Time to boost Nordic knowledge to bridge gaps in the labour market

02.06.21 | News
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Isabella Lindblom / norden.org
The green transition is already creating new jobs around the Nordic Region as the countries invest in energy-efficient and climate-friendly production. However, the Nordic governments and labour market parties must act together, and quickly, in order to restructure the labour market to accommodate this. At a meeting of employment ministers and labour market parties on 2 June, researchers warned of a divided Nordic labour market.

At the meeting, Finland’s Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen said that the green transition needs to be anchored in the wider population.

“We must create an atmosphere in which the transition to a carbon-neutral economy is seen more as an opportunity than as a problem. This enables us to establish a solid foundation for a fair transition where no one feels excluded.”

Invest in training

In a report on the future of work commissioned by the Nordic employment ministers, researchers write that climate change and technological developments are both bringing about a quicker rate of change in the labour market. Developing skills in the adult workforce and investing in lifelong learning will be crucial if people are to be able to retrain and change jobs.

Matching issues already exist

Taina Susiluoto from the Confederation of Finnish Industries said that it is already difficult to recruit the right skills for the new jobs. 

“Building carbon-neutral societies requires new kinds of skills. We already lack experts in data economics and cyber security, and post-pandemic growth has only just begun. We must retrain and further educate our employees to match the needs of the labour market.”  

Disappearance of entry-level jobs

In the Nordic Region, the number of highly skilled jobs is increasing, while the number of entry-level jobs is falling. This also means that entry-level jobs are disappearing for groups that find it difficult to enter the labour market. Consequently, the researchers state in their report that a policy is needed to plug these widening gaps.

Mandatory adult education?

Secretary General of the Council of Nordic Trade Unions, Magnus Gissler, says that the time has come to invest heavily in education and, for example, to consider introducing mandatory adult education.

“The researchers point to major dangers such as increased segregation and an increased risk of divisions in the labour market. We must counteract this. If we look for common strategies, we can drive this change in a way that’s socially sustainable,” says Gissler.

Pandemic puts Nordic model to the test

In the middle of the four-year research project on the future of work, the pandemic occurred. It now serves as a case study for the Nordic labour market model’s renowned ability to adapt. And in this case, it worked. Labour market parties worked as one to put together crisis packages and save jobs, maintain incomes, and shore up GDP.

Political room for manoeuvre

This means that we must not fear change, said Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Children, Ásmundur Einar Daðason.

“It’s now up to us politicians to purposefully tackle the challenges brought about by technological development and the green transition. We must counteract inequality and knowledge gaps, as well as ask ourselves how to solve this together,” he said.