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Nordic cooperation for 2012 focuses on broad participation

| Text: Berit Kvam, Photo: Eva Persson

The welfare state in a Nordic perspective is the theme for Norway’s 2012 presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. One priority will be the inclusion of exposed social groups in the labour market. The social partners will be important contributors during the presidency.

The Nordic welfare states are known for their high level of welfare and equality combined with strong competitiveness and the ability to change. Maintaining and developing the Nordic welfare societies is an important goal for the Nordic cooperation. This also includes the cooperation between the public sector and the social partners, as well as voluntary sector organisations and others, in order to reach widely acceptable joint solutions to the challenges faced, reads the chapter on working life in the programme for the presidency.

One of the aims of the 2012 programme is to help mobilise and include more people in a long and health-promoting working life, and to exchange experiences between the Nordic countries in order to find good solutions.

“The Nordic welfare states build on the idea that high rates of employment is the best way to generate wealth and provide welfare.” This is another quote from the presidency programme, which goes on to highlight one of the Nordic countries’ great challenges: that many face social exclusion and many do not find their feet in the labour market. An important part of labour market policies is therefore an including working life with working conditions and work environments which contribute to good health and working ability, and which prevent social exclusion.   

In order to pave the way for broad participation in working life, the Norwegian presidency focuses closely on exposed groups like people on long-term sick leave and people with disabilities. There will be extra focus on helping to open up the labour market to young people with disabilities. The presidency will host a conference to look at how experiences are shared when it comes to which measures work best to secure social inclusion and to prevent social exclusion of vulnerable groups in society.

2012 is the EU’s year for active ageing. The Nordic cooperation will focus on older people’s participation in working life. The Norwegian presidency promises to organise a Nordic conference to help contribute to the exchange of knowledge in this area.

Removing and preventing border obstacles which hinder free movement between the Nordic countries has been part of the programme more or less constantly since the Nordic region began cooperating on cross-border movement. A detailed report on social and labour market related border obstacles will be presented in spring 2012. This should encourage the countries to further discuss the challenges an to find concrete solutions. A conference on the removal of border obstacles will also be held.

The 2012 Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers will focus closely on the cooperation with the social partners. The presidency will invite the parties to help highlight the role they do play and could play in the development of labour market policy and welfare policy solutions.

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