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In focus 2011

People with disabilities held back by attitudes in working life
How do you open up the labour market for people with disabilities? While medical and technological advances keep breaking down barriers, attitudes are lagging behind. ”The most important thing is to see the abilities, not the disability, what people can do, not what they cannot do,” said Finland’s Minster of Labour when he met his Nordic colleagues and the social partners recently to discuss what can be done. But good attitudes are not enough. Nordic governments are bringing in new measures to compensate businesses for extra costs and the needed workplace adaptation. Now they want to see commitment from employers. The Nordic Labour Journal has met ministers and employers and not least people with disabilities who talk about what is needed to succeed.
Trade unions and a new spirit of the times
Inspired by the Arab spring, protesters have been occupying streets and squares in the USA and in Europe. They have highlighted the big gap between the richest one percent and everybody else, even in Western countries. The Nordic region enjoys long traditions of cooperation on how social and working life should develop. But Nordic trade unions are loosing supporters. This could threaten their legitimacy and shift the balance which the Nordic model is based on. Both politicians and researchers are paying close attention to and give advise on how the unions face the spirit of the time, whether it’s their loss of members or young people who see no point in becoming members.
Boom for Nordic mining industry
An old base industry has come back to life - the mining industry. If you include Greenland all the four largest Nordic countries have experienced a mining industry renaissance. All the projects together will mean thousands of new jobs. Investments in only six of the largest projects run to 57.5 billon Kronor (€6.3bn) Nordic Labour Journal’s figures show. But can the mining industry attract enough workers? Will colleges and universities have enough time to educate enough engineers and geologist? If young people are to choose the mining industry, environmental issues must also be taken seriously.
Crises test the strength of the Nordic welfare models
Nordic countries have been exposed to great challenges lately. The economic crisis hit Iceland like a hurricane, the political power balance in Finland ended up being radically different after the 22 June election and one month later Norway suffered its worst terror attack since World War two. But the challenges also demonstrate the Nordic welfare society’s strength. In Oslo 200,000 people took to the streets carrying roses for democracy. In Iceland politicians put social equality first in the wake of the economic collapse. Do we need a “tailored welfare model” to avoid differences between the countries growing too large? asks Bjørn Hvinden who heads up a Nordic research programme looking at the welfare models.
Renewed fight against Nordic border obstacles
Nordic Labour Journal has drawn up a top 10 list of border obstacles which make it harder to lead a family life or to live and work across the Nordic borders. A Nordic working group is now drawing up suggestions for how to solve 39 border obstacles. Essi Rentola, who heads the group, estimates between a third and half of the proposals need to be solved on an EU level. Ole Norrback has been working for more than 10 years to minimise border obstacles. He encourages politicians to "make clear decisions and give clear political signals".
Language - the key to working life
Knowing the language and having a job is key to how immigrants can integrate. But what comes first? Many immigrants leave their language course when they find work. Having a job is also no guarantee for successful integration. Many work places develop linguistic ghettos where employees of the same nationality communicate in their mother tongue. For many businesses the solution is language lessons in the work place. NLJ has spoken to a Nepalese in Norway, a Chinese in Finland and a Hungarian in Denmark who all wish to express themselves better. But we also spoke to a Swede who took it on himself to set up language training for sheet metal workers. The common denominator is language training which is more tailored at working life than before.
The staffing agency trade upsets working life's power balance
The labour market is becoming more and more mobile in all directions. Over the past few years an entirely new trade has quickly emerged, providing temporary staff to hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, cleaning companies and to industry to mention a few. Sweden's trade unions movement is proud to have achieved a collective agreement for the staffing agency trade. Nordic Labour Journal has met employees and employers in several Nordic countries to find out how they adapt to this development, and we ask: In what way does the staffing agency trade challenge the Nordic labour markets?
Gender equality in the Nordic region - vision or reality?
Nordic countries a leaders in international gender equality surveys. Is reality as splendid as the vision of gender equality in the Nordic region? Why do women in the care sector suffering with part-time work, low wages and bad pensions even when they want to work full-time? Why does Denmark's Minister for Gender Equality abandon International Women's Day on 8 March? Is it because she feels women have reached enough positions of power? Nordic Labour Journal has examined the past 40 years of female representation in governments, trade unions, employers organisations and other symbolically important positions. Are women taking over power? When Mari Kiviniemi visited the German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently, the debate over female boardroom quotas was raging. Norway has led the way with legislation.
Portable working hours
One in three Norwegian workers are contacted by work in their spare time once every week or more.Do we slave away until we drop because we have email on our smartphones, our home office comes with us on holiday and you and your job compete to have more friends on Facebook and Twitter? When the time for restitution ends up in a grey zone between work and leisure time, what does that do to us?

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