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Editorial: Nordic ministers’ fruitful Svalbard meeting

| Berit Kvam

Norway’s Minister of Labour Hanne Bjurstrøm wanted to celebrate Nordic cooperation and invited her colleagues to Svalbard.

Rarely have so many government ministers been present at a Nordic labour ministers’ meeting, and rarely have discussions been so open. It’s hard to say whether travelling far to an exotic destination with plenty of time to debate particularly relevant issues had any influence on the outcome, but she did achieve something.

“This has been one of the most fruitful meetings of labour ministers organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers I have been part of during the 15 years I have been Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Employment,” Denmark’s Bo Smith told Nordic Labour Journal.

Globalisation and difficult economic times challenge the Nordic welfare states. The consequences of labour immigration was a central issue during debates, along with gender equality. Sweden’s Minister for Employment Hillevi Engström presented a newly established gender equality commission which aims to fuel debate on issues like why there are still wage gaps between the sexes, how to get more women into leadership positions and how to reduce part time work among women. Representatives from the social partners, the Council of Nordic Trade Unions (NFS) and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) were also present at the meeting. The red hot issue was youth unemployment. 

Finland’s Minister of Labour Lauri Ihalainen said reducing youth unemployment was an issue close to his heart, his first priority as Minister of Labour. Finland’s government launches a comprehensive campaign this week in Finland’s fifteen largest cities aimed at helping young people.

Iceland’s authorities are going to seek out every single youth who is not in work or education in order to get them active, said political advisor Anna Sigrún Baldursdóttir. 

How much will job creation measures for weak groups cost, and which measures work? Hanne Bjurstrøm would very much like to find the answers to these questions. She got support from Denmark’s Bo Smith who underlined this is also something which particularly engages Denmark’s Minister for Employment.

“I would like to get invited to Denmark to discuss this bilaterally,” said Hanne Bjurstrøm.

And this is the key in the Nordic cooperation: to share experiences and learn from each other. Openly debating core challenges made the Svalbard meeting particularly fruitful.


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