Nordic Countries Should Consider Mandatory Lifelong Learning, Report Says

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

According to a recent report called “Working Life in the Nordic Region,” the countries in Northern Europe should consider mandatory education for all citizens throughout their working life — not just in the early years.

The report, authored by Poul Nielson of the Denmark’s Social Democrats party and a former EU Commissioner, was presented to the public during the Nordic political festivals in the summer. Its aim was to analyze the constantly changing labor market in the Nordic region and to offer solutions. The Nordic Council of Ministers will seriously consider the research findings.

As Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post notes, the suggested compulsory education would affect older workers who need additional training to stay up-to-date with the rapid technological development and to be competitive in the labor market:

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

As the study concluded, high skilled professionals that have been developing their skills throughout their careers were less likely to become obsolete in the labor market as they age; the need for continued education and training is mostly for the low-skilled labor force. The report also recommended that education should be a mandatory right for all people regardless of age, writes Business Insider Nordic.

Retirement ages in Northern Europe have been rapidly increasing. For example, Denmark’s citizens currently retire at 65, but by 2022 the age will rise to 67. Based on the average lifespan, the retirement age will continue to increase as well. A 2012 report from the European Union estimated that the number of people aged 80 plus in Europe is expected to triple from 23.7 million in 2010 to 62.4 million in 2060.

As Nielson pointed out, the number of elderly people in Nordic countries will continue to grow significantly. He added that nations need to make sure that senior citizens would have a proper life and job security. The author also suggested that granting mandatory training to the aging workforce would let the countries of the Nordic region compete with their more economically successful counterparts, writes Jason Devaney of Newsmax.

The report emphasized that the Nordic countries already have experience in implementing unpopular labor reforms. Back in 1952, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Aland Islands agreed to establish the Nordic Council of Ministers as an inter-parliamentary forum for mutual cooperation between the Nordic countries. Two years later, in 1954, they created a common Nordic labor market, an initiative that was considered progressive at that time.

The report author concluded:

“It would be a visionary decision if the Nordic countries, jointly and with the involvement of the social partners, developed a model for putting into practice the principle that adult education and in-service training will be a mandatory element of working life.”

However, as Samantha Finch of Parent Herald notes, granting continuing education to adults in Denmark has been done before. Older people may enroll in folk high schools
that provide short-terms courses in numerous subjects such as math, literature and science. In comparison to traditional schools, they do not have exams or final papers.