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Nordics showed resilience during the pandemic

Nordics showed resilience during the pandemic

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

The Nordic countries managed well economically during the pandemic in light of the massive changes that were undertaken. In four of the five countries, life expectancy rose. Denmark spent the most money while Norway did best overall while also experiencing a baby boom.

These are some of the conclusions from the latest State of the Nordic Region report, published annually by Nordregio. 

“I have taken part in all of the reports since 1981 when I was part of the birth statistics,” joked the main author Gustaf Norlén as the report was presented at The House of Literature in Oslo.  

Gustaf Norlén Gustaf Norlén is the main author of the 2022 State of the Nordic Region report, the 41st. 

New this year is an index detailing how much work can be performed from home in each country. For the whole of the Nordic region, the number is 36.5%, which corresponds to around 9.5 million jobs being classified as remote work. 

There are large differences between different regions, however.

“In Stockholm, 56.2% of jobs are remote, while in Dalarna the figure is 27.3%,” said Gustaf Norlén. 

“The pandemic also led to the lowest level of immigration to the Nordic region since 2005, while internal movements within the countries were at their highest for six decades.” 

Although things went well for the Nordic countries compared to many other European countries, the pandemic hit the Nordics in different ways. While life expectancy fell by 0.8% in Sweden between 2019 and 2020, it rose slightly in the four other countries, by 0.1% to 0.3%.


The map shows how the European countries' GDP, with a few exceptions, fell during the corona year of 2020. Norway and Iceland did best out of the Nordics. Hardest hit were the Mediterranean countries and the UK. The map was made by Carlos Tapia and Johanna Jokinen at Nordregio.

In the first year of the pandemic, GDP fell in all of the Nordic countries. Iceland saw the greatest fall of 7.1% in 2020, while Norway’s GDP only fell by 0.7% that year.

Strong economies and a high degree of digitalisation even before the pandemic allowed authorities to introduce record-large support packages. Denmark spent a full 32.7% of its GDP on economic support during the pandemic. Sweden spent 16.1%, Norway 14.5%, Finland 12.4% and Iceland 11.6% of their GDP.

“This report is presented on the same day as the 60th anniversary of the Helsinki Treaty on Nordic cooperation. The pandemic also put the Nordic cooperation under pressure and we saw clearly the different rules for border passages in Sweden and Norway,” said Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, who is the Minister for Nordic Cooperation in the Norwegian government.

“The pandemic taught us to improve how we communicate before we make decisions and that we must gather more data on the local impact of different measures. The pandemic represented a demanding test for those who live in the border regions.”

In 2020, as much as 9.3% of the Nordic labour force was on furlough. Some groups were harder hit, as were certain sectors like tourism.

Rasmus Jungersen Emborg

Rasmus Jungersen Emborg

This has also had an impact on people’s trust in the political system, especially among young people, pointed out Rasmus Jungersen Emborg, President of the Nordic Youth Council.

“Many young people were prevented from studying in a neighbouring country as borders closed, and they could not return to their old university or college either, because of a lack of cooperation between universities,” he said.

“Young people are already in debt, have no savings and earn little. A new Danish report shows that one in two Danish women and one in five Danish men were stressed during the pandemic.” 

Helge Orten, deputy leader for Norway’s delegation to the Nordic Council, also pointed out that as the pandemic was coming to an end, Russia invaded Ukraine.

“This means we have to deal with a war as well, and the large number of refugees that this has led to. Meanwhile, the cooperation between EU and Nato has become stronger, and I am convinced that the Nordic cooperation will become stronger too,” said Helge Orten.

Anne Beathe Tvinnereim

is the Minister for Nordic Cooperation in the Norwegian government. She presented Norway's part of the Nordregio report.


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