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Refugees leaving their mark

| By Berit Kvam

“I don’t believe anyone in any government office fails to think about refugees,” says the new Director for the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) Sigrun Vågeng in the Portrait. The numbers arriving to the Nordics have broken all predictions and colour societies and their public debate.

For the NAV director more refugees will probably mean new tasks. The government is working with the issue, but the Norwegian prime minister has invited the opposition for cross-party cooperation. In Sweden the government and the opposition have agreed on how to handle the refugee situation. The Swedish Public Employment Service is among many authorities who now want compensation to cover the increasing costs of helping the new arrivals.

Last week 9,700 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden. That is almost double the number arriving in Norway in all of September. The Swedish Migration Authority estimates between 140,000 and 190,000 asylum seekers will arrive in Sweden in 2015, and between 100,000 and 170,000 in 2016. In Finland too the number of refugees is “exceptional” as Aila Tommola-Kruse from the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy puts it. In October the Finnish Migration Authority has adjusted this year’s estimates down from 50,000 to between 30,000 and 50,000. But that could change depending on how many refugees other European countries can handle.

The influx of refugees is high on the agenda of people and authorities in all of the Nordic countries. So too for the Committee of Senior Officials for Labour which met to exchange experiences in Copenhagen this week. Norway proposed the setting up of a Nordic contact group to discuss experiences and opportunities.

The scenarios painted by authorities remain uncertain. What is certain is that far more people seeking protection in a Nordic country will be arriving in 2015 than we believed would happen only a few months back. But even uncertain prognosis are necessary tools for social planning.

A social planning tool is just what Swedish working life researcher Ann Bergman misses when she in this month’s theme “Working life research and the future” wonders where the working life researchers are when the future is being debated. She believes working life researchers should have an important voice in that debate. 

The working life barometer from Norway’s Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) is trying to be one such voice. “We can deliver good diagnosis about today’s situation, analyse development trends and through this look to the future of Norwegian working life,” writes YS leader Jorunn Berland in the preface to the YS working life barometer for 2015. In this month’s theme the researchers behind the barometer unveil the myths surrounding “the new working life”.

The way in which newly arrived refugees will leave their mark will be interesting to follow. This will be the focus for the Nordic Labour Journal in November. Before that, the refugee situation is a red hot topic at the Nordic Council of Ministers’ meeting in Reykjavik and when labour ministers meet on 17 November.

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