Leaders meet to tackle unemployment

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Government leaders including the prime ministers of Spain and Greece were in Oslo on Monday for an international conference aimed at reviving the labour market, which has been savaged by the global finance crisis. Norwegian leaders were clearly proud that their capital was chosen as venue for the high-level meeting.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (left) met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn before the conference began. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, official host for the conference, has said he thinks Norway was chosen by conference organizers — the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) — because it has maintained a relatively low unemployment rate of around 3 percent despite the crisis, and its economy has remained strong. Not only because of its oil resources, Stoltenberg has claimed, but because of economic policies and cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Even in Norway, though, unemployment is creeping up and young people are being hit the hardest. Almost a third of those who are out of work in Akershus County, the area around Oslo, are under the age of 30, reports NRK.

“I’m worried about the trend of more young people being unemployed,” Ellen Christiansen of the state social welfare agency NAV told NRK Monday morning. It’s also become more difficult for young people to obtain internships or trainee positions, even within the construction sector that still claims it needs more workers.

The 2.6 percent unemployment rate in Akershus at the end of August, however, is a level many countries can only dream about. Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who lead two of the European countries hardest hit by the finance crisis,minister, would be listening to advice during the conference at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel on Monday that was entitled “The Challenges of Growth, Employment and Social Cohesion.”

The main concern is that massive unemployment among the young can set off waves of social unrest, and already has in some cases. The ILO and IMF wanted to bring together both politicians and labour experts “to explore new ways of forging a sustainable, job-rich recovery from the global economic crisis,” according to a joint statement.

Among those participating are French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, the UK’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, Norwegian Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm and Laszlo Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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