Carrot or stick? The Nordic countries have different strategies for fighting the shadow economy. Finland and Sweden have used tax incentives to make it cheaper to buy declared labour. Norway and Denmark use controls as a main tool. In Norway six authorities coordinate the work, while Denmark's new government feels controls have gone too far.
Today nearly three times as many Swedes are negative towards undeclared work compared to six years ago. One explanation to this change in attitudes are the household tax breaks introduced in 2007 and 2008. Now the government is reducing the size of the deduction and critics warn against an increase in undeclared labour.
In Norway staff from six different authorities have gathered in joint offices in Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger to fight the shadow economy. Building sites and other workplaces have been targeted in coordinated operations by 120 investigators. The results have been good so far. The operations run alongside campaigns against undeclared work and have had broad media coverage.
The Danish government wants to ban the hunting for undeclared work in private gardens. The social partners and the opposition fear this will lead to more social dumping.
If Nordjobb had been established as a result of labour market policies it would probably never have lasted for 30 years. But getting youths short term jobs in a Nordic neighbouring country is about so much more.
Young people travel across the Nordic region to work with tourists, weed spinach fields and public parks or pack prawns in Greenland — all thanks to Nordjobb. And the experiences are all unique.
“Wow! Has it already been 30 years since Nordjobb started up!” Eva Jakobson Vaagland, the first Nordjobb project leader in Norway, is surprised when we call her.
As soon as Loa Brynjulfsdottir was old enough, she applied for a job through Nordjobb. That was in 1990 and the start of many years working through Nordjobb and a strong feeling of Nordic belonging.
For some, Nordjobb means that life takes a new and interesting turn. For Gunvor Kronman the job in Danish Aalborg had a dramatic and crucial impact.
The challenge facing politicians is helping two million adults who lack the necessary skills for working and social life to secure a chance to develop, says Anders Rosdahl. He is a senior research fellow at the Danish National Centre for Social Research, and the Danish representative in the network which has just presented the Nordic PIAAC report.
For the first time ever there is a Nordic version of the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, PIAAC. PIAAC was first published in 2013. The survey comprises comparative data from 24 countries.
Our capacity to learn at work is to a large degree dependent on what we have learned in school, and working life cannot fully compensate for differences in formal schooling. That is according to a new Nordic survey which builds on the OECD’s large skills survey PIAAC. Many women in a gender segregated labour market are even loosing their numeracy skills.
Numeracy is more important for participating in working life than previously thought. An OECD assessment of adult competencies shows that being bad at maths increases the risk of unemployment and influences wage levels.
There are no shortcuts for creating a foundation for the skills needed in working life. It is a time consuming process. Finland’s good results in international surveys stem from a 1970s school reform. The results are now at risk due to cuts and readjustments. Estonia, meanwhile, is catching up with the Nordic countries.
Denmark has had success supporting marginalised youths to make sure they get an education. Mentor support, teaching and help finding apprenticeships makes the difficult transition into studies and work easier.
The Danish project of building bridges to education for marginalised youths has proved so promising that it is now being rolled out across the whole of Denmark on a permanent basis.
Measures aimed at helping young people into jobs and education should support the youths’ own inner motivation. To do that you need to realise that young, marginalised people are very different from each other, says a Danish youth researcher and author of a new book on motivation.