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News 2016

Nordic countries fight unwanted consequences of EU benefit rules
The EU’s rules on social security benefits need modernisation and the cost must be shared more equally between member states. If not, liberal benefit systems like those found in Nordic countries might not be sustainable, argue Nordic governments as they join forces to push the issue in the EU.
The Swedish agreement model’s big test
In 2016 the Swedish wage setting model is being put to its biggest test for several decades. Agreements must be made for some three million employees, but the members of the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) are split, and different demands from different unions and trades risk breaking a nearly 20 year old tradition where the industry has set the norm for wage increases.
Labour dispute at Icelandic smelter – a threat to the country’s agreement model?
A bitter labour dispute between trade unions and employers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Icelandic smelter Isal is in its second year. Workers have twice threatened to go on strike, but have pulled back at the last minute because of fears the smelter would be shut down. Six trade unions are negotiating, but most of the 500 employees at the smelter in Straumsvík belong to the Hlíf union.
Iceland's Confederation of Labour turns 100 in a more equal labour market
ASÍ - the Icelandic Confederation of Labour - is 100 years old this year. The anniversary is being celebrated with music and conferences in four different locations in Iceland in March. During this anniversary year one authority, one organisation or one company will probably be certified for Iceland's new equal wage standard.
New Swedish work environment strategy: No more fatal work accidents
The Swedish government wants a vision zero for fatal work accidents, a sustainable labour market and measures to improve the psychosocial work environment. The government recently presented its work environment strategy for 2016 to 2020.
Danish parents want Swedish part time conditions
The Danish gender equality debate is on fire. A large majority of Danes think parents of small children should have a right to work part time, but the trade unions, the government and feminists disagree.
I am incredibly thankful for part time work!
35 year old Cecilie Enevold has gone part time in order to spend more time with her two small children. That was a difficult but correct decision, she says.
Finnish government seeks help to find work for more people
The Finnish government has asked citizens and organisation for their help to reduce unemployment figures. In particular, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and his government ministers want ideas for how to help people who have a weak position in the labour market.
Three Swedish initiatives for increased gender equality
It calls itself ‘the world’s first feminist government’, and with three new initiatives the Swedish government shows it is living up to the name: A more equal occupational injury insurance system, a review of parental benefits to ensure it creates a more equal situation for both parents and finally there will be a strengthening of the discrimination act.
Finland’s basic income experiment attracts interest
Finland’s planned empirical experiment with a universal basic income has attracted a lot of international interest before it has even started. An expert group has now presented its first preliminary report of how some social benefits could be replaced by a universal basic income. It will present a more comprehensive report towards the end of the year.
Kick off for "How are you doing in the Nordic countries?"
Kick off in Turku/Åbo for the Finnish Presidency and a great drive for Nordic cross-sector cooperation. How can work, welfare and culture be combined?
Is precarious work becoming the new norm?
Precarious work is spreading fast. One fifth of the UK workforce is already employed in the sharing economy, made famous by companies like Uber and Airbnb.
Poul Nielson: Introduce mandatory adult education and further training in the Nordics
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.
Former EU commissioner Nielson wants radical Nordic reforms
The Nordic labour market is facing challenges which can not be solved through minor changes. That was the message from Poul Nielson as he presented his 14 proposals for radical reforms.
Risk-based inspections on the agenda at Tampere working environment conference
Risk-based inspections was the theme for the 2016 Nordic working environment conference in Tampere. More than 100 participants from across the Nordic region were engaged in the big debate on how authorities can carry out inspections to secure a good working environment in a more efficient way.
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority sharpens its methods
How do you effectively monitor working environments? That was the key question when the Nordic working environment conference in Tampere recently discussed risk-based inspections. Which workplaces should be visited and how do you perform inspections and controls? The labour inspection authority’s role is to make sure businesses follow labour law. The methods are going to change, but how?
Where gender equality fits into the ILO’s future of work
How do you close the pay gap and create a less gender-divided labour market? The answer does not lie in the past. Gender divisions in the Nordic labour markets have been nearly static since the 1970s and global data from the ILO shows shockingly little movement. So what is needed? That is what the discussion about gender equality in the future labour market is about. Does Iceland have the solution?
EU pressure to liberalise the road transport industry
Both Denmark and Finland will have to face the EU Court of Justice if they fail to change rules which they have implemented to prevent social dumping through the abuse of the EU’s so-called cabotage rules, says the European Commission. It is stepping up its work to liberalise the market for road freight transport.
Young people’s recipe for smoother cross-border movement
The Nordic region needs to project a hipper image to young people, educational institutions must become more similar in nature and job opportunities more visible if you want to improve cross-border movement. That was the challenge from young people during a debate on the future of mobility and cooperation in the Nordic region on 25 and 26 August.
Frustrated border commuters in the south, hopeful border cooperation in the north
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.
Why are suicide rates higher for farmers and firefighters than for librarians?
The largest survey of suicide rates by occupational group shows suicide is ten times more common among farmers than among librarians. For women, the highest rates are found among emergency workers, like firefighters.
Martti Ahtisaari: Who would vote for the Social Democrats – hijacked by the trade unions?
This is the book which has created an uproar among Finnish trade unions. The former President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari distances himself from both the trade union movement and his former political party SDP (the Social Democratic Party). Who would vote for them? he asks. Because they are ruining the welfare state…
Social Democrats nearly wiped out in Iceland’s election
The Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) was the great looser in Iceland’s parliamentary elections, together with the Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn). The Social Democratic Alliance was nearly wiped out, retaining only three MPs. The President has now invited the leader of the Independence Party to form a government.
The posting of workers directive: EU Commission sticks to its guns
Should posted workers have the right to the same wages as workers in the country to which they are posted? Yes, says the European Commission, sticking to its proposal for changes to the posting of workers directive, despite fierce resistance from Eastern European member states.
Profit limit on welfare services triggers strong emotions in Sweden
When the so-called welfare inquiry was presented on 8 November, proposing a limit to profits from welfare services, there was immediate disagreement. The centre-right parties want to remove a seven percent limit, while the Left Party is pushing the government to take even tougher action against profit.
Are the Nordic welfare states prepared for crises?
Do the Nordics spend too little money on Nordic welfare? Yes, believes Iceland’s Minister for Nordic Cooperation Eygló Harðardóttir. She sees great opportunities for more welfare cooperation, and supports a proposed Nordic welfare forum and a system for common welfare indicators, to be better prepared for future crises.
Nordic countries positive to EU social pillar – but want to set wages themselves
We urge that the proposed European Pillar of Social Rights takes into account the special features of our labour markets and respects the role played by the social partners in the Nordic Region. That is what the Nordic countries’ labour ministers write in a joint declaration to the European Commission.
ILO report: Big difference in view of working women between Nordics and Eastern Europe
Women in the Nordic countries participate in the labour market to a greater degree than in any other country, and there are many good examples to be found here. But some glass ceilings remain unbroken, concluded the conference “Global Dialogue on Gender in the World of Work” which was held in Helsinki in late November.
OECD on Finland: Easy to get another job
Unemployment is high at over eight percent. But it is relatively easy to get another equivalent job. That is often forgotten in Finland. Thank the level of education for that! This is how leading daily Helsingin Sanomat comments the OECD’s fresh country report.

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