NFU Blog

A challenged Nordic supermodel

Three weeks ago I was in Reykjavik to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nordic labour market. The conference was organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers and gathered people from all Nordic countries.

The common Nordic labour market was established 60 years ago, in 1954. What is remarkable is that the Nordic countries managed this even before the first European states signed the Rome treaty that would establish the European Union. The Nordic labour market even existed 15 years before the European Union managed to establish the equivalent. Today however, the Nordic labour market is mostly symbolic as the EU’s internal market applies to all of the Nordic countries.

What we also came to Reykjavik to celebrate was the Nordic supermodel- as in the Nordic welfare model. A model that we have always considered as something unique in the world. But will we be able to uphold this model and is it even that unique? Well, what is clear is that Nordic countries have some challenges ahead. What we discussed at the conference were the big challenges of global competition, ageing populations and technical change.

I also learned that it is not as simple to say that there is a unique Nordic welfare model that applies equally to the Nordic countries. There are actually as many varieties of the Nordic welfare model as there are Nordic countries. However, what the Nordic countries do have in common and what is shared through the Nordic model are common values such as social rights, equal opportunities and solidarity. Another thing that is rather unique, and a system that we share, is that we have a very strong position for trade unions in all the Nordic counties.

And regarding the challenges ahead, the speakers at the jubilee conference seemed certain that the Nordic countries have the ability to adjust to changes and produce public policies and services that can meet these challenges. Qualities that also may refer back to our Nordic model.

Lastly I must say that despite the really interesting conference, my favourite part of the week in Reykjavik was to meet our Icelandic affiliates SSF. I had the luck to meet with half of the SSF board and we spent an evening discussing the European Union, Iceland’s recovery from the financial crisis and shared some laughter over dinner in the harbour. I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit all Nordic countries and our affiliates already in my first five months working for NFU. What I really learned from my days on Iceland is the importance of Nordic cooperation.

Ella Sjödin, Head of EU Affairs

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