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A new starting point for labour market research

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

The pandemic created a need for new labour market research. NordForsk will soon announce nearly 50 million kroner of funding for future research. This is our starting point as we look at how the Nordic countries coordinate their research programmes.

“What was a gradual and continuous process suddenly changed because of the pandemic. External factors suddenly controlled what used to be planned changes,” says Arne Flåøyen, Director of NordForsk in Oslo.

He says the pandemic has been a game-changer for labour market research.

NordForsk is an independent research body under the Nordic Council of Ministers. Its main objective is to facilitate Nordic research cooperation based on scientific quality, efficiency and trust. In addition, this cooperation is expected to generate Nordic added value.

To become a researcher you must have a Ph.D. In Sweden, just over 2,500 students get their dissertation accepted every year and can start their research careers if they want. 

We talk to Johan Alfonsson, whose dissertation about casual employees last year was named the best research paper on the labour market and work environments. He is critical of the fact that both Social Democrat and centre-right governments in Sweden have been reducing employee protection.  

“There is a trend where individuals to an increasing extent must make themselves available rather than being protected with the help of state regulations," he says.

At the same time, he is unsure whether his dissertation will have an impact on developments, or whether that should even be a goal for research.  

But his dissertation does show that it is possible to make a mark in the debate, even as a lone researcher. 

There are many institutions that fund or carry out labour market research. In order to show some of the scope, we interviewed the heads of the Danish Rockwell Foundation and the Icelandic Labour Market Research Institute, Varða.

Yet state research councils are behind the funding of most Nordic research. 

“Our research is meant to be adaptable and applicable,” says Anna-Karin Florén at Forte. She heads a decades-long working life research programme which has now reached its halfway point. She and her colleagues in the other Nordic countries are key people when it comes to deciding which research, in particular, would benefit from Nordic cooperation.

Sweden and Norway have taken part in nearly all research programmes announced by NordForsk, but due to various limitations for the two largest Danish funds, it is often more difficult to get Danish researchers onboard. Iceland is perhaps the country that benefits the most from being part of a broader research platform. If you look at the number of participating researchers from each country, Iceland’s contribution is impressive.

For each application round, NordForsk has a programme committee that decides which projects get funding. Dag Ellingsen, a project leader for one of the successful Nordic projects, tells us about his experiences. The research on male power structures in the armed forces and police led to controversial findings and much debate. 

It changed how Norway’s police do things. As a result of the research, everyone working in the police today will have had to attend dilemma exercises exploring what is and what is not OK in their relationships with colleagues. 

There is a large leap from Norway’s military and police to the Faroe Islands, where we follow up the theme of our previous edition: How autonomous can Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland become? For the Faroese, one of the areas left to claim control over is their judicial system. But in order to do that, a prison must be built. Today, prisoners must serve their time in Denmark. But would things really be much better in the Foggy Valley – or Mjørkadalur as it is known in Faroese?

Finally, we also look at the unusual row in the European Trade Union Congress, ETUC, which has made Swedish LO stop paying its membership fee or participating in meetings because it believes the ETUC no longer speaks for them in the minimum wage debate. 

Minimum wage is a topic we have written a lot about and which we surely will come back to. The Nordic Labour Journal is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and they have renewed their trust in NLJ’s publishers – Norway's Work Research Institute – to carry on publishing it for four more years.

We are looking forward to it!


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