Iceland is bouncing back after the hard years following the 2008 crisis. In this month’s theme we tell the story of what happened that day, how Icelanders joined forces to stop anyone from going hungry and to stop hard-hit youths from becoming social outsiders. The worst is now over. New opportunities arise. Unemployment is falling nearly as fast as it rose, and as the economy improves Icelanders want a better life; more pay and more gender equality. Iceland is full of life, new ventures, inventions, a new concert hall and jobs for more people.
The agreement on a common Nordic labour market was signed on 22 May 1954. It means when the labour market goes belly-up in one country, Nordic citizens can look for a future in a different Nordic country. The Nordic Labour Journal hears six stories representing each of the six decades of borderless Nordic cooperation. They provide unique snapshots of time. These are tales of searching for a better existence and of the opportunities resulting from the Nordic countries' comprehensive cooperation. We also tell the story of how the unique agreement came to be as early as in 1954.
Working life goes through great changes from time to time. Globalisation forces jobs abroad, trades face tough competition as a result of liberalisation, new ways of organising work emerge or there is demographic change. Right now technology is having an overwhelming impact on working life. A combination of several technological changes, like robotisation and 3D printing, means the nature of manufacturing and services is changing completely. The Nordic Labour Journal looks at what technology means to working life.
For the first time ever, power is equally shared between men and women in Norway, according to the Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer. Norway has more women in positions of power, in boardrooms and in work than any other Nordic country. 40 years of Nordic cooperation has inspired progress. Different nations have led the way at different times. Finland has the most female boardroom members in the EU. Sweden is busy getting more women into leadership positions. Denmark’s government sees gender equality as the key to integration. Things are happening elsewhere too. After Italy introduced gender quotas, women have flocked into boardrooms and half of the Renzi government are women.
Poverty, unrest and riots in Swedish suburbs sent strong signals. The Nordic countries are known for their humanitarian attitudes and are attractive shelters for people who flee war and persecution. But the journey towards a better life demands something more. Open borders in Europe has led to a new wave of labour migrants from crisis-hit countries in the east and south, and poses new challenges for the Nordic region. There are growing variations between the countries for how generous or strict rules for immigration should be, but emphasis is now being put on finding ways to make sure those who are allowed to stay are secured the right to a better life where education and work is key.
Across Denmark 130 grandmothers are sat knitting children’s clothes for the company Mormor.nu. There are customers in New York, South Korea and Australia — and in the Nordic countries. The project is one example of what many were looking for at the major European working life conference Employment Forum earlier this autumn: closer cooperation between the public and private sector and civil society, with everyone contributing with their own resources. The Nordic Labour Journal has been looking at some of the innovative projects in a Europe which desperately needs to think fresh.
For many, part time work can be the solution to the time trap. The debate often focuses on involuntary part time work and especially on women’s role. But the impact part time work has on pensions needn’t be as bad as was once thought, a new study shows. Meanwhile new kinds of part time work spring up as a result of employers’ never-ending quest for flexibility. In the UK so-called zero hour contracts are already common, where there is no set number of hours involved at all.
Many can work, but not all are able to get a job, says Sweden’s Minister for Employment Hillevi Engström. What is needed to help people outside of the labour market into jobs? Is labour market courses offered by job centres a good idea? Are there good examples of businesses which have taken the challenges seriously and which have fulfilled young people’s dream of finding a job? In July the EU Commission launched ‘The European Alliance for Apprenticeships‘ which focused on German experiences. The Arctic Vocational Foundation is a successful Nordic vocational training institution. Under the bright Polar sky the Nordic conversation was given new life through the stories of the people who have been given a new chance here.
It is not enough to only focus on the young people themselves if you want to understand the risks they face in working life and limit workplace accidents and injuries. That’s why a Nordic commissioner suggests that politicians should think about launching a vision zero for both young and older people’s work environments. That means the aim is for nobody do die or be injured at work. To achieve this you need engagement, new ways of cooperating and fresh thinking. Kim Jämsén has taken a gap year and rather than slouching on his sofa at home he has taken a job at the SM-Mega call centre in Helsinki. Telephone sales is often the first occupation young people try out.
Global competition is challenging the Nordic welfare states, spurring the countries on to work together to strengthen competitiveness, growth and job creation. A Nordic report shows how good work environments can be a competitive factor. So the Nordic Labour Journal focuses on work engagement and job commitment and ask: can work engagement improve growth? Talking about it is not enough, say Danish and Norwegian experts – good work environments are born out of action. It looks like the Finnish company Fondia has managed the trick. They have fun at work and was named Europe’s best workplace.
The Nordic countries have chosen different strategies for how to fight social dumping. In Norway a Supreme Court judgement on working conditions in the shipbuilding industry has strengthened the trade unions’ roll. The Danish and Swedish governments are increasing workplaces controls. But there are always two sides to the coin. In Finland people are starting to wonder whether emigration from the Baltics in the long run will undermine the Baltic countries.
26 good examples of measures that work and 600 people wanting to discuss youth unemployment. That was the impressive effort at the meeting of Nordic prime ministers and labour ministers in Stockholm on 16 May. The Nordic Labour Journal was there and this edition focuses on youth outside of the labour market.