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New roads leading to healthy workplaces

| By Berit Kvam

The Nordic countries want to be best internationally, and consider healthy workplaces to be a great competitive advantage in a global market place. But, as Nordic researchers warn: “a good working environment is not the icing on the cake, but the pointers you apply in the course of the process”. In this month’s Theme, the Nordic Labour Journal looks at the pointers the different countries have been applying.

The icing metaphor comes from the presentation of the Globalisation Project Nordic Growth Sectors from 2012, and shows how the focus on working environments is part of a long and ongoing debate in the Nordic region. Increased mobility, refugees and immigration are factors which have contributed to an increase in crime and new challenges to working environments. New initiatives are often launched at different times in the Nordic region, but the basic idea remains the same – to secure a good and serious working life.

“Work related crime is one of the major issues in working life,” says government minister Anniken Hauglie in Portrait, and refers to the government’s ‘Strategy agains work related crime’ which has been developed in cooperation with the social partners.

Norway has been at the forefront of taking comprehensive action against work related crime, bringing the police, tax authorities, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, NAV and other public authorities together to create more powerful measures both nationally and internationally. Other countries, like Iceland, have been inspired by this.

The Icelandic tourist boom with a 25 percent growth in the past year has created a heated situation with black market work and suspected people trafficking. Trade unions are carrying out controls in order to deal with illegalities, and the industry organisations are active contributors. 

The fight for a good working environment is about more than fighting crime. The challenges include how to secure good organisational and psychosocial working environments in businesses, and which role working environment authorities should play in this. A good working environment is also a competition factor, if you want to attract skills and promote innovative businesses and solutions. If things go in the wrong direction, you must do like the Danes, and change tack. 

Psychosocial problems and muscular and skeletal strains are still the most important causes of absence from work. The Danes have realised their measures have failed in these areas. In five years there has been a 17 percent increase in employees reporting psychological strain and 15 percent more are experiencing muscular and skeletal strain. The government now wants to change its working environment measures. 

In 2016, Sweden launched its vision zero for fatal workplace accidents. A better psychological working environment and a more sustainable working life were also priorities in the country’s new working environment strategy. Minister for Employment Ylva Johansson also commissioned an expert to look into the possibility of establishing a centre of knowledge for a good working environment. Now the report is ready and the Nordic Labour Journal can reveal its content in the article ‘New centre of knowledge…’  

The economic crisis led to a setback in Finland, but now the country’s economy is moving forward and it has ambitions to offer the best working environment in Europe by 2020.

A good working environment is a crucial competitive advantage and a guarantee for a healthy working life. The Nordic region is doing well, and best of all, it wants to be the very best.


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