26 February 2021

Non-standard work in the Nordics: troubled waters under the still surface

In a new report Anna Ilsøe and Trine P. Larsen investigates the scope of non-standard work in the Nordic countries as well as the working conditions of non-standard workers. The Nordic welfare states have been built and shaped around the notion of the standard employment relationship, i.e. full-time, open-ended jobs. However, the development of non-standard work and emerging practices of new contractual employment forms may challenge these institutions.

The Nordic models of labour market regulation and the Nordic welfare states are well-known for their ability to adjust to changing market conditions without undermining the social- and employment security for workers. However, recent trends of non-standard work in the Nordics have questioned this perception. This may not only affect workers and employers, but also the Nordic models, as they are in principle based on the idea of full-time open-ended contracts and thus need to be adjusted to a changing workforce.

Non-standard workers and Corona

Nordic governments have launched a series of unprecedented help packages that in many respects are broader and more inclusive than the measures, we saw after and during the financial crisis in 2008. Although the Nordic governments have aimed to unite people by creating a safety net during the corona crisis, even for those on the outskirts of the labour market, we find that the reforms in some instances have exposed and reinforced the cracks in the Nordic employment and social protection. Certain groups, especially freelancers, entrepreneurs and employees with contracts of few hours have been more exposed to job loss and in some situations left with limited if no social protection, despite the good intentions of the Nordic governments.

Read the report 'Non-standard work in the Nordics: troubled waters under the still surface' by Anna Ilsøe and Trine P. Larsen (ed.), Published by Nordic Council of Ministers.

Read a brief version of the report 'FAOS Brief – Non-standard work in the Nordics'.