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Editorial: A common Nordic labour market but not common public goods

| By Berit Kvam

What would happen in the Øresund region if 20 to 30,000 commuters across the bridge between Sweden and Denmark decided it was time to take action? Or if Nordic citizens who move or commute across the borders stopped doing it because of problems with tax authorities and unfair social benefit rules? Nordic Labour Journal has made a top 10 list over border obstacles which make it difficult for people to use their freedom to move or commute to where they can find jobs. New efforts are being made between the Nordic countries to remove border obstacles, and they are the focus of this edition of NLJ.

Trade unions need to be relevant to today's working life, says TCO's new chairperson Eva Nordmark in the Portrait. This is a good litmus test also for the work that is being done to remove border obstacles. Are the border obstacles relevant to today's working life?

Is it not exactly in a time of crisis and increased globalisation that the need to work or run businesses across national borders becomes greater in order to reduce imbalances in employment and industry?

Problem number one in the Nordic Labour Journal top ten list of border obstacles shows that pensioners might get an unwelcome surprise in the form of a reduced pension if they have been working in several countries. Tax problems arise if people who work in a neighbouring country want to get a second job in their home country. Or if a young person in a wheelchair wants to move between countries. 

Mr Ole Norrback, chairman of the Nordic Freedom of Movement Forum, has been working to remove border obstacles for more than a decade, and says politicians do not appreciate the seriousness of the problem. He thinks it is a matter of political will. Or perhaps Ms Essi Rentola, the head of the working group commissioned by the labour and social ministers to come up with suggestions for how to remove border obstacles, is right when she says almost half of the changes need to happen on an EU level - because the obstacles do not only concern the Nordic region but the whole of the EU?

A joint Nordic labour market is one of the pillars of the Nordic cooperation. Perhaps it takes more than the stroke of a pen to realise the freedom to work in several countries during a working life, with a pension and the will to commute intact, within a joint labour market with joint public goods. If will is all it takes, then the new drive to remove border obstacles could be an indication that something soon will happen.

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