Mobile workforce is a prerequisite for welfare

A seminar on labour and the financial crisis was held during the Nordic Council's April meetings. In addition to Nordic MPs, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the Baltic States and the Benelux countries.  

Many diverse experiences of immigrant workers came to light during the seminar. In the wake of the financial crisis many well-educated people have moved from the Baltic States to Scandinavia. This makes it hard for economies in crisis to build a functioning society. 

In the case of labour migration, Norway has by far the largest majority: 133,000 per annum compared to Sweden's 24,000. Most of these people come from Poland and Lithuania. The immigrant workforce often comes to earn money, and these people often have difficulties with language and integration. One in four do not intend to return to their homeland.

Erika Zommere, President of the Baltic Assembly, described how Latvia in particular has been hit hard by the financial crisis. Labour emigration has gone to Scandinavia and the USA in the first place. Wages decreased by 30-40% during the crisis.

"We cannot offer good wages, we cannot blame our highly skilled workers for making that choice. If the economy improves, we can offer better wages and can more easily retain the skilled workforce," said Erika Zommere.

Professor Baiba Rivza, Latvian MP, declared her support for Estonia to have the Euro in 2011. This is also supported by the other Baltic countries.

"We must have a common Baltic education market and create training centres at a high level in the Baltic States. The Nordplus programme, which is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, is very important for the exchange of students between the Baltic and the Nordic countries," underlined Baiba Rivza.

"The Nordic labour model is important and must be strengthened in the future. There will be a need for more people in work to manage in the future. An open labour market has meant that above all Poland, but also other eastern countries, have contributed to Norway's economic development,” said Hanne Bjurstrøm, Minister of Labour in Norway.

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