Tuesday

26th May 2020

Nordic seniors: School's not out forever

"School's out for summer. School's out for ever," sang rock star Alice Cooper back in 1972.

But the generations that left school some 40 to 50 years ago might now be heading back to class.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Nordic Council rapporteur Poul Nielson want a mandatory right for people to go back to school as they approach retirement age. (Photo: European Commission)

According to a proposal by Nordic Council rapporteur Poul Nielson, they should be given a mandatory right to go back to school as they approach retirement age.

"The combination of rapid technological development with the gradual increase in retirement age increases the need for new forms of education," he told EUobserver.

Nielson is a member of the Danish social democrat party and has in the past served as a minister and as an EU commissioner.

He was tasked last year to conduct a strategic review of the labour market in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aaland on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

"The Nordic governments should commit to the principle of introducing mandatory adult and continuing training for everybody in the labour markets”, he said.

"After all, the fact that children and young people need to be educated, and that society has a responsibility for this, has not been controversial for over 100 years”.

Nielson's plan is included in his analysis of the future Nordic labour market "Working life in the Nordic region: Challenges and proposals”, published in June.

He is currently going around the Nordic political summer festivals to present and discuss the idea.

His tour started at the People's Political Festival on Bornholm in Denmark in June, moving on to Swedish Almedalsveckan this week (4 July), SuomiAreena in Finland, Norwegian Arendal Week and ending in Reykjavik early September.

"We might be able in the Nordic countries to engineer more flexible but still real ways of reigning in these active members of a new type of labour market”, he told EUobserver.

"It is not a huge problem for the very well educated. But with a rising pension age, people approaching 60-65 years - who still has 5-10 years more on the labour market - they should have the opportunity to refresh their skills seriously. And as a new mandatory right," he said.

"Basically it is like lifting mandatory education to the next level”, he added.

"I am not moving into designing in any detail what it should be, for how long a period, is it once or twice or whatever? This is all something to be debated. But the spark is this simple word ‘mandatory’.

This is enough to stir up a debate which would otherwise never become anything without that single word thrown into the game”.

Self-employed

Based on more than 100 interviews Nielson's report also identified an increased tendency to use temporary employment agencies and subcontractors and warned it will lead to a fragmentation of the Nordic labour market.

"Distance work, not least IT functions, communications and various forms of consultancy, are performed on the basis of more or less formalised contracts, but typically without security for these self employed persons as regards termination of the employment relationship, pensions, parental leave, holiday pay or many other rights which are settled in regular employment relationships," his report noted.

"Most of those who end up in the ‘self-employed’ category do so out of necessary due to the difficulty of getting a regular job, not as a preferred alternative," he said.

The trade unions are no longer able to safeguard their interests through collective agreements with employers. It is a development that worries the old social democrat deeply.

"They are totally on their own. So both in the short term and the long term, these people risk ending up as a real disorganised, very poor proletariat, especially when they grow older," Nielson said.

In his quest for ideas to develop some sort of organisation to cover the self-employed, he pointed to the ways in which, for instance, freelance journalists, artists and similar independent operators are organised.

But what would Nielson eventually study himself, should he go back to school?

"I am 73. I might be interested in studying the labour market”, he joked. “Really, I would like to learn photography or more gardening than I already know”.

Nordic employment ministers will discuss his report in November, but the implementation of its recommendations will remain a matter of national competence.

Education inequalities remain high in EU

Less people leave school prematurely, but socio-economic status, immigrant background and gender are still factors of underachievement, a commission report says.

Retired Danes happiest people in Europe

On the International Day of Happiness fresh statistics show that newly retired Danes are the happiest in Europe and young Greeks are happier now than one year ago.

Analysis

Europe's 'last chance' investment scheme depends on pension funds

During his successful campaign for the European Commission presidency, Jean-Claude Juncker described his flagship plans for a €300 billion investment programme as ‘Europe’s last chance’. But its success depends on getting pension funds to invest.

Stakeholder

Record-low birth rates in three Nordic countries

The State of the Nordic Region report, published 4 February 2020, has revealed that birth rates in Finland, Norway, and Iceland are at record-low levels. Only in the Faroe Islands does the birth rate exceed the death rate.

Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Latest News

  1. Recovery plans unveiled This WEEK
  2. EU and UK stumbling into Irish border crisis
  3. Malta patrol boat 'intimidates' capsized migrants
  4. How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending
  5. Herman Van Rompuy on power and influence in the EU
  6. EU links access to recovery fund to economic advice
  7. EU wants to halve use of pesticides by 2030
  8. Top editors alarmed by media cuts in EU and beyond

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us