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The Nordic's most precious resource

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

Trust is a crucial resource for the Nordic welfare states, but it does not cover everything and everyone. If you look closer, there are big differences in trust between the Nordic countries, but also internally in each of them.

September this year is election time in both Norway and Iceland. When Norwegians were asked this summer how much trust they have in different institutions, 78% gave parliament a score of six to ten on a scale where one is low. That is the highest ever score in the Trust Barometer which has been carried out four years running by Respons Analyse.

Icelanders are more sceptical of their parliament. 30% say they trust the institution. After the financial crisis in 2008, that number fell to 13%, from a pre-crisis level of 40%.

“Trust is now close to what it was before the crisis, but that took 12 years,” says Ólafur Þ. Harðarson, professor of political science at the University of Iceland. Together with other Icelandic researchers, he has studied what makes this year’s 25 September elections special. 

Norwegians go to the polls on 13 September. Four political parties are hovering around the election threshold, which in Norway is 4%. 

Trust is about more than politics. It is important in all types of human relationships. Sweden scores high in international trust surveys. But in the Swedish Trust Barometer, the differences are as big as those between Norway and Iceland – if you look at different city neighbourhoods.

In Södermalm in Stockholm, trust is high. 75% of those living there say they “trust most people”. Yet only 10 km away, in the suburb of Rågsved, things look very different. Only 30% who live there say they trust most people. 

“Our starting point is that we have enormous advantages in Sweden, but we want to show that this is a mixed picture and to highlight a controlled unease. This is a trust gap we should take seriously,” says Lars Trägårdh, professor of history and in charge of the Trust Barometer, which is carried out by Statistics Sweden.

The social partners are doing well in various Nordic trust surveys. But are we seeing a considerable shift when Sweden’s new central organisations get more power than trade unions in Sweden’s new employment act? Our labour market expert Kerstin Ahlberg says “the Swedish model is entering a new era”

Trust is, of course, also important in terms of public services. The Corona pandemic has brought added strain, but high vaccination rates across the Nordics show trust is high both in medical experts and in the way politicians have handled the pandemic. 

The pandemic has also meant greater workloads for nurses and other care staff. The Danish government, with parliament’s support, ended a more than ten-week long strike of about 5,000 Danish nurses on August 27.

a strike announced by Danish nurses. In Norway, seven in ten nurses say they have considered leaving the occupation in the past 12 months. Now, politicians must make sure people do not lose faith in the possibility of creating acceptable working conditions in the care sector.  

Trust is also important for immigrants and refugees. Can they trust that they will become fully-fledged citizens at some point in the future? When Denmark introduced tougher language skill demands, fewer refugees ended up finding jobs according to a Danish report from the Rockwool Foundation.

And how have things been for all those working from home during the pandemic? Has the office become an elusive dream we yearn for or do we enjoy our home offices? If so, it is not because we no longer have to commute – that matters far less than how your partner reacts to the new situation, according to the report “Working from home –flexible work is the new normal. 

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