Work conditions put Australia behind Nordic countries in Happiness Index. We must learn from them

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Work conditions enactment Australia down Nordic countries successful Happiness Index. We indispensable larn from them

By Chris F Wright and Søren Kaj Andersen

May 26, 2023 — 12.00am

The latest World Happiness Index study released successful March positioned Australia successful 12th place. An awesome performance, but Australia consistently ranks beneath the Nordic countries, who basal unchallenged astatine the precise apical of the index.

For Australia to go an adjacent amended spot to live, improving the prime of people’s moving lives is essential. This requires changes to our concern relations system, which plays an important relation successful governing enactment arrangements. Despite governmental and taste differences, the Nordic countries connection important lessons connected however Australia tin execute this.

More effectual concern relations successful the Nordic countries contributes to amended work-life balance, fairer wage distribution, little sex inequality, and mostly superior macroeconomic outcomes to Australia.

While Australia prides itself connected being a wide economy, authorities plays a overmuch much interventionist relation successful the labour marketplace than successful the Nordic countries. Despite their societal antiauthoritarian histories, Nordic governments respect the autonomy of employers, workers, and their representatives – leader associations and commercialized unions – truthful agelong arsenic they tin guarantee concern competitiveness and just wages and moving conditions.

The constricted relation of authorities successful the Nordic countries does not mean workers deficiency protection. On the contrary, multi-employer corporate bargaining and works councils alteration workers to prosecute with employers connected adjacent terms. These mechanisms springiness workers dependable and empower them to place productive enactment practices, which is bully for business. This requires designation that managerial prerogative does not ever present the champion outcomes.

Finish Prime Minister Sanna Marin successful  Tokyo past  month.

Finish Prime Minister Sanna Marin successful Tokyo past month.Credit: AP

The narration betwixt Nordic leader groups and unions is sometimes characterised arsenic a “conflictual partnership”. This alludes to the hostility betwixt workers’ tendency to amended wages and conditions and employers’ aims to trim costs and summation profits. However, and dissimilar Australia’s adversarial concern relations tradition, the Nordic countries’ concern attack includes communal respect for the legitimacy of antithetic interests.


This communal designation helps leader groups and unions to jointly make arrangements that are some businesslike for employers and just for workers. Businesses tin prosecute and occurrence easily, which helps them to continually innovate and stay internationally competitive. At the aforesaid time, workers person extended protections ensuring those affected by alteration are fixed caller opportunities alternatively than being disadvantaged.

The Nordic countries’ co-operative attack is not a naive one. Workers and employers person extended powers to initiate strikes and lockouts. But alternatively than struggle being portrayed arsenic negative, it is seen arsenic a mechanics for identifying and resolving problems earlier they fester.

Minimal authorities intervention, beardown practice and communal respect are hallmarks of the Nordic models. These are wide credited for achieving a precocious roadworthy to shared prosperity. What lessons tin Australia larn from them?


Good moving relationships based connected spot and connection are indispensable for precocious prime of moving life. For this to beryllium achieved, workers and employers request to beryllium empowered truthful they tin prosecute connected adjacent terms. This requires the removal of the ineligible barriers to corporate practice that presently beryllium successful Australia.

The Nordic examples bespeak that Australian employers, workers, and their representatives request to recognise the worth of not ever looking to government, but alternatively moving unneurotic to lick their problems. These countries’ successes suggest Australian governments should play a facilitative alternatively than directive relation by encouraging employers and workers to travel up with their ain associated solutions. This requires the workplace parties to beryllium pragmatic alternatively than ideological and much consenting to compromise to scope agreements that tin nutrient mutually beneficial outcomes.

Australia’s employment, skills and societal policies besides request to beryllium amended co-ordinated to assistance employers respond to changes successful the concern situation and enactment workers’ vocation transitions and their lives extracurricular of work.

Australia is simply a large state to unrecorded successful – but the Nordic countries item however we tin further amended the prime of people’s moving lives.

Chris F. Wright is subordinate prof successful enactment and organisational studies astatine the University of Sydney and Søren Kaj Andersen is the manager of FAOS – Employment Relations Research Centre astatine the University of Copenhagen.

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