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Everything is connected – also the Nordic region

| By Berit Kvam

Nordic cooperation for 2017 has been given title: A Europe in transition needs a strong Nordic Region. So what is needed to build and promote the region? More sharing of knowledge? Greater focus on the Nordic welfare model? Greater focus on which values that the Nordics choose to follow? Is a more authoritarian labour market a choice the Nordics will make?

According to the Work Research Institute’s new barometer measuring joint decision making, people’s perceived level of influence over their own work situation has fallen by 12 percentage points. That doesn’t ring true for the director of industrial policy at the Federation of Norwegian Industries Knut Sunde.

This could mean that we are moving towards a more many-faceted labour market where companies based on Norwegian traditions stick to values which they know will influence productivity, trust and good cooperation.

This month's theme shows there is cause to highlight working environments. The authors of the book Modern muzzle describe what happens to people who are accused of being disloyal to their employer. It affects their entire lives. 

The positive example comes from Sweden where the authorities are strengthening the opportunity for employees to sound the alarm through the new whistleblower act. It is designed to improve safety for the whistleblower and to protect against repercussions from the employer. The acts underlines one of the strengths of the Nordic labour market – that the integrity of employees should be protected. When this is not the case, we protest. 

What is needed to promote the Nordic region? Should the Nordics invest more in welfare? Iceland’s Minister of Cooperation thinks so. She talks about the research program Nordic Welfare Watch which recently concluded in Reykjavik. It shows that the way Iceland handled the crisis gave good results. Iceland focused more on welfare than on cuts, avoided major impact on households’ well-being and managed to emerge from the crisis quicker. The Nordic Welfare Watch comprises several projects, one about Nordic welfare indicators and another about crisis management and the role of local social services in times of crises. 

Iceland is now taking the initiative to move this forward, proposing a comprehensive Nordic welfare forum which will address current and future challenges facing the Nordic welfare states. A system of Nordic welfare indicators will also be established, providing a roadmap for the future.

“A Nordic welfare forum can focus minds and lead to a more active debate on Nordic welfare. I think we need this,” says Professor Stefan Olafsson. 

A particularly important issue for the Nordic welfare forum would be the integration of refugees into the labour market. That was also the theme for the Nordic Economic Policy Review which recently held its seminar in Oslo. It highlighted the dangers of too slow integration. 

The Nordic region cooperates in many arenas. The Nordic Investment Bank invests in Nordic and Baltic development projects. Director Henrik Normann in the Portrait thinks the bank has helped secure welfare and perhaps helped keep jobs in the Nordics which might have otherwise been moved abroad. The focus right now is on environmentally sound projects which make up half of the banks investments. The shift towards a greener economy is also an important factor in the new Nordic cooperation program.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg presented the 2017 program for the Nordic Council of Ministers at the Nordic Council on 1 November. It focuses on the Nordic region in transition, the Nordic region in Europe and the Nordic region in the world. Cooperation will be strengthened at home and aboard. The Nordic region will be an important power internationally. 

Also the Nordic region – everything is connected.

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