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The 2014 Icelandic Presidency: focus on masculinity

| Text: Guðrún Helga Sigurðardóttir

Iceland takes over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers from next year, during which time the Council will focus on labour market issues, men and masculinity as well as ways of removing border obstacles between the Nordic countries.

The Nordic countries will celebrate 60 years of labour market cooperation in May 2014. The fight against youth unemployment and unemployment among other exposed groups will be a main focus throughout the year. Longterm unemployment and cooperation between educational institutions and labour markets will also be key issues in the coming year. 

Reykjavik will be hosting a jubilee conference in October, where relevant research will be presented along with the results from the cooperation aimed at removing red tape surrounding the free movement of people. Future challenges will also be identified. There will also be a government ministers’ meeting and a consolation meeting between the social partners.

New border obstacle council

Iceland will restructure the Freedom of Movement Forum and create a Freedom of Movement Council to be led by former government minister and member of Iceland’s Parliament Siv Friðleifsdóttir.

The Freedom of Movement Council’s aim will be to remove border obstacles and work towards an open and well-functioning common labour market. The Council will abolish five to ten border obstacles a year to help make life easier for the 70.000 people who cross Nordic borders every day.

“People and businesses should be able to cross our borders as unhindered as possible,” Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs Eygló Harðardóttir told the Nordic Council of Ministers during a recent Oslo meeting.

There are also plans for a Nordic conference on education and on business and institution traineeships. The conference will focus on how the education system can be better linked up to businesses in order to help young people workplace training.

Iceland and the other Nordic countries have earlier given businesses the chance to take on trainees as part of a vocational education, but that trend has diminished partly because of a weaker economy. This development will now be debated.

The key question of equality

Gender equality will naturally also feature on the agenda for 2014. Part-time work, equal pay, a gender-divided labour market and the work-life balance are all issues which will be discussed.

Senior advisor Ingi Valur Jóhannsson at Iceland’s Ministry of Social Affairs says the conference will see the results from a new survey mapping why women choose to work more part-time than men.

The June 2014 conference on masculinity and the study of masculinity in the Nordic region should also be interesting. Two renowned masculinity and gender researches will deliver the conference keynote speeches; the Australian Professor Raewyn Connell from the University of Sydney and the American Professor Michael Kimmel from the State University of New York.

“The Nordic region is unique and has been leading the way on gender equality,” says project leader Ásta Jóhannsdóttir, who is responsible for planning the conference on behalf of NFMM, Nordic Association for Research on Men and Masculinity.

She points out that the study of masculinity also holds a unique position in the Nordic region, perhaps as a result of parental leave. 

“There is often talk about the Nordic region having better welfare and gender equality compared to other parts of Europe. That’s why I felt it was important to focus on masculinity,” she continues.

Ásta Jóhannsdóttir is hoping to see at least 150 participants at the conference on masculinity. And she is optimistic. She has already received 87 abstracts of various reports from lecturers around the world.

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