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The golden formula

| By Berit Kvam

When we can watch a robot do a summersault, we know there has been a technological leap. We cannot know the consequences, but change is needed to face what is happening.

 A change to what? How do we prepare for new times? These are the types of questions politicians, the labour market, researchers and the Nordic Labour Journal are mulling over. What is the golden formula?

‘The future of work’ is the term that the International Labour Organisation has turned into a global debate which will culminate at the ILO’s centenary celebrations in 2019. Nordic countries are contributing with their ongoing conversation about how we want to see the labour market develop, and Nordic Labour Ministers have launched a comprehensive research project with contributions from 21 Nordic research teams. One question is the influence all the changes will have on working conditions in the Nordic region, and how the Nordic model can help shape the things to come.

The NFS’s Magnus Gissler gets excited when he talks about the Nordic model in Portrait. He thinks there has been increased international interest for and understanding of the Nordic model, and that this also gives more energy to the Nordic cooperation.

The Nordics are doing well. At the ministers’ meeting, Pål Molander pointed out that Nordic countries top many international surveys; the Nordics are top when it comes to happiness and gender equality, and far ahead in employment rates, digitalisation, productivity and more. The golden formula, he says, is a high degree of autonomy and good control over your own working situation. Could this be about to be forgotten?

”There’s a tendency in the Nordic region to take the working environment for granted. Is it time we looked after our gold? The thing that has been our competitive advantage for so long?” said Pål Molander.

The Nordic model, based on a high degree of trust, does not happen by itself. Collective decision-making prepares people better for change, yet 42 percent of respondents in the 2017 Norwegian collective decision-making barometer feel the labour market is moving in an authoritarian direction. The tendency is clearest within certain sectors.

The Nordic region is a leader in gender equality. We still have a long way to go. Ylva Johansson says women have been using #metoo to shout loudly, that this is about time, and it is serious. We must make sure that what is happening now will change everyday life for real, she says, and wants to find out what needs doing – together with the labour markets’ parties. But this is not just something happening in Sweden, it is going on across the Nordic region – yet in different manifestations, as our story about the #metoo campaign shows.

Statistics used by Nordic ministers to compare the countries’ development within central areas also show a mixed picture. There is for instance still reason to worry about all the young people who are neither in education or work.

Norwegian labour and welfare models depend on high employment levels. The refugees who arrived in such surprising numbers in 2015, have now been through the introduction programme and are ready to enter the labour market. But a compacted salary structure, high starting salaries and few jobs for unskilled workers makes this a challenge. The debate during the Nordic Labour Ministers’ meeting shows that politicians, researchers, employees and employers really value training and skills development as tools to get newly arrived people quicker into working life.

Iceland’s new Minister of Social Affairs and Equality, who also is responsible for labour, has found his seat in the new government. His challenge is to secure harmony in the labour market. 

We are talking about the future, but the robot is performing its summersault now. How do we motivate young people to lead the robots, ask the Danes on the Disruption Council. It looks like the Nordic region is about to enter the future of work.

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