Gold fountain pen

Decent Work for Young People in the Nordics

The global pandemic has had a negative effect on the labour market and on the most vulnerable, younger generation and people the furthest from employment, in particular.


The next generations on the labour market will likely be met with unfair disadvantages as the long-term economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic become clear. These issues, alongside a climate crisis which is also fuelling transitions in the labour market, require innovative solutions to create a successful path forward. The governments, intergovernmental organisations such as the Nordic Council of ministers, and the social partners, have a key role and responsibility in finding solutions to ensure the future of decent work for all.  

Many sectors were hit by the pandemic. In particular sectors where many young people take their first steps into the labour market, for example the tourism and restaurant industries. Before the pandemic, we already saw a growing trend of precarious employment conditions and low wages (in these sectors). The rise of gig economy has created an unstable labour market for many, and a large gap has developed between permanently employed and temporary workers. There is an overarching risk that a large portion of the population, including young people and others far from decent and secure conditions, will be alienated from the labour market. It is important that these issues are addressed early, and that solutions are discussed, to properly integrate the new generations into the labour market with decent conditions.  

Education is a key component for labour market stability. By providing individuals with the opportunities to retrain their skills and continuously re-skill we ensure lifelong learning and skills supply. It is just as important to gain access to the right education and vocational training in the early stages of labour market entry. In the current situation many have spent over a year at home, in a time when traditional forms of education and learning have not been possible and the opportunities to train necessary practical skills have been absent. It is important that proper investments are made to bridge this gap. The importance of equal opportunities and education and lifelong learning cannot be stressed enough. Strong social partners need to ensure that we have a labour market with good working conditions and protected employees. With the rise of platform work the social partners must ensure that the rights of individual workers are protected and regulated in the same way as the rest of the labour market.  

Over the coming decades, the labour market will need new employees in many sectors. It is important that young people have proper information regarding these jobs. We believe that the freedom of choice in education is central to get motivated workers. Actively providing people with good information about labour market conditions and education opportunities will help individuals make informed choices. We need to have the tools in place to ensure that no one is left outside of the labour market otherwise, we risk leaving our current and future generations behind.  

We know that periods of unemployment at the early stages of working life have so-called scarring effects on lifelong wages. Without permanent employment it is difficult to get a loan for a home and it is financially harder to start a family. Gender imbalances in the workforce arise when external factors influence the labour market. We believe that the best way to meet these challenges is having governments that prioritise labour market policy and job creation, together with strong social partners and employers willing to invest in opportunities for the individual, is the best way to combat the ongoing challenges we will be facing after the pandemic, as well as other challenges the labour market will face in a changing world.  

We demand that our Nordic governments and parliaments take action to ensure that we have a strong Nordic model with cross border cooperation that also functions in challenging times, ensuring that the next generations are equipped to enter the labour market. The Nordic council of ministers is crucial to safeguarding a functioning mutual Nordic labour market, especially during times of crisis. We also urge employer’s organisations in the Nordics to engage in social dialogues in all sectors together with Trade Unions to make sure that every individual has access to the labour market, the possibility to full time employment and educational opportunities to create a sustainable working life.  

Maja Straht, vice president Saco Studentråd and representative for Nordvision 
Antti Palola, President, NFS- Council of Nordic Trade Unions  and STTK Finland 
Markus Kutvonen, president,  STTK-students and representative for Nordvision