We must prevent inequality in future crises

25.05.20 | News
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In times of crisis, it is the people who are already vulnerable, socially or in terms of health, who suffer most. The Nordic countries must work to prevent this by sharing our experiences from the COVID-19 crisis, says the Nordic Council Welfare Committee.

“Families with drug problems, teenagers who exhibit suicidal behaviour and women who are victims of violence are some of those hit hardest by the crisis. We in the Nordic region must learn from this and be better prepared for future crises,” says Bente Stein Mathisen, chair of the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region. The Committee has issued a statement calling for closer Nordic cooperation on welfare.  

 

We must combat violence against women

The Welfare Committee’s statement follows in the wake of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality’s meeting of 12 May 2020. The ministers announced their ambitions for crisis management, which focus on ensuring gender equality and protecting vulnerable groups. Committee member Nina Sandberg welcomes the ministers’ announcement.

“The Nordic region is widely praised for the progress we have made on gender equality. Unfortunately, we have not come far enough. This has been evident during the COVID-19 crisis, when, for example, violence against women has increased. The pandemic has made the need for international cooperation even clearer. We do not want external crises to exacerbate social problems or lead to greater gender inequality. A Nordic crisis management commission would help to ensure an inclusive, equal and cohesive region,” she says.     

Families with drug problems, teenagers who exhibit suicidal behaviour and women who are victims of violence are some of those hit hardest by the crisis. We in the Nordic region must learn from this and be better prepared for future crises.

Bente Stein Mathisen – Chair of the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region

Youth unemployment may rise

The pandemic also has negative consequences for children and young people. The Nordic Youth Council has identified multiple indications that those already in difficult situations have been hit harder.

“Vulnerable children and young people are having a particularly hard time during the COVID-19 crisis, especially those in homes with substance abuse or mental health issues. Through Nordic cooperation, we must ensure that our society is even better equipped to protect children and young people in times of crisis. We therefore support the Nordic Council Welfare Committee’s statement to the Ministers of Equality,” say Dag Henrik Nygård and Margrét Steinunn Benediktsdóttir on behalf of the Youth Council.  

Read the full statement here.

The pandemic affects all parts of society and has enormous human consequences. In the Nordic countries, we have an obligation to draw on the region’s broad knowledge and experience of how the crisis is affecting the welfare area. We must learn from each other’s crisis management, knowledge and best practice, so that the next time a pandemic or other crisis hits, we are better able to shield our children, elderly people and other vulnerable groups, and ensure that gender equality remains a priority, even during times of crisis.

 

Rising unemployment and increased consumption of alcohol and other drugs are the obvious symptoms of a social crisis. But there are also less visible symptoms, especially among children in vulnerable families, women subjected to domestic violence and people with mental health problems. For groups like these, the situation has been particularly hard. The closure of day-care centres, schools and other services have made it difficult to monitor and help children and young people who are not doing well. Crisis centres for victims of domestic violence have reported overload, and increased loneliness and generally poor mental health have also been a reality for many.

In many parts of the Nordic region, established support structures have been temporarily unavailable, leaving vulnerable citizens in free fall, with nobody to catch them. The crisis is also having an impact on equality between men and women at home, with responsibility for home schooling and child care often falling on women, who have to meet the demands of their day jobs at the same time.

 

All of the Nordic countries have earmarked funding to address many of these grim realities and to mitigate their effects in both the long and the short term. The Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region welcomes all initiatives to reduce the impact of the crisis on social, health and gender equality. The COVID-19 crisis knows no borders and underlines the pressing need for the Nordic countries to organise and coordinate their efforts. The Committee therefore unanimously endorses the call to set up an independent Nordic crisis management commission.

 

Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region, Nordic Council