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Editorial: The unacceptable consequences of border obstacles

| Text: Björn Lindahl, deputy editor

A long and comprehensive job to find and solve the key problems met by Nordic citizens working in a different Nordic country is nearing its end.

On 19 April a conference in Sandvika near Oslo will see the publication of a report on 36 border obstacles which all make the Nordic region a less flexible labour market than it could be - and which can create serious problems for those who are affected by them.

We look at one example of how bad things can get - Icelandic Valgerdur Thordis Snæbjarnardottir who moved to Norway to work for a Norwegian travel agency specialising on Icelandic travel. In 2008 she and her partner decided to move back to Iceland, where Valgerdur fell pregnant. She kept her job at the same travel agency in Norway and pays taxes and social insurance there.

But as she moved she fell between two chairs. Neither Norway nor Iceland want to pay her maternity money. The common Nordic labour market turned out to have holes into which citizens who want to do the right think could still fall.

Most of those who cross border commute or who work abroad are content, however. It means more than simply getting a job or getting better paid. They look for the challenges and opportunities to develop their competence. 

“We feel we get the best of both Denmark and Sweden this way,” say Per and Eva Andreasson who live on the outskirts of Malmö and who have both been commuting to Copenhagen for the past five years.

Half a million Nordic citizens have either moved to another Nordic country or been cross border commuting for the past ten years. Between 2001 and 2008 the commuting between Nordic countries increased by 166 percent. 

The average commuter is Swedish, and the largest flow of commuters is the one from Sweden to Norway and Denmark, according to a new report from Statistics Sweden, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

For the first time ever we get to know who commutes and why.

“We were surprised not more were unemployed before looking for work across the border. The driving force seems to not to be unemployment but the fact that it is considered attractive to apply for jobs outside your own country,” says Carl-Gunnar Hanaeus at Statistics Sweden.

It is high time to border obstacles get the attention they deserve. One of the initiatives from the Nordic Council is to make sure the issue is debated more or less simultaneously in all of the Nordic countries.


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