Iceland gears up for the Future of Work

28.03.19 | News
Johannes Jansson/
The last in a series of four Nordic conferences to mark the centenary of the International Labour Organization will be held in Reykjavík on 4–5 April. People from all over the world will gather in the Icelandic capital to discuss gender equality and the role of governments, unions and employers in the working life of the future.“Gender equality, parental leave and the labour market are more and more interrelated, and these are areas where the Nordic Region can inspire others,” says Ásmundur Einar Daðason, the Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Children.

How is the rapidly changing labour market affecting the Nordic countries and their labour-market models? What will it take for the Nordic Countries to achieve gender equality and sustainability in working life?

These are the two key conference themes.

Participants from all over the world

Researchers, politicians, trade union leaders, employers’ representatives and heads of international organisations – a total of 300 in all – will spend two days sifting through ideas and proposals for improving working conditions and maintaining skill levels so that jobs are not taken over by robots and artificial intelligence. Equal pay will also be a central theme.

The Nordic Region has a key

The Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour will meet the day before the conference. The ILO Director-General Guy Ryder attends both the Conference and the meeting.

“The Nordic tripartite model of negotiations involving governments, employers and unions is one of the keys to addressing the challenges posed by the working life of the future,” Ryder says.

Around the Nordic Region in four years

All fo the Future of Work conferences have been hosted by the country holding the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The theme of the first one in Helsinki four years ago was global changes in the nature of work. In Oslo three years ago the theme was the sharing economy and the third conference in Stockholm last year discussed new technology and changing educational and training needs.

The fourth conference in Reykjavík will summarise the previous discussions and celebrate the centenary of the ILO.

The ILO report

A special presentation will be made at the conference based on the report by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. The Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfvén, was one of the two chairs of the Commission.
The ILO asked the Nordic countries for ideas and proposals on how to improve working conditions, promote gender equality and maintain skill levels so that jobs are not taken over by robots and artificial intelligence.

Gender equality a top priority

The Nordic Region emphasised the importance of employee protection and tripartite co-operation in the labour market, questions that will be discussed and developed further. The working environment is important, according to Ásmundur Einar. He also believes that gender equality in the labour market must be a top priority.

Iceland recently drew up an equal pay standard, which is currently being introduced for all official bodies and companies with more than 250 employees. The Nordic Region has also led the way on parental leave and other labour-market reforms. Gender equality, parental leave and the labour market are more and more interrelated. It is important that everyone has the opportunity to play their part in the world of work.

Social justice

In 2016, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the ILO started working together on gender equality in the working life of the future as part of the ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative, one of seven social justice initiatives on which the ILO and all of the member states are working, in particular in the ILO centenary year.

In response to both “Women at Work” and “Future of Work”, another ILO centenary initiative, a wide-ranging research project is also trying to predict what working life will look like in the Nordic Region in 2030. The project was launched by the Nordic labour ministers and involves a large number of Nordic researchers led by the Norwegian social science research centre Fafo.

“We are not fleeing from the future”

Ásmundur Einar Daðason explains that the future of work is being discussed throughout the Nordic Region right now. Iceland is no exception. The population is growing rapidly and new attitudes spreading in the labour market. Climate change has also had a huge impact. Iceland has high hopes of being able to build on and work with the outcomes of the conference.

“Given the pace of change, the Nordic Region will only retain its leading position by continuing with the system of co-operation in the labour market. We are not fleeing from the future,” says Ásmundur Einar Daðason.