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A piece of Nordic contemporary history

| By Berit Kvam

On 22 May 1954 the agreement on a joint Nordic labour market was signed. 60 years on the Nordic Labour Journal talks to Nordic citizens who in each of the six decades tried their luck in a different Nordic country — and we look at how the agreement came to be.

The journey from Vörå in the Swedish speaking Ostrobothnia in Finland to Stockholm in the autumn of 1954 was long, but rumours said Sweden had jobs. With that began the flow of people leaving Finland’s post-war poverty for Sweden’s plenty. Just months before 17 year old Gösta began his long journey, the agreement on a joint labour market had been signed. In July came the Nordic passport union. It was now possible to move without seeking a residence permit.

The story is unique, as is the extensive cooperation which has developed between the Nordic countries, and which has been so important for the development of the Nordic working life model. Civil servant and Nordic enthusiast Rune Solberg reminisces over the anniversary and provides glimpses behind the curtain to show how the jewel of the Nordic cooperation began.

Gösta Helsing’s journey from Ostrobothnia to Stockholm in 1954 is a historical snapshot of a 17 year old traveling to the unknown and getting a job the day he arrived. Three years later unemployed Dagny was picking raspberries to make money for the boat to Stockholm. Later the two became a couple, in Finland, before starting a family in Sweden in the 60s. When they pined for retirement in Finland the children said no: we are Swedish citizens now, no more moving. A summerhouse in Vaasa is enough. For Gunnel Helanders it was the other way around. She too came to Sweden in 1954 with her Finnish parents. In the 70s she chose to return to Finland.

The longing and dual belonging is typical. Norwegian Per Billington’s career started in Sweden in the 80s. He still wonders whether it was wise to move home. Erik Rundle, who moved to Denmark in the 90s to play badminton and now has family there, always longs to go home. Life just happened, like it did for Danish Janne Sigurðsson. In 2006 she moved with her family to her paradise, Iceland, for good.

60 years have passed since Gösta Helsing tried his luck in Västerås. Today’s reality is very different. In 2010 Swedish Charlotte Lundell googled her way to her dream job in Norway. She googled for moving tips, and when she started work Google Translate became a handy tool. Technological advancement underlines that history is history, yet the cooperation and closeness which was institutionalised in 1954 has more than contributed to the Nordic model.


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