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Denmark can learn from Sweden’s work environment measures

| Text: Marie Preisler

Sweden has a stronger culture for cooperation than Denmark when it comes to work environments, according to a survey carried out on behalf of an expert committee looking at measures for improving work environments.

Denmark can learn from Sweden on a number of points according to the survey from the Oxford Research, carried out on commission from the expert committee looking at how to improve Danish work environments. The survey highlights the differences between how the social partners in Denmark and Sweden cooperate on work environment issues, and that the Swedish method has some clear advantages:

“The Swedish cooperation between the partners on work environment issues is different from what happens in Denmark both in terms of content and culture. Oxford Research says there is a stronger culture for cooperation in Sweden compared to Denmark when it comes to work environments,” and says this “means a stronger, joint problem solving attitude between the partners, compared to what is the case in Denmark”.

The report also underlines that Sweden has a very different wage insurance system, which is closer linked to work environment measures, and that there is a greater focus on prevention. Sweden also has a vocational education system which perhaps leads to greater awareness and focus on work environments among students and businesses.

Oxford Research says a number of Swedish work environment measures could be transferred immediately to a Danish context:

  • The practice of announcing inspections in advance
  • Greater involvement of inspectors and inspection centres when targeting inspections
  • Greater focus on the organisational and social work environment
  • Less red tape in relation to providing information after inspections
  • Cross-sector cooperation between authorities on fighting work-related crime

The survey was carried out on behalf of the expert committee looking at measures to improve work environments, which has gathered knowledge about work environment measures in other countries, like Finland, Sweden and Norway. The committee has studied Sweden in particular, since both countries’ measures and their frameworks are similar, and because Sweden has much fewer reported workplace accidents and serious workplace accidents than Denmark.

The committee therefore asked Oxford Research to carry out a survey of Swedish work environment measures with the view of identifying any Swedish measures that Denmark could learn from or replicate.

The survey concludes that a straight comparison is not possible, because no real effect studies of Swedish work environment measures exists. It has therefore not been possible to find out whether elements of the Swedish measures could be effective contributions to Danish work environment measures. 

The survey shows that despite the differences between the two countries’ measures, the overarching frameworks for the Swedish and Danish work environment measures are very similar. The following is highlighted:

  • Both countries have, to a varying degree, actors who have a specific function within the work environment system when it comes to rules and legislation, public authority, information and guidance as well as research.
  • Both countries have a consensus-based cooperation between the social partners, and there is an inspection authority which choses workplaces for inspection based on risk assessments.
  • Both countries have strong traditions for work environment research which informs the political system.
  • Both countries have preventative institutions which communicate, guide and provide advice on work environment issues. 




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