Report: Nordic countries should resolve challenges of working life together

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 14.6.2016 12.30
Press release

Challenges in working life in the Nordic countries include employee training and competence, the work environment, immigration and equality.  The Nordic countries should find solutions to these issues together and benefit from the Nordic Council of Ministers' cooperation with international bodies and Nordic labour market organisations.

This is what Poul Nielson, a former Danish minister and EU Commissioner, proposes. He has drawn up a strategy report at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The report was submitted on 14 June 2016 to Finland's Minister of Justice and Employment Jari Lindström, who is this year's Chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour. The report contains 14 proposals for further developing aspects of working life through Nordic cooperation.

"Nielson's report highlights very well the fact that there are common modes of work, common standards and common values in Nordic working life. It is good that working life has now been analysed extensively from a Nordic perspective. The Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour will scrutinise the report and discuss it at its November meeting," says Minister Lindström.

Increase in adult competence needed

The report concludes that the Nordic countries must manage the challenges of working life together. Nielson proposes, for example, that the Nordic Governments move forward with plans to make adult and continuing professional education mandatory for all. The purpose of this would be to reduce the drop-out rate of those who experience difficulties in performing work for reasons such as digitalisation.

Nielson also proposes that the Nordic Council of Ministers should pay more attention to the mental work environment. The Nordic countries should study the possibility of harmonising legislation in the sector so that the mental work environment would have the same legal status as the physical work environment.

The Nordic countries should provide a more robust response to immigration in accordance with basic Nordic values. Being able to find work quickly is key to integrating immigrants and to transforming immigration into a positive resource. From the viewpoint of equality and particularly that of immigrant women, it is important that these values are nurtured.

Work to remove the obstacles must continue along with the promotion of the Nordic labour market. Equality should also be given a higher profile in all sectors within the Nordic countries' cooperation on working life.

More active and coherent EU policy needed

The report noted that currently the position of the Nordic countries in regard to initiatives and rules emanating from the EU is to look at these and then respond. They should instead establish an active common policy and seek to influence the content of EU processes.

This can occur by enhancing understanding of the Nordic model in the dialogue conducted with different EU institutions. Nordic cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) should also be increased.

The report is based on more than one hundred conversations held by Nielson with ministers, members of parliament, civil servants, researchers, labour market organisations and others throughout the Nordic countries and in the EU, ILO and OECD. It is the third major strategy report on the Nordic countries. The report can be viewed on the website of the Nordic Council of Ministers at


Poul Nielson, tel. +45 24 26 14 17, poulnielson(at)

Lippe Koivuneva, Senior Government Adviser, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, tel. +358 29 504 9236, lippe.koivuneva(at)

Ulf Andreasson, Senior Adviser, Nordic Council of Ministers, tel. +45 29 69 29 60, ulan(at)

Jari Lindström