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Study: Denmark and Norway enjoy Nordic region's highest mobility


Denmark coined the term flexicurity, which by some has been used to describe the entire Nordic labour market model. But a new study comparing all the Nordic countries casts the Danish model in a unique light.

Tomas Berglund from the University of Gothenburg has compared mobility in the four Nordic countries - Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. His results clearly show a great mobility within the Danish labour market - for instance from employment to unemployment, between work places or between occupations. Norway too shows good mobility - particularly from unemployment to employment - while Finland and Sweden enjoy less labour market mobility.  

To study work place mobility you need to look at certain institutions and how they must be organised in order to improve mobility. These include the rules surrounding job security, levels and types of unemployment benefit, active labour market policies and people's opportunities for further learning. Denmark's "flexicurity" model is meant to maintain labour market flexibility as well as job security. Several international studies have lumped all the Nordic countries together under the flexicurity banner, but Mr Berglund's research shows clear differences between these countries' systems.   

Denmark stands out with its combination of weak job security, generous unemployment benefits and considerable investments in labour policy incentive schemes.  

The study focused on three main types of mobility; between employment, unemployment and being outside the labour market (e.g. in further education),  between so-called atypical jobs, for instance temping and part-time work and finally mobility between work places, occupations and trades. 

Young people more mobile

The study first looked at mobility between employment, unemployment and being outside the labour market. People's age and their type of contract proved to be the most important factors influencing this kind of mobility. Young people tend to be more mobile than older people, and people on temporary contracts are more likely to move from employment to unemployment or falling outside the labour market. Denmark again stands out as the country where it is most likely that people move from employment to unemployment, while in Norway the opposite is the case. Denmark does show a greater mobility from being outside the labour market to entering employment. For these categories of mobility, Sweden shows the lowest figures. 

Denmark also tops the mobility of people between work places, occupations and trades, with Finland and Sweden at the bottom. Age and the type of contract workers have play an important part in this kind of mobility too.

The number of temporary workers vary a lot between the Nordic countries, with Finland and Sweden top of the heap. People most likely to be in temporary jobs are the young, the foreign born and service industry workers. Swedish and Finnish temporary workers are the ones least likely to move from temporary to permanent employment, while Norwegian temporary workers have the best chance of this kind of mobility. 

Also when it comes to mobility between full-time and part-time employment, the study exposes clear differences between the Nordic countries. Norway has the most people in part-time work (25-30 percent), followed by Sweden and Denmark (20-25 percent) and Finland (10-15 percent). 

Denmark stands out

Tomas Berglund's study concludes that Denmark stands out also in the Nordic region in the way institutions are linked to the labour market. The flexicurity system goes hand-in-hand with high labour market mobility. This study does not establish the exact impact institutions have on this mobility, but it is clear Denmark's relatively low job security does play an important part. It means people are more likely to loose their jobs, sparking more mobility. At the same time people feel safe enough to move between jobs and occupations because of generous unemployment benefits and a considerable use of active labour market policies.

Norway and Sweden, meanwhile, have much stricter rules to protect employees, and Norway and Finland offer lower unemployment benefits than Denmark. Mr Berglund's study does shows high mobility also in Norway, but that is probably a result of that country's long-lasting strong economy as well as record-low unemployment figures.

Tomas Berglund

Thomas Berglund







Project leader at Nordic Labour Market Mobility in Nordic Welfare States.

Ph.D. Sociology at Department of Sociology, University of Gothenburg.

Project facts
  1. The project Labour Market Mobility in Nordic Welfare States lasted from 2007 to 2009, financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
  2. It studies labour market mobility in the four Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
  3. The aim has been to use the flexicurity model as a basis for studying the countries' different relationships between labour market institutions and their impact on labour market mobility.
  4. The countries' individual labour market surveys formed the basis for the research.
  5. These people took part in the project: Professor Per Kongshøj Madsen and doctoral student Stine Rasmussen, CARMA, University of Aalborgs; Head of Research Simo Aho and doctoral student Ilkka Virjo, Work Research Centre (WRC), University of Tammerfors; Head of Research Jon Erik Dølvik and researchers Kristine Nergaard and Jørgen Svalund, Fafo, Oslo; Professor Bengt Furåker, Tomas Berglund Ph.D. and doctoral student Kristina Lovén, Department of Sociology, University of Gothenburg.



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