Bridging the gap across the Øresund region
Since 2000, Øresunddirekt Sweden and Øresunddirekt Denmark have provided an information service to support companies and individuals in the business community in the Øresund region.
Since the dedication of the Øresund road and rail bridge joining Sweden and Denmark in July 2000, the numbers of people travelling over the bridge has grown. Looking at road statistics alone, the numbers have climbed from 2,950,872 in 2001 to 7,423,786 in 2016, and 6,992,611 in the first 11 months of 2017.
The Øresund cross-border area is more than just two countries joined by a bridge. It's a thriving business region, including the life sciences cluster Medicon Valley, and Øresunddirekt provides a support for companies and people looking to work in this region.
The origins of Øresunddirekt
There has always been some people who have commuted between Sweden and Denmark across the Øresund strait, but the journey was a lengthy one by boat and limited by weather conditions. Following the decision to build the bridge, the Swedish and Danish government commissioned research to find out how this would affect cross border commuting. This led to the creation of Øresunddirekt with a web office in Copenhagen, Denmark and an information centre in Malmö, Sweden.
"We were established by the Swedish and Danish government a week before the opening of the Øresund Bridge," said Sandra Forsén, head of office, Øresunddirekt Sweden. "Initially our role was to inspire people and provide correct information about the common labour market in the Greater Copenhagen area, but as this region has developed, there is an almost completely integrated labour market between the two areas."
Øresunddirekt is one of three cross border information services; there are also regional information services for Sweden and Norway, and for Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
"We see questions for all stages of people's careers, effectively from the cradle to the grave," said Forsén.
Øresunddirekt's role for individuals and businesses
Even though Sweden and Denmark are both in the European Union and the Nordic common labour market, there are still some challenges for commuters between two countries.
"People are living and working across two national states and two different systems, and the rules and regulations sometimes collide. We want people and companies to do the right thing from the beginning, otherwise there can be a greater impact later on," said Forsén.
One of Øresunddirekt's roles is to make people aware of these differences, such as in tax, social security, welfare and healthcare systems, and help them to manage them. On site at the information centre in Malmö individuals and businesses are able to contact the staff from a number of Swedish governmental agencies. The information centre provide relevant information free of charge, supported by websites providing general information and helpful guides.
"We are the cross-border experts and our mission is information throughout the whole life cycle of people's careers, when they are looking for a job, changing jobs, moving backwards and forwards between the two countries, or taking time out to have a family, right the way through to retiring," said Forsén. "As an example, parental leave can be challenging –parents in one country may be eligible for leave, but if they work in the other country they may be different. We can also play a role when companies are looking to hire people or set up a new office in across a border, or simply do business between two countries."
The benefits of commuting between Sweden and Denmark
The Øresund region includes Medicon Village Science Park, home to 120 companies and organisation employing around 1600 people across the life sciences, as well as Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, which attracts a lot of businesses, and the smaller, but still thriving city of Malmö in Sweden. The 17 universities across the region provide employment, and also ensure a high level of education within the population.
"There are lots of jobs for Swedish and Danish people on either side of the Øresund strait, and some companies, such as Novo Nordisk, have offices on both sides," said Forsén.
Denmark's welfare state model, dubbed 'flexicurity', provides flexibility in the labour market, supported by social security and a pro-active labour market policy. This potentially means that employers are more likely to employ people on a trial basis. Being able to commute across the bridge opens up the labour market for people at all stages of their careers.
"A lot of young people in Sweden get their first job in the service sector in Copenhagen, as there are more jobs to choose from, the wages are often higher in Denmark, and the exchange rate is advantageous," said Forsén.