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Nordic PESs cooperate effectively - but continued obstacles to a true common labour market

| Text Berit Kvam and Gunhild Wallin

«The public employment services (PESs) in the Nordic countries cooperate effectively when employers are looking for labour from neighbouring countries. Contacts are made easily and trustfully, and are based on confidence and familiarity. » So says international director Peter R. Myklebust, of the Norwegian Directorate of Labour.

Peter R. Myklebust has been leading a project with the aim of surveying methods for inter-Nordic employment services. The survey which was recently concluded, covers 11 cases of inter-Nordic cooperation on employment in the period 1985/90-2000. The project came about due to an initiative from the PES Contact Group under the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Since the 1950s, the Nordic countries have promoted the development of a common Nordic labour market through common conventions for the labour market and social security.

These conventions were unique in European terms until the EU’s Inner Market and the EEA came into being during 1993/94.

«On the basis of this, the Nordic countries’ public employment services have developed a close cooperation in order to counteract any imbalance in branches of the labour markets in the Nordic countries. The Nordic public employment services have also found their feet and work effectively within the framework of EURES, the European public employment service of the EEA that was established in 1994,» says Myklebust.

«What was the significance of EURES for this cooperation?»

«The significance, role and services of the EURES network has varied since 1994. The cases show that the role of the network as a ‘door opener’ is important but not essential for the establishment of new patterns of cooperation. Practical cooperation on job placement in the Nordic countries has primarily been rooted to local and regional level, while European cooperation on job placement is now well integrated into the PESs of the Nordic countries and is no obstacle to practical Nordic cooperation on job placement.»

A common thread in the survey, according to Myklebust, is that once employers have established a recruitment channel through a local employment service, subsequent contacts will be made directly between the companies and the PES/jobseekers in the neighbouring Nordic country. It is therefore difficult to quantify the true mobility between countries.

«It is very difficult to get an overview of the actual inter-Nordic migrations and the reasons for doing so. In 1999, a total of 250,000 Nordic citizens were registered as resident in other Nordic countries, and in the course of a two-year period, there will be a significant number of jobseekers who take jobs in another country without saying they have moved. The true mobility of the labour force is thereby considerably

higher than the recorded figures, and it is difficult to determine the real role of the PES in the mobility of inter-Nordic and European labour forces. In the 11 cases investigated, there is a considerable underreporting of the number of actual job placements. In the cases in the report, it is estimated that the PESs have placed a minimum of 50,000 people in jobs between 1985/1990 and 2000.

Myklebust also maintains that both general experience and the above cases indicate that the PESs have been in a position to supply the labour force required in Nordic branches of the labour market to a significant extent.

«The survey thus shows that regional cooperation on job placement in the Nordic countries with its strong local/regional rooting, works to a very high degree and is in a position to meet requirements when labour is in demand from Nordic neighbours. The PESs are not the main obstacle to the mobility of labour between the Nordic countries. In the 1990s, the development and use of IT in the PESs of the Nordic countries have led to a major reduction in the internal information obstacles within PESs, and a vastly improved service towards employers and job-seekers. The survey does however confirm that there continue to be obstacles in the way of a true common labour market in the Nordic countries. This applies particularly to general information obstacles and a lack of coordination in respect of social security.

Language differences and geographic distances are not significant factors for the mobility of inter-Nordic labour forces,» says Myklebust.

«What will cooperation on job placement look like in the future?»

«In the future, the PESs will, especially as a result of developments in IT, be given a more organisational role than the traditional, visible intermediary role of matching employers/job seekers and making decisions on job placement. Self-service systems based on databases that the PESs make available, have been given greater and greater significance in both national and international employment services. This trend, which requires new metrics and result objectives, will mean increased competitiveness from private players and require the development of new types of service. The PESs will be given a changed role and the emphasis will be on other services – Internet-based services and more resource-intensive and personally oriented services. Increased competitiveness in international job placement will also create an increasing need for the coordination of common resources in order to ensure strong public employment services in the future.»




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