Job training and activation

All the Nordic countries have a focus on activation. The purpose of activation is primarily to qualify unemployed people for ordinary employment, but also to help or motivate them when applying for jobs, education, or training.

General characteristics

The lower age limit for labour market initiatives is 18 in Finland and 16 in Iceland. In Norway, the age limit is 16, except for labour market courses, where the limit is 19, and ordinary education, where the limit is currently 26, but will be reduced to 22. In Denmark, an age limit of 15 applies for some measures. In Sweden, the age limit depends on the measure.


Activation aspects play an increasingly important role in labour-market and social policies. Unemployment benefits or daily cash benefits are payable during a period of activation. Recipients of unemployment benefits aged under 30 are entitled to and obliged to accept an employment initiative, in the form of guidance and skills enhancement, work experience or subsidised employment, no later than 13 weeks after becoming unemployed. No later than nine months after becoming unemployed, recipients of unemployment benefits aged 30–60 are entitled to and obliged to accept an employment initiative, in the form of guidance and skills enhancement, work experience or subsidised employment. For recipients over the age of 60, the deadline is six months after becoming unemployed. All recipients of unemployment benefits are also entitled to and obliged to accept a new offer of activation when they have been in receipt of benefits for a total of six months after the termination of the first activation initiative.

Recipients of daily cash assistance under the age of 25 are obliged to complete training/education on ordinary terms. After a maximum of 13 weeks, cash-assistance recipients under the age of 30 are entitled to and obliged to accept an offer on guidance and skills enhancement, work experience or subsidized employment. Recipients of cash assistance aged 30 or older must be offered activation no later than 19 months after being granted cash assistance. In addition, all recipients of cash assistance aged under 30 who draw benefits (regardless of whether they do so for reasons of unemployment) are entitled to and obliged to accept a new offer of activation when they have been in receipt of cash assistance for six months after termination of the first activation offer. Recipients of unemployment benefits are required to send at least one job application per week. 

Faroe Islands

Activation has not been offered since the mid-1990s when the unemployment rate exceeded 12 per cent. However, recipients of unemployment benefits are entitled to participate in employment and skill-enhancement initiatives offered by the unemployment authority.


Active measures aimed at improving the employment situation are an important part of labour market policy. These measures help to create jobs, enhance options for the long-term unemployed and improve young people’s opportunities for getting into the labour market. The measures are also aimed at preventing long-term unemployment and reducing regional variation in unemployment rates.

Unemployed people who want to start their own businesses are also entitled to assistance. Services aimed at those available for work are the most important part of the active labour market policy. These include services related to job provision, information on training and careers, vocational training for adults, information on education, training, and various professions, as well as occupational rehabilitation.


The Unemployment Insurance Fund, in addition to its main task of paying out unemployment benefits, subsidises various courses for unemployed people, activation programmes and special employment measures.


The main goal of labour market policy is to achieve high levels of employment in good jobs in a well-functioning labour market.  The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is responsible for labour market initiatives, and for ensuring consistent follow-up efforts to help jobseekers. Regarding unemployed people, the emphasis is on active job-seeking during the entire unemployment period.

A number of measures are also provided for both jobseekers and employers, such as a database of vacant positions to which jobseekers can upload their CV. The Labour and Welfare Administration helps publicise job vacancies, and provides information, guidance and follow-up for individuals transitioning to work. The purpose is to ensure that people can find and keep a job. Under normal circumstances, these measures are only implemented if the individual concerned has been unable to find an ordinary job. The measures must be adapted to the individual’s abilities and needs, as well as to the current labour market situation. Young people are the top priority regarding measures related to the ordinary labour market. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has designed schemes to ensure good follow-up and support for youth. 


Job-seeking and qualification-based activities are the most important aspects of the active labour market policy. In other words, an unemployed person who cannot readily find work must be offered training or some other relevant measure intended to help him or her into employment. A job and personal development guarantee are provided for those who are – or who are at risk of becoming – long-term unemployed. The purpose is to significantly improve their chances of finding work in the labour market. In connection with the scheme, individual action plans are drawn up that specify which measures the employment service can offer, as well as what is expected of the participants. The employment service or labour market institutes can aid people in need of occupationally adapted rehabilitation or special guidance.

These institutes possess special resources and qualifications related to skills assessment/evaluation, work experience, workplace adaptation, etc. A range of cyclically dependent programs and measures are available including vocational training, which aims to increase unemployed people’s chances of finding work and make it easier for employers to find people with the relevant skills. There are also work-experience schemes, administered via the employment service, that aim to provide jobseekers with vocational guidance, in-service training, and vocational experience. For young people between the ages of 16 and 24, a scheme is available to help them find a job or receive education or training. Support is also provided to employers to encourage them to hire unemployed people e.g., covering expenses associated with employing individuals in need of extra induction or training. In addition, people who are unemployed – or at risk of becoming so – may, in some cases, be granted subsidies to start their own businesses. For people with reduced working capacities, measures are available that enable them to work in subsidized jobs with either a public or a private employer.