Youth, Education and Labor Market in the Nordic Countries - Similar But Not the Same

Published on


In many respects the Nordic countries resemble each other. Concepts such as the Nordic model and the Scandinavian welfare policy regime occur repeatedly in international studies of living conditions and welfare policy systems. Similarities between the countries include training and entry conditions for young people in the labour market. The proportion completing a more extensive education is high compared to other European countries. Among those who are 15-24 years the proportion who are inactive - in other words, outside both the education system and the workforce - is relatively low. Closer examination, however, reveals major differences between the Nordic countries in the conditions for young people. In Denmark, labour market entry conditions are very good for young people, also compared to countries outside the Nordic region. By contrast, Finland and Sweden have high unemployment and considerably lower employment levels also in a broader international perspective. Norway falls somewhere in between, with considerably better labour market conditions for young people than Finland and Sweden. The purpose of this study is to examine similarities and differences related to a specific aspect of the welfare systems, namely vocational training at upper secondary school level or initial vocational training, and labour market policy measures to facilitate the entry of young people into working life. Here the experiences of the Nordic countries are not entirely similar. Education at the upper secondary school level shows many similarities, but also fundamental differences. Are these differences between countries reflected in the establishment pattern for young people and differences in unemployment levels and earnings? Are there differences from a fairness perspective, in other words, does upper secondary school education contribute in different degrees to eliminating variations in educational outcomes and labour market access related to differences in social background, gender and ethnicity? While we do not claim to provide definitive or detailed answers to these two questions, we nevertheless hope to contribute ideas for further studies. While the study encompasses the Nordic countries, the premise for comparison is to highlight a number of issues that are current in Sweden. The primary aim of the comparative approach is therefore to increase our understanding of the challenges faced by initial vocational training and labour market policy in Sweden.


Eskil Wadensjö, Jonas Olofsson

Available languages