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Socially excluded young people, a key issue across the Nordics

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-Chief

Across the Nordic region, there is a focused search for measures to include young people who are not in education or employment into the labour market. Researchers agree that the best solution is for young individuals to be followed up by people they can have close and long-term relationships with. But the number of people who find themselves socially excluded remains approximately on the same level.

All the Nordic countries are below the EU average, however, where 12 per cent of young people between 15 and 29 were “NEETs” in 2022 – not in education, employment or training – according to Nordic statistics.

That same year, the level in the Nordic countries varied between 5 and 10 per cent. But while the EU sees a clear downward trend, things are more mixed in the Nordic region. Three countries were on the same level in 2022 while the proportion of NEETs grew in one country and fell in another.

There is also considerable variations within the countries. A fresh survey from Sweden shows that the highest NEET proportion on a municipal level is four times that of the lowest one.

If you ask young people themselves, they say the problem is being tired of school combined with difficulties finding jobs if they have dropped out of higher secondary education.  

“Not everyone fits into a school situation. I feel it is bordering on hysteria with all this focus on getting everyone to finish upper secondary education. Of course, it is possible to get a job without,” says work specialist Tonje Kathrine Kretschmer Thue.

She has been working with “Individual Placement Support”, IPS, for adults since 2015. Two years ago, she joined an IPS programme for young people.

In this issue, we look at social exclusion among young people from different angles. We meet young people and employment specialists in Norway, where a knitting shop turned out to be the perfect workplace for Julia Engan Pettersen, and we speak to researchers who have compiled hundreds of reports to see what works.

An initiative in the Danish municipality of Esbjerg got “The Crown Prince Couple’s Stardust Award” which each year is given to innovative players in the field of social work. Half of the 183 youths who have participated in the “Energy for Each Other” programme are now employed. 

In Iceland, an agreement between the Ministry of Labour, employers and the Directorate of Labour has led to a sharp uptick in the efforts to help young, socially excluded people.

And we have interviewed Lena Engberg, the General Director of the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society: 

“The correct priority is not big measures late in the day, but smaller measures early on, if fewer young people are to avoid social exclusion,” she says. 

She underlines that social exclusion does not impact the young people only: 

“Parents, grandparents and others have told us about how this affects people’s health, social life and economy,” says Lena Nyberg. 

In this issue, we also take a look at a new Swedish inquiry that proposes stricter penalties for violence and threats towards public servants, as well as making it a crime to insult public servants. 

This comes in the wake of a social media disinformation campaign that blew up in 2022, where it was wrongfully claimed that Swedish social services kidnapped children, especially those from Muslim families.

The campaign made everyday life more dangerous and unsafe for social workers dealing with children and young people in vulnerable areas.

Meanwhile, at the Finnish company Snellman, there is peace and harmony between immigrants and native workers. The company is one of Finland’s largest producers of a range of foodstuffs, like meat toppings. It is situated in bilingual Jakobstad, which means the immigrants need to be able to speak three languages in addition to their own: Finnish, Swedish and English.

Finally, we also look at the latest developments for the EU platform work directive, which has run into unexpected resistance.


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