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Nordjobb turns 30

Nordjobb turns 30

| Text: Björn Lindahl, Photo: Foreningen Norden, Private

If Nordjobb had been established as a result of labour market policies it would probably never have lasted for 30 years. But getting youths short term jobs in a Nordic neighbouring country is about so much more.

This year 750 young people aged 18 to 28 will have the opportunity to work in a different Nordic country. At the same time there are 90,000 Swedish people getting a Norwegian personal ID number. The Nordic region as a borderless labour market is already a reality.

Espen Stedje

“Swedish youths might not need much help to get to Norway. But there are other parts of the Nordic region which are more exotic, like the Faroe Islands and Greenland,” says Espen Stedje, Secretary General at the Nordic Association in Norway.

He worked with Nordjobb himself 21 years ago, in Vaasa, Finland. 

“The important thing is the combination of job, accommodation and cultural activities,” he says.

Pure goodwill

When the Nordic Labour Journal calls former Nordjobb participants, we meet nothing but enthusiasm. Full schedules are cleared to make time for interviews. Many Nordjobb veterans have continued to work with Nordic issues.

“You meet them everywhere in the Nordic system,” says Ulf Andreasson, senior advisor at the Nordic Council of Ministers’ department for Trade and Energy Policies.

“For instance in political cooperation at the Nordic Youth Council, but elsewhere in the system too, like in our Nordic institutions and voluntary organisations. I believe Nordjobb has had a role in creating the future Nordic enthusiasts,” he says.

Great friendships

While Espen Stedje worked at a summer camp for children in Vaasa, Finland, Ulf Andreasson went with Nordjobb to the Faroe Islands in 1991. He got a job at the water sanitation plant in Torshavn municipality. 

“This suited me well as I was studying to become a civil engineer.”

Ulf AndreassonUlf Andreasson remembers the great friendships he developed with the five other Nordjobb youths in the Faroes. He shared accommodation with them and other work colleagues. He also clearly recalls the exciting journeys between the islands.

“Before I joined Nordjobb I had worked for six months in a fisheries plant in Iceland’s Westfjords. Without these two experiences I would not be working with Nordic cooperation today,” he says.

Like many other Nordic projects, Nordjobb was born out of the disappointment over the failure of yet more grandiose projects. In his book ‘The Dream of the Nordic Region’, historian Svein Olav Hansen writes how the plans for a joint Nordic TV satellite had crashed a few years earlier. It would have been able to relay neighbouring countries’ radio and TV transmissions in a time when there were still few channels to choose from.

Swedish Volvo head Pehr G Gyllenhammar was tasked with leading a group of senior industry men (not a single woman to be found in that group of 10 people!) who would assess the economic cooperation between the Nordic countries, and suggest different measures which could stimulate growth and further cross-border investments.

Not for the sake of money

Neither the Nordjobb youths nor the older generation left home for the sake of money. The experience itself is the most important thing, together with the unique way you can experience a different country by working there. Then there are the contacts you get through the cultural activities which are organised by local Nordic associations. The contacts are beneficial both for the locals and the visiting youths. 

The golden age of all things Nordic was the 1960s and by the mid 1980s the enthusiasts were getting on a bit. In came enthusiastic youths who gave meaning to the work.

Espen Stedje remembers the fantastic Ostrobothnia beaches:

“I grew up in the south-east of Norway, a few hours from the border with Sweden. So this was new to me. What also struck me was the feeling how close Finland was. I was also struck by how the Fenno-Swedish community existed parallel to the Finnish community.”

Ulf Andreasson was also marked for life:

“The ties you make with other countries and places in your youth will always have a special place in your heart. My Faroese experiences have also meant that I always pay a little extra attention to what goes on there, and also in Iceland,” he says.

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Pehr G. Gyllenhammar

CEO of Swedish Volvo, led the group which proposed the establishment of Nordjobb (facsimile from an Aftenposten editorial above)


In the inauguration year of 1985, Nordjobb was organised by a Stockholm consultancy firm, AB Samhällsrådet. The Norden Association was involved in the voluntary part of the scheme in Stockholm, Helsinki and Gothenburg and more. Just over 1,000 youths got work through Nordjobb in the first year.

The project was evaluated in the autumn of 1985 and the future organisation structure was up for debate. It was decided to create a foundation together with the Norden Association and the Foundation for industrial exchange, and with the Nordic Council of Ministers as an observer on the foundation’s board. On 1 December 1985 the Nordjobb Foundation took responsibility for the project with the national associations as operators.

Nordjobb was financed by private investments to begin with, primarily from the companies which were part of the cooperation group. As the project became more permanent the Nordic Council of Ministers’ contribution grew and in 1989 the Nordjobb Foundation was discontinued.

The Nordic Council of Ministers guarantees the basic funding of the project and responsibility for running the project was given to the Confederation of Nordic Associations. Nordjobb is still receiving funds from private companies, bilateral funds and national authorities.


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