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Sweden will celebrate the common Nordic labour market in 2024

Sweden will celebrate the common Nordic labour market in 2024

| Text: Björn Lindahl

As Sweden takes over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers next year, it will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the common Nordic labour market. A Nordic-Baltic meeting on fighting workplace crime is also scheduled.

When Minister for Employment Johan Pehrson briefed his colleagues in Reykjavik on 30 November, the thing he was most excited about was inviting his colleagues from the five Nordic countries and the three autonomous areas to visit Skellefteå in November 2024.

Labour ministers

The participants at the meeting of Nordic labour ministers in Reykjavik on 30 November: Director International Affairs, Carsten Sander, Denmark; State Secretary Ellen Bakken, Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, Norway; Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market and Minister for Nordic Cooperation Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for Employment Johan Pehrson, Sweden; Secretary General for the Nordic Council of Ministers  Karen Ellemann, and Minister of Employment Arto Satonen, Finland.

“There is tremendous development happening in Skellefteå and you will be able to see Northvolt’s enormous EV battery plant which is already up and running. The meeting will be held in Sara kulturhus, one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings which is furnished with the very best in Nordic design. It has solar panels to minimise the building’s climate footprint,” he said.

An estimated 14,000 new jobs will be created in the region by 2030, 4,000 of them at Northvolt. The plant will be Europe’s largest producer of lithium batteries for cars and storage when all the production units are ready.

Johan Pehrson highlighted several other Nordic labour market initiatives:

  • Celebrating The World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 26 April (the actual date is 28 April, but that falls on a Sunday). The Nordics, in cooperation with the Swedish ILO Committee, will mark the day by publishing the results from a Nordic project examining workplace mortality. The study has been carried out in connection with the ILO’s Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work.
  • On 18 and 19 June, the 70th anniversary of the common Nordic labour market will be celebrated at an event in Malmö. The agreement, signed on 22 May 1954 and ratified on 1 July that year, has been one of the cornerstones in the Nordic cooperation. Nordregio has been asked to report on what the common labour market has meant for the Nordic region and what skills will be in demand in the future. 
  • The OECD has also been asked to report on the various reforms and changes being implemented by Nordic employment agencies, and the impact this has on the agencies’ role in promoting an inclusive common Nordic labour market. The results will be presented at a future date.  
  • A Nordic-Baltic seminar on workplace crime will be held in Stockholm on 12 September. Sweden has been considering how to create more formal cooperation to improve access to information and services and also to increase capacity and knowledge. The Nordic and Baltic countries will present examples of successful approaches, ways of collaborating and initiatives during the seminar.
  • A seminar on foreign-born women’s labour market integration will be held in Stockholm in June, in cooperation with the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality. Sweden is also responsible for organising events during the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York in March. The Nordic Gender Institute (NIKK) has been tasked with mapping the work on “honour” violence in the Nordics.  

Sweden’s Ministry of Employment has two government ministers. Paulina Brandberg is both the deputy Minister of Employment and Minister of Equality, which makes this kind of cooperation natural. Iceland’s Minister of the Labour Market Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson encouraged fresh thinking from his colleagues. 


Unemployment has fallen in all the Nordic countries, and Norway has the lowest unemployment rate overall. Source: NMR.

“We must be prepared to leave our comfort zone in our cooperation. We share the same experiences and can learn a lot from each other. But we should look at things from a cross-sectional perspective.”

The meeting also discussed the future cooperation programme which runs between 2025 and 2030. All of the ministers highlighted the issue of skills shortages that already exist in many professional fields and these are expected to become even greater. 

This is partly due to the green transition, which will see some businesses closing down – like in Finland where peat extraction must be halved by 2030. New, green industries also need different specialised skills as well as access to services like schools, roads, housing and healthcare as some areas’ populations are set to grow rapidly.

Will the Nordic countries be competing for the same workers, or can the countries cooperate and find solutions to skills shortages together? 

The Nordic Council Secretary General Karen Elleman presented fresh labour market statistics and highly recommended the newly presented report on border barriers which promotes a simplification of taxes and fees when people work across borders in the Nordic region.


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