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Green aims in uncertain times

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

One of the most important goals for the Nordic labour market cooperation is to make sure the right knowledge and skills are available to meet the demands of the green transition. But new and surprising challenges must also be dealt with.

In this edition, we have two reports, one from the Finnish border with Russia and one from Norrbotten in Sweden.

The contrasts could not be bigger. Finns who have Russia as their closest neighbour are reminded of the war in Ukraine by borders that are closed to private traffic, Russian tourists disappearing and the shelving of plans for a large border station. The import of timber from Russia has stopped, along with the import of Russian electricity and natural gas. There is a sense of unease about the future.

The situation in Norrbotten is quite the opposite. In cities like Luleå, Boden and Skellefteå, there is a hectic drive to recruit new labour to a range of large industrial initiatives with green credentials. Fossil-free steelworks and gigantic car battery factories also generate many jobs in education and the service industry.

Both regions have a history that many are now thinking about. The municipality of Parikkala, which Bengt Östling visited, was cut in half when Finland gave up land in Karela after the 1941 Winter War. Luleå with its export harbour for Swedish iron ore, avoided both German and British attacks in the early days of WWII when Europe’s largest iron ore deposit was a key resource. 

Today, two steel plant projects aiming to minimise CO2 emissions could be an inspiration to the global steel industry, writes Fayme Alm. Our photographer Cata Portin describes what is happening in the North and the East through her emotive pictures. 

Meanwhile, Gunhild Wallin and Bengt Rolfer have visited the EU Parliament in Strasbourg and describe how the EU temporary protection directive was rapidly passed with great enthusiasm among MEPs there. Rarely has a group of refugees been welcomed so warmly as the Ukrainians.  

But the directive must also face the light of day, when housing, jobs and school places have to be created. In Arvika, Johan Hellström is ready as head of the municipal labour market and integration training AMI. 

“It is good that people want to help. But we must treat everyone the same and other refugees feel that it is unfair that the Ukrainians get more help. I hope this flow of refugees will lead to a change in how people view refugees, and that everyone is welcomed in the same way regardless of where they come from, he says. 

The relationship between Sweden and the EU has otherwise been strained – at least when it comes to labour market issues. Twice, the EU has given the EU Commission a yellow card. First for the proposed directive on minimum wages, then for the directive on platform work. But now the EU has approved Swedish plans for state support in the case of so-called startup jobs

“The model for startup jobs makes it possible for Sweden to try out new ways of helping disadvantaged workers get access to the labour market – without unduly distorting competition,” points out Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

What makes the Nordic labour market model so special? In a rapidly changing world, the negotiation model – where the social partners first agree on where the land lies and then negotiate wages based on that – seems to work. Just this week, 500,000 public employees in Norway secured a new agreement.

But it is all about setting new targets, like the new cooperation programme for the Nordic labour ministers for 2022 to 2024 does. Two of those targets are particularly relevant to our reports from Luleå and from the Finnish border with Russia: To make sure the labour force is ready for the green transition, and to create social sustainability in sparsely populated areas. 


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