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Editorial: The proof is in the pudding

| Berit Kvam

Social sustainability must become as obvious as a sustainable climate or environment, says Hillevi Engström, Sweden’s Minister of Labour. Like her Nordic colleagues she has a drive to open up the labour market for people with disabilities.

Despite the crisis and a fear of rising unemployment, the Nordic countries are intensifying their efforts so that more people with disabilities are admitted into ordinary working life. Hopefully this should open the doors for many more in the future - as Lars Anderson says: “Getting a job has given me a new life and I now hope that more people with disabilities get the same chance as me.”

Letting more people into ordinary working life was top of the agenda when the Nordic labour ministers met in Finland recently. Also joining the debate were employers’ representatives, the Council of Nordic Trade Unions and the Nordic Council on Disability. Now the challenge is to get employers to agree it is a good idea to hire people with disabilities. Our theme this month is about strategies and measures which can contribute to social sustainability by giving people with reduced work abilities the chance of finding a job. 

Loa Brynjulfsdottir is the newly elected general secretary at the Council of Nordic Trade Unions, a cooperation of 16 national trade unions representing more than nine million members in the Nordic region. We have given her a voice in the Portrait.

Loa Brynjulfsdottir belongs to a generation which moves freely between the Nordic countries, often facing border obstacles. She wants to spend her energy doing something about this, also when it comes to border obstacles which make it harder for people with disabilities to move between countries. We met her at a conference where the costs of border obstacles were presented.

The work to remove border obstacles continues during the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Minsters in 2012. The programme also covers an inclusive working life and the centrally led adaptation of working life for weaker groups in society. Broad participation is a key factor of the Nordic welfare states.    

Senior officer Sari Loijas at the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has been working for a long time to make sure people with disabilities who cannot compete on level terms with other workers get the chance to enter the labour market. She now sees a new drive in this work as more parties get involved. But the proof is in the pudding. Sari Loijas is visually impaired and uses a guide dog. There is not a lack of legislation, she says, but a lack of action.

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