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New tendencies are focusing minds

| By Berit Kvam

The OECD leaves little doubt that the Nordic region has come through the crisis better than most other countries, with low unemployment, high employment and little inequality. But take nothing for granted. New tendencies are focusing minds. Organised labour is under pressure while the sharing economy spreads at an ever faster rate. The Nordic Labour Journal checks out the facts.

At the very core of the Nordic model is the cooperation between strong social partners and with the authorities. Norway’s Minister of Labour is coming under pressure at home. Trade unions are taking the unusual step of calling for a political strike. The trade union movement says the government’s proposed new work environment act will demolish the rights which workers have built up through generations. The leader of Norway’s Confederation of Trade Unions tells us what she thinks is at stake in the Portrait.

Workers’ rights are being challenged in many other European countries. At the meeting of Nordic labour ministers, where the Nordic model was discussed, the Swedish Minister of Labour warned against the emergence of a precariat, an underclass suffering poor job contracts and working conditions — a tendency already seen in Europe. Working conditions are deteriorating in Sweden too, she said. 

At the same time we are witnessing the emergence of a new, online sharing economy. This is our theme in December’s issue.

The sharing economy has quickly become a global phenomenon. It started with services and things that could be shared or used together with other people, like cars, houses and bikes, combined with a digital marketplace where providers and customers could meet. Uber, which is a car sharing service, is trying to set up shop in the Nordic countries. It was founded by a couple of young men working from home in San Francisco. Today you find Uber in 250 cities across 50 countries. Perhaps the most successful service is American Airbnb, which offers a place to stay. One year ago their capacity in Finland was equal to a medium sized hotel, the year after it was four hotels. The hotel trade is worried and wants legislation to secure a level playing field.

The phenomenon is spreading. In Sweden a range of digital marketplaces have popped up, offering various kinds of simple neighbour services. The Nordic region can become a blossoming centre for sharing economy services which can benefit all of society, but the politicians are asleep at the wheel, the Danish politician Charlotte Fischer tells the Nordic Labour Journal. She nevertheless warns against the introduction of a two-tier labour market and slave-like conditions if nothing is done to regulate this new market.

The Nordic region wants to bask in the glory of the Nordic model. But what happens with the model if workers’ rights are weakened? Or if working life becomes an disorganised networking meeting place? Something to focus minds?


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