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Editorial: Mobile labour creates turbulence

| Text: Berit Kvam

"I have freed my own work from the shackles of time and space," says the head of Microsoft Finland in our piece on open plan office spaces. He commutes in time and space between his virtual and real mobile workplace.

An office space should inspire everyone, including the boss, to social contact and concentration. Meanwhile the world's first lab studying open plan offices is looking for answers to how such organisation of space can improve working health and productivity.

Mobility is a hot topic for debate within working life and in labour politics, and it mirrors a sign of the times: more and more people and businesses are on the move.

Jørgen Rønnest, the employers' representative in the European social dialogue, talks in Portrait about the need for well-functioning labour markets and increased mobility in order to meet our aims for increased growth and higher employment rates. 

This also forms the basis for the introduction of the directive on temporary agency work in Europe, and there is currently a lively debate on this in the Nordic region. The staffing agency trade is growing. How does that influence the labour market? We have made the staffing agency trade the Focus for this edition of the Nordic Labour Journal. 

Why do we fear this trade, which after all only employes just over one percent of the employable population? Is it because the staffing agencies challenge the Nordic model? 

Employers in Norway are worried because the number of sole traders within the cleaning industry has tripled over just a few years. They want to know whether this is the answer to the desired increase in flexibility.

Not all are singing from the same hymn sheet: Danish trade unions think the EU directive on temporary agency work will lead to fewer staffing agencies pushing down salary and working conditions in the labour market.

Swedish trade union IF Metal has entered into an agreement with employers which the trade union movement is very happy with: "We have a unique agreement for Sweden's staffing agency trade," says Veli-Pekka Säikkälä. 

Yet one timely question is still raised in the Research coloumn: "Do we know enough about staffing agencies as a phenomenon?" Senior researcher Ann Cecilie Bergene highlights some of the challenges and asks: are the Nordic welfare societies ready for this kind of player? 



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