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You are here: Home i Articles i Comments i Comments 2016 i Do tell! Why do we have it so good in the Nordics?
Editorial

Do tell! Why do we have it so good in the Nordics?

| By Berit Kvam

Is our knowledge about the Nordic model about to erode? Are we turning this force of cooperation and labour market relations, the very core of our welfare, into a grand expression without any resonance? Do tell! The Nordic Labour Journal throws a light on the Nordic model throughout this September issue, along with the core values of cooperation, trust and joint decision-making in our theme Protect the trust!

Norwegian or Danish, Icelandic, Swedish or Finnish? Because it is not quite the same thing. There are differences between the Nordic models for labour market cooperation; how comprehensive the collective negotiations should be, whether there are central or local negotiations and the state’s role in negotiations. But similarities and differences also depend on where you choose to look. 

Trust, cooperation and joint decision-making processes are core values in the Nordic model. It is based on agreements from the 1930s on cooperation between employer and employee, and has been expanded and built on ever since. The Nordic model is integral to the Nordic countries’ democratic development. It has given us high employment rates, a high number of women in the labour market, high levels of education, strong powers of innovation, a well-developed welfare system and few conflicts. 

The model has been so successful that when the ILO starts the debate around its global platform for The Future of Work, it looks to the Nordics for the initial inspiration. The Women at Work initiative is a great example of how the Nordic region can be a role model.  Yet the trade union movement is under pressure, as illustrated in the portrait of Jarkko Eloranta – the newly elected leader for Finland’s largest trade union and head of the Council of Nordic Trade Unions. For the first time ever, a Finnish tripartite agreement has been signed which leads to pay cuts, and women are hardest hit. 

During Norway’s Arendal politics week, researchers from the Work Research Institute presented a study showing a decrease in employees’ opportunities to participate in decision-making in the workplace – it is becoming increasingly difficult to blow the whistle. Yet you can tell from the debate that these basic values in our society are very much alive, and the Nordic region is top of the league for trust. 

It has been said that young people and leaders with non-Nordic backgrounds do not quite grasp how we have achieved the level of welfare we are enjoying, and that they do not belive that joint decision-making in the labour market can work. So there is a need for education and proof. The City of Copenhagen has recently reformed its entire management system. The Copenhagen trust reform is the theme for a recently published PhD thesis on trust-based management and leadership in public sector organisations. It shows that the reform has led to increased well-being and innovation. The Nordic Labour Journal has been visiting workplaces to get the low-down on what changes when trust becomes the driving force in leadership.

Create a Nordic trust reform! is the challenge from the thesis’ author. She underlines the need for trust if you want to solve the complex challenges facing the Nordic welfare states. That is why the Nordic countries should join forces and share their experiences of trust-based management and leadership, she tells the Nordic Labour Journal.

Trust is a good old Nordic tradition. It is the Nordic region’s strength and it has contributed to the welfare we all now enjoy so much. Can we allow it to wither as a result of a lack of knowledge? Or introduce new management models without putting them into a larger context?

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