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More cooperation, less division

| By Berit Kvam

How are you doing in the Nordic countries? asks Finland at the kick-off for the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Finland wants to promote exciting meetings and new thinking. The future is all about finding new ways of cooperating across disciplines and across borders. The Nordic region seeks new perspectives on new challenges. Why?

The Nordic model is under pressure. The challenges include economic crisis, a changing labour market, refugees, immigration and integration, an ageing population and young people who can’t access the labour market. 

New tendencies and phenomena demand new answers and action in order to maintain the welfare society. This is how Finland explains a three year long project which will be a priority during its 2016 Presidency: “An Open and Innovative Nordic Region with Healthy People 2020 – Equal Opportunities for Welfare, Culture, Education and Work”.

Step one is to carry out a cross-sector background analysis to review research and assessments from 2011 onwards, in order to get a comprehensive overview of Nordic welfare policy cooperation. The background analysis will be the starting point for a more targeted cross-sector and cross-border cooperation. The aim is to achieve better results, better efficiency and more impact. 

The basis for Nordic welfare is an equal and inclusive labour market with a high participation rate among both women and men. The Nordic labour market model is based on trust, driven by a democratic negotiation process between the social partners and authorities. The gap between management and employees is narrow, people tend to be in control of their own work situation, income differences are small and productivity high. This finely tuned system is at risk if we allow the emergence of a shadow economy and dodgy working conditions, a B and C team and rising income inequalities.

Trust is a vulnerable thing.

Finland’s Presidency seeks new ways of cooperating in order to create a sustainable development of the Nordic welfare state. That sustainability is to be built on the Nordic region’s strengths. Respect for the rules of the labour market and the Nordic labour market model is crucial together with education, culture and health in the welfare society.

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