For several months – in fact for many years – the Faroese have been waiting for the magical number 50,000. And it is about to arrive! The latest official update says 49,820, the real figure is even closer to 50,000 and it is now only a matter of weeks.
The labour market is changing. When the Nordic labour ministers met in Helsinki on 29 November, the integration of refugees into the labour market and challenges like demographics, new technology and a fragmented labour market were among the central issues. Together with the ILO, the discussion carried on around the future of work and gender equality.
“This is exciting,” state secretary Christl Kvam told the Nordic Labour Journal as she debuted at the Nordic ministers’ meeting as a representative for the upcoming Norwegian Presidency.
“The process is underway,” comments the former Danish government minister and EU Commissioner Poul Nielsson. In November 2014 he was asked to review the Nordic cooperation on labour market issues. At the labour ministers’ meeting in Helsinki he presented his proposals for reforms and got reactions from the ministers.
Refugees represent a different type of group compared to labour immigrants. The integrating of last year’s record number of refugees to the Nordic region will therefore probably take longer than for labour immigrants. There is also a risk that labour market integration runs into problems after five to ten years, warned researches at a Nordic seminar held in Oslo.
“Refreshing! Interesting!,” says Finland’s Minister Justice and Employment Jari Lindström. During the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers he is the one who answers the Nordic parliamentarians on the Council on labour issues. Long-term unemployment, youth unemployment, immigration and gender equality featured among the questions which the minister had to handle. And how can we join forces and perform better in the EU?
Since June this year, Finland’s largest trade union SAK has been run by Jarkko Eloranta. In this portrait interview with the Nordic Labour Journal he attacks the government’s labour market politics for its aim of making Finnish labour cheaper.
There is trouble ahead for the future labour market: global growth is falling, jobs are disappearing, employment contracts are changing, inequality is on the rise and the middle classes are no longer growing. But not everything points in a negative direction, and according to Finland’s Minister of Justice and Employment we can influence developments.
Train delays resulting from ID checks at Öresund is irritating and tiring for many border commuters, while new agreements for cooperation are made in the Nordics’ northern regions. Commuter routes between Norway and Sweden are also as busy as ever.
The sharing economy represents a challenge to the labour market as we know it. In the face of this development, the Swedish trade union Unionen has just entered an agreement with German IG Metall. The aim is to find tools for how to organise the growing part of the labour force which works through online platforms.
The five Nordic countries should make adult education and further training a mandatory element of the labour market, and introduce real cooperation on migration. These are central issues to secure the Nordic labour market model for future years, recommends a new report from the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Carola Lemne is first among equals at The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and spokeswoman for 60,000 small and large companies. Her recipe for better inclusion of newly arrived people into work is cutting costs for employers. Lower pay and lower tax leave both employers and employees better off.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg changed party colours at one of the most important ministries when Norway got a new Minister of Labour and Social Affairs - Anniken Hauglie from the Conservative Party.
In a short amount of time refugees’ chances of getting to the Nordic countries have been dramatically reduced. In the first ten months of 2015 , before the tightening of rules, more than 170,000 people applied for asylum in a Nordic country. Many of the new arrivals will be turned down. The Nordic region will still get a solid boost of labour. The future challenge will be integration. Are refugees a threat to Nordic welfare societies? Can refugees be included in working life without lowering wages and risking the creation of a new economic underclass?
“It’s like on a plane when the oxygen masks have been activated. When you’re told to put on your own mask before helping people sitting next to you. If we are to help the world, we must look after our own country first,” says Jøran Kallmyr, State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Justice.
There is agreement on one thing when it comes to refugees — the many newly arrived must be integrated into their new societies. They need accommodation, language skills and jobs. The Nordic cooperation could do with sharing experiences for how to achieve that.
Finland has been caught unprepared by a flow of refugees the size of which the country has not experienced since World War II and the evacuation of Finnish Karelia. Many private individuals have been willing to help look after the new arrivals by offering food, clothes and accommodation. And now entrepreneurs are starting to turn up at refugee centres.
“No youths should be left to their own devices for longer periods of time,” Danish Noemi Katznelson told Nordic labour ministers when she presented her latest research in Copenhagen recently. Marginalised youths and work were the themes for discussion between the ministers and the social partners, with a focus on preventative measures against unemployment.
“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.
Unemployment is growing in Norway, especially among young people. The government’s 2016 budget proposal includes a youth package aimed at preventing more young people from falling outside of education and working life.