanders can say with a great degree of certainty that this will be a small eruption which will not threaten the capital.

The Corona pandemic is a nearly equally rare occurrence. 

“We must remember this is a once in a century event,” said Vibeke Rovsing Lauritzen, Denmark’s Ambassador to Sweden, during one of the seminars hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers on Nordic Day on 23 February as part of it’s 50th anniversary celebrations. 

In this edition, the Nordic Labour Journal reports from two of the webinars. In one, the Nordics were compared to a family in need of therapy. In the other, it was pointed out that there is a need for intensive Nordic cooperation to make sure Nordic citizens regain their pre-Corona confidence to seek jobs, study or buy second homes in a different country. 

The northern border region between Finland and Sweden is one of the areas that have merged the most. After an entire year with controlled borders, we look at things from the points of view of a Finnish border guard and a Finnish nurse, illustrated by Cata Portin’s evocative photographs. 

Gender equality has always been a term laced with pride for the Nordics. We take a look at the state of 24 different positions of power in each of the countries on International Women’s Day, 8 March, and describe the journey from 1971 and few female government ministers to today’s situation when four in five Nordic prime ministers are female. 

It has been a long fight, but there are still major gender differences in certain occupations. NIKK has reviewed research papers on commission from the Nordic Council of Ministers to find out why only 32% of those who take a science, technology or mathematic education are women while 68% are men. 

The conclusion is that you cannot think you can change this simply by trying to motivate the women as long as they do not get equal pay for equal work in occupations that are considered to be male.

We meet 25-year-old Ingvild Wang in Trondheim who chose one of the most male-dominated educations there is. She is often the only woman in meetings, yet she loves her job. She used to dismantle radios as a child and learned about sinus and cosinus while cross-country skiing. She has attended her share of technology camps for girls but remains an optimist.

“I think such measures have been effective and they have been important. But special recruitment measures for girls will probably be less important with time,” she says.

There is, however, now a need to take more than two genders into consideration. We write about what it means to obtain an LGBTI certification like the Dunker Culture House in Helsingborg has done. The courses do focus on gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people. But the experiences gained also provide more general insight in how visitors should be treated and environments shaped. 

Among the most important megatrends in society today are digitalisation, climate change and globalisation. 

“No country can implement effective policies alone. Our national systems need to be able to talk to each other,” points out Pyry Niemi, Chair of the Nordic Council’s Committee on Growth and Development in the Nordic Region.  

The green change which is needed in order to reach our climate goals must also be driven by more than top-down decision-making. The Global Deal is an initiative aimed at strengthening social dialogue. It was initiated by Sweden in cooperation with the ILO and the OECD, where it now has its secretariat. What will happen to the initiative when the OECD gets its new Secretary-General?

The Nordic countries see the EU Commission’s proposed directive on minimum wages as a backwards step for the labour market. Kerstin Ahlberg, our labour law expert, writes about the latest development.

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