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Signs of recovery: High employment, low unemployment

The Nordic countries are performing well on indicators relating to labour force participation and education when compared to the EU as a whole. They enjoy higher rates of employment; lower rates of unemployment; higher rates of school completion; and high tertiary attainment rates, particularly among women. The average employment rate for the Nordic Region was 73.4% in 2014 compared with an EU average of 64.9 %. This figure reflects a post global financial crisis recovery in most countries, with a clear exception in Denmark where the employment rate has continued to drop. Notably, Iceland, which experienced the sharpest drop following the financial crisis, now has an employment rate well above the Nordic average. Education levels are also high in the Nordic countries, though perhaps not surprisingly, the highest levels of education can, to a large extent, be found in metropolitan areas, socio-economically strong municipalities, and university cities. Access to education is a key driver for young people to move from rural areas to larger centres. Despite these overall positive trends, there are regional and demographic differences which warrant consideration. Youth unemployment rates, though lower than the European average, remain at an alarming level in certain regions. Overall employment rates remain higher for males than females, though, again, the Nordic countries perform well in comparison to others. Finally, despite the Nordic countries’ strong performances on indicators related to education the overall trend is negative if you look at the PISA results.

Chapter 5
EMPLOYMENT: Nordic countries strong in international comparisons

The relatively high historic rate of labour market participation among females in the Nordic countries is a trademark of the region. Labour markets with a gender imbalance where fewer women participate than men may not only be economically counterproductive, but also pose questions over basic issues of equality. By international standards, the Nordic countries continue to retain their vanguard position with a high proportion of females in the workforce. In spite of this status, males remain the dominant group across the Nordic Region when female and male employment rates are compared. The male employment rate increased slightly during the period 2012-2014 while it has decreased for females. Wage and income distribution in the Nordic countries is more even than in many other Western countries. The corporatist Nordic bargaining systems help keep wage inequality at lower levels than in most other European countries, but it is nevertheless evident that, over time, the wage structure and income inequalities in the Nordic countries have become less distinctive compared with other European countries. The employment rate (high or low) does indicate regional economic resilience in terms of productivity and economic growth, or the lack thereof. Employment is one of the EU2020 targets; the goal is to reach 75% employment in Europe by 2020 (measured for age group 20-64 years). Sweden, Denmark and Finland have also formulated their own goals. Sweden and Denmark have set the goal of having an employment rate above 80% while for Finland the rate was set at 78%.

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Chapter 6
UNEMPLOYMENT: Young people pay the price for an incomplete recovery

In terms of unemployment the Nordic Region has several distinctive development trends. The unemployment rate is very low in the North Atlantic regions, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Norway. On the other hand, Sweden and Finland are still experiencing a high unemployment rate in some areas particularly in the northernmost regions. Some urban and metropolitan regions are also witnessing high unemployment rates among their more vulnerable and immigrant populations, as is the case in Denmark. The youth unemployment rate is likely also to be on the rise across much of the Nordic Region. In this chapter we describe unemployment development in the Nordic Region in a European context and thereafter describe the main challenges for each of the Nordic countries in terms of unemployment. We will focus on the youth segment of the population in particular as a vulnerable group, especially Finland, Sweden and to some extent also in Norway, given that across the Nordic Region as well as globally, the proportion of youth currently without work or not involved in either education or training is growing. The terms on which people get access to the labour market may need to be reconsidered to prevent a lost generation, especially in Finland.

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Chapter 7
EDUCATION: Strong performance but alarming regional fluctuation

Education and skills levels clearly play an important role in social and labour market policy and this is also true for regional development. Positive economic development within a region depends on its access to a population pool with right types of education and skills. In general, the Nordic countries are doing well when it comes to education-related indicators, but regional variations remain. This chapter presents the current situation in the Nordic countries from the Nordic Regions level while, in addition, also providing an international comparison, including a reference to the EU’s Europe 2020 education targets. In order to provide a snapshot of the most important issues related to education at different levels, the chapter presents a suite of statistics ranging from compulsory education to doctoral education and life-long learning in the form of distance learning.

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