ISLANDA: Il Nord Europa è davvero felice? (Film-documentario)
Iceland. The land of ice and fire. We have all heard of this island in some way. Maybe because of advice from friends, eruptions of newborn volcanoes we have been bombarded with videos and stories of this island that make it seem like a supernatural land, a destination where everyone wants to go. If we add the spreading of an image of a society that borders on the perfection, an image of equal rights and high wages for all, of technological evolution and extraordinary levels of education, we have the recipe for the perfect country, a country in which many from other European countries are thinking of emigrating to live a better life in a land that seems almost a utopia. But is Northern Europe thus represented only a dream? How do the people who have lived on this island for centuries live their everyday life, in the truest and most brutally wonderful Northern Europe? I can finally say it again.
Dömur mínar og herrar, welcome to Iceland. [Music] [Music] The World Happiness Report is a project funded by the United Nations which, since 2012, has drawn up a ranking of the happiest countries in the world. The aim is to investigate the relationships between well-being, political decisions, economic conditions, social contexts, and the psycho-physical health of individuals. It is now well known that the so-called Nordic countries, namely Finland, Denmark, which includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, consistently feature in the top ten positions of this ranking and this is often attributed to the fact that these they are a global example for the efficiency of their democratic systems, the economic prosperity and wealth of resources they enjoy, the quality and effectiveness of public services, freedom of the press and expression, and equality among all the citizens, as well as for the stupendous natural landscapes that refer to images of ancient Norse sagas and legendary tales of the ancient Finnish and Scandinavian peoples. [Music] All of these characteristics make the Nordic countries real role models in the eyes of the rest of the world. How much truth is there, however, in their apparent perfection? Thank you Arndis, my first question is: how is it living in Iceland? Look, it's very good to live in Iceland.
It's a small society. A rich society, compared to Europe. It's been 9 years and now I've been in Iceland, I decided to stay here because I found my ideal company, I'm very passionate about this culture, I like studying it, I like writing about it, telling about it. We are located just outside the Arctic Circle, about 1000 kilometers west of the Scandinavian peninsula and 1500 north-west of the Danish peninsula. What unites the Nordic countries is not only their geographical location, but a shared past of political, commercial and migratory relations dating back more than a thousand years, as well as similar state and welfare structures as well as particularly similar social, religious and demographic characteristics between them. However, it would certainly be wrong, as we often do in our speeches, to imagine Northern Europe as a single and indivisible place, without cultural and economic differences, where all peoples feel closely related to each other.
This is a mistake we often make, of considering Northern Europe as a monolith, a block. In my opinion, making a global discourse on Northern Europe is not possible. In fact the average Icelander would tell you that the typical Norwegian is strange to him. The Danes are what they are. Swedes are arrogant, maybe they say so right? So there are very marked differences in all areas.
Why did we choose Iceland? For both it was essential to focus on a country that was iconic in its history of geographical isolation and difficulties in everyday life a country that was among the most idealized, due to a recent dramatic increase in annual tourist visits. Finally, Iceland was the country in Northern Europe in which we both knew we could move better through history and personal attachment. Icelandic lesson.
With the Papa Smurf hat à is a river, so declining it in the nominative à, in the accusative it becomes àn, dative ànni We made a very quick visit to a residential neighborhood outside Reykjavík, because this one here in front is the house where Simone stayed, indeed, not the house but the box behind it. The box converted into an apartment where Simone stayed for a year here in Iceland, studying at the University of Iceland. Simo... too many memories guys, I can't do it.
Come here, have a completely unnatural reaction linked to the fact that there is your box where you studied. [Silence]. Tears, where are they? I want tears. You are not capable! But before the endless paved roads that cross completely uninhabited and unspoiled landscapes, before the Hollywood movie scenes shot inside glaciers and on volcanic ridges, before camper tours in search of the northern lights and the volcanic rock cliff from being able to post on Instagram, this island is an originally uninhabited island in the Atlantic Ocean, on which man decided to settle only in relatively recent times. The first settlers of this icy land would have been local Norwegian chiefs who, between 874 AD and the end of the ninth century, sailed to the Icelandic coasts together with their families and slaves, probably fleeing the harsh reign of King Harald I.
Over the next two hundred years, the groups that settled on the island formed a proto-parliament, the Alþing, and gradually abandoned the Odin cult to convert to Catholicism. However, this period of relative peace did not last long, since, starting from 1200, the Sturlungar clan, intent on conquering power and overthrowing the other local leaders, started a fratricidal conflict. Eager to end the feud quickly in 1220 Snorri Sturlusson, author of the main handbook of Norse mythology that has survived to this day, the Prose Edda, secured the support of Haakon IV of Norway, becoming his vassal. This relationship led, in 1262, to the annexation of Icelandic territory to the Norwegian crown.
Then when the latter, in 1397, became part of the Kalmar Union, let's say a mega confederation of countries united under Danish aegis, Iceland also found itself annexed and less than 150 years later it would have been the Danes to reform the religious beliefs of Icelanders, imposing Lutheranism as the state religion. [music] In the second half of the 1800s, under the guidance of the lawyer Jón Sigurðsson, the Icelandic independence movement obtained, in 1874, self-government, which transformed, in 1918, into the recognition of Iceland as a sovereign state. In 1944, after being occupied by British forces during the Second World War, the island declared its transformation into a Republic, definitively detaching itself from the Danish monarchy. In the post-war years, the labor and social democratic fringes of the country progressively introduced the famous Scandinavian state model, characterized by high public expenditure, by the guarantee of equality for all citizens and by collective labor bargaining, but also by the existence of important mechanisms typical of the capitalist economic system, such as the free market and the protection of private property. [In Holmavik - Atli Arnason] [Arndis] [Music] Welcome to Dynjandi, one of the clearest and most obvious examples of the grandeur and majesty of Icelandic nature. [Music] However, the direct contact that exists between the Icelandic people and the natural forces of this island is not enough to justify the high results of this country and of all of Northern Europe in the quality of life rankings.
In fact, together with this factor there are also the economic and working conditions, the family situation, relationships with society, the stress Icelanders are subjected to on a daily basis, physical and mental health, trust in institutions and in their future, or the degree of freedom of their choices. Based on all these criteria, in 2022, on average, Icelanders rated their lives with 7.5/10, which gives Iceland the title of the third happiest country in the world, preceded only by Denmark, with 7.6/10, and the Finland, in first place, which enjoys a 7.8/10.
If the data is reliable, how can we explain it? With an efficient state, the fact of living in contact with nature, or with the phenomenon whereby the further one is from global schizophrenias the better one leads one's existence? Look, I think that Icelanders usually say they feel good. Good, ok. And I think that Icelanders are a bit too optimistic, they think they can do anything. It's a little madness to run an economic system with 380.000 people.
We are a micro-nation. But the living standards are very high, and I think that Icelanders have that mentality of those who say: "I can do that!" "There's nothing that can stop me from doing that". Like it or not, money is an important yardstick. In the case of Iceland, the average salary amounts to around 2800 euros. Those who earn less than this figure, i.e.
36% of the population, are led to evaluate their degree of happiness with a value ranging from 0 to 6, while those who earn 8,000 euros a month or more, i.e. 11 % of Icelanders, is more inclined to give a score between 7 and 10. However, we certainly cannot stop at this simple evidence. In a report entitled (it must be said, somewhat parochial) “Is the Nordic Region best in the world?” drawn up in 2017, the Nordic Council indicates three contributing factors underlying the happiness of citizens: good governance, social capital and equality. By "good governance" we refer to the effective functioning of democracy, the reliability of the political class, as well as the ways in which the State enforces its laws.
A well-governed country is supposed to benefit all its inhabitants, their freedom and, therefore, their happiness. In this, the Nordic countries certainly seem to excel. According to the Democracy Index, compiled annually by the private company The Economist Group, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland are among the five most functioning democracies in the world. And again, according to Reporters Without Borders, Norway, Denmark and Sweden would seem to be the countries that most protect the independence of journalism and the right of every citizen to express his or her opinions.
According to what reported by the NGO Transparency International, which publishes a statistical index every year on the perception of corruption in the world, Denmark is in first place for the transparency of its public authorities, followed by Finland and Sweden. However, in these last two classifications Iceland does not show excellence, ranking only in fifteenth and sixteenth place, due to the various problems of systemic corruption at the level of the political-financial elites. To give an idea of this phenomenon we just need to mention the economic crash of 2008, the Bankahrunið and the Samherjaskjölin, a scandal disclosed by Wikileaks in 2019 involving one of the largest Icelandic fisheries.
The Samherji would have been caught red-handed in paying handsome bribes to prominent Namibian politicians and officials to secure Namibia's fish quota, or the so-called Octopus, a group of a dozen families that, in no uncertain terms, owns Iceland, holding ownership of supermarkets, fishing boats, ferries and airlines. The second ingredient for happiness indicated by the Nordic Council is social capital. The latter expression must be interpreted in the light of social interactions, of the moral and ethical norms on which people base their lives, and also and above all of the level of trust in others and in society itself. In other words, a high social capital translates into a greater propensity for collaboration, certainly beneficial in terms of work and economics, as well as essential for reducing crime rates.
According to Ulf Andreasson, a consultant for the Nordic Council, trust is the real treasure of the Nordic countries, their gold. This belief is based on a very simple assumption: “if I meet a person on the street, that person will be similar to me. I'm a good person, so I'll be able to trust the other with my eyes closed" On the surface, this consideration might seem trivial, but Andreasson justifies it and contextualizes it from a historical, social and cultural point of view, relating the past of the Nordic countries with that of the rest of Europe. In fact, unlike what happened in the continental feudal system, active starting from the Carolingian empire, and until the end of the Middle Ages, in the Nordic countries it was the peasants themselves who managed the plots of land, also holding the ownership. Consequently, during the 1800s even the working classes we considered poor and humble were included within the parliamentary institutions. Such a situation would have led, in the twentieth century, to a lesser stratification of society, allowing for the achievement of a compromise between the working classes and the political and financial elites that was decidedly less troubled than that experienced by other European states.
Swedish political scientists Rasmus Broms and Bo Rothstein argue that religion also played an important role in building the feeling of trust perceived by the inhabitants of the Nordic countries. However, it was not Protestantism itself, as a faith, that contributed to the creation of the current state structures, but rather the fact that local Protestant pastors showed themselves, already starting from the sixteenth century, on average more inclusive, egalitarian, representative and reliable than the their Catholic counterparts. Again Rothstein indicates a further generator of trust: the so-called welfare state. In short, it is a matter of a whole series of measures aimed at protecting and assisting the citizen: the welfare state guarantees pensions, an income for those who are sick or unable to work, unemployment benefits, regulations that prevent the exploitation of workers and, last but not least, efficient public services such as health, education and transport. In the Nordic countries, certain types of support are taken practically for granted, to the point that they are not perceived as aid, but as a necessary means to maintain equality.
Here, the practical mentality overcomes any kind of useless trifle, a characteristic common to all societies that have always had to deal with abuses, invasions or, in the land of ice and fire, with the harsh forces of nature. The Icelandic people, in fact, remained anchored to a large rock lost in the North Atlantic, where it rains horizontally and the temperature even drops to -30 degrees in the interior. Giacomo: first of all how did the Icelanders manage to survive on such a remote and inhospitable island for human beings for so long, for 1200 years; and then what was their reason for living? What were they driven by? Were they really happy on this island? Iceland is spoken of in quite positive terms in this sense, it was a land where it was possible to breed and graze, and then it was such a large land where anyone who arrived was still granted a piece of land to work on. We can think of it a bit like the European generation who have begun to move to the new continent, to the United States, so surely there is a search for freedom above all, and if we want, we can consider it in a certain way... happiness.
Here, people don't know what an umbrella is: the only ones who use it are tourists. Want to go get a beer? I don't care what others think and I go out in slippers, white socks, or I wear makeup like David Bowie. I want to go for a run, but do I need to supervise my child? Simple: I take the stroller with me, even with the whipping wind. And if I met the singer Björk or the prime minister at the swimming pool, I certainly wouldn't pester them with requests for photographs or autographs, but would consider them as two normal human beings, a factor also due in the case of Iceland to the very small size of the population.
At the university, students are treated as equals by the professors, who are addressed by name, giving them the familiar name. Of course, this is generally the case and not in every single case. However, until now we have talked about a virtuous circle: trust generates wealth which, reinvested, will create even more trust. Not only that: the equation according to which "I am a good person, and I will trust you because you are similar to me" would be reinforced by the equality generated and guaranteed by the welfare state, which does not favor someone over someone else.
It is no coincidence that in the list of countries with the least income inequality drawn up by the World Bank, the Nordic countries are stably among the top 20, however they are decidedly richer than countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in the first three positions. This level of income equality would therefore be guaranteed by strong bargaining power in the hands of the workers, but also and above all by a certain homogeneity on a cultural, linguistic and demographic level. The cause of this is clear in the case of Iceland, where a language with virtually no dialectal variants is spoken by just over 370,000 people: a very small population, comparable to that of the entire city of Florence. In a similar context, where relatively few inhabitants have the resources of a territory that is one third the size of Italy, the State can afford to invest more in public services and guarantee a fair monthly wage for the majority of citizens. From the point of view of an Italian person who wants to move to Iceland, one thinks, "well, I'm going to Iceland, I'll find a job and hit the jackpot".
Is that so? It is not so? From the outside it is a very attractive society. What I've personally witnessed is that generally people move here as if it were a sort of heaven on earth and then they realize that it's not exactly like that. Living in Iceland, leading a life exclusively using only English, not speaking a word of Icelandic, unfortunately - I as a teacher of Icelandic - I have to say it's possible. We cannot claim to explain complex phenomena with a simple theory, and the Nordic countries themselves, as it is obvious, are not utopias, and present several critical issues that are capable of influencing a person's happiness. With regard to the alleged peace in Iceland, just last November 17 a group of twenty-twenty-five people sowed panic in a central street in Reykjavik, wounding three people.
The motive is not yet clear: it would seem to have been a settlement of accounts between gangs. As one would say in Icelandic, lífið er ekki alltaf dans á rósum, life isn't always a dance on roses. Regarding yesterday's gang fight, can this be a negative sign that in Iceland there is starting to be a major increase in social unrest? No, it can't be... it is. In abandoned suburbs, without services, where there are no reference points for young people who then fall into drugs, delinquency... Let's analyze the first crunches of the myth of Nordic happiness, taking into consideration two of the main reasons for discontent in Europe of today, interconnected with each other, which have led to a general strengthening of right-wing conservative ideologies: poverty and immigration. As regards the latter issue, discussing it in relation to the Nordic countries, outlining their socio-political trajectories, would require a dedicated video.
Not only in Italy and France, right-wing parties are calling for the resolution of an imaginary security problem". The case of Sweden is exemplary: protests are not made against those who regularly immigrate to the country to work and have white skin, but against those who come from states such as Eritrea, Syria and Lebanon, perhaps as asylum seekers. Sweden is an extreme case in the sense that as much as 20% of its population is not indigenous. However, with the exception of Finland, which hosts very few foreigners, Denmark, Norway and Iceland also share a 10% immigrant population.
It would be interesting to understand, at this point, how happy foreigners feel compared to locals. Poverty rates in the Nordic countries, i.e. the percentage of people living on income below a certain level, may give us a hint of an answer.
In Sweden, not surprisingly, the poverty rate is around 17%, 12% in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and 8% in Iceland. These data are not as comforting as one might think. In short, poverty in the Nordic countries exists, despite the welfare state, and often has to do with inclusion within society. The possible social exclusion leads us directly to three long-standing problems of the Nordic realities, which have by now become real social scourges: mental health disorders, alcoholism and the abuse of hard drugs, which mainly concern the young segment of the population.
In a study conducted in 2018 by Anne Reneflot, an expert from the Institute for Public Health Norwegian, it was observed that, over five years, young Norwegians seeking help for problems concerning their mental health had increased by 40%. We talk about stress, depression, anxiety, up to self-harm, the use of psychotropic drugs and, in extreme cases, suicide. Iceland, for its part, is the country with the most antidepressant users in the world: 130 for every 1000 people: out of the total population of 370,000 people, 50,000 Icelanders would use them. Iceland is culturally influenced very much by the United States.
And this in my opinion plays a very important role in how these medicines are conceived and then used and prescribed by the Health System. Some Icelanders are fighting this hard and continuous fight to just increase the general acceptance of the use of psychiatric drugs, in fact, this has been talked about, and maybe some of these doctors are exaggerating a little bit --- they push their hand - -- Exactly. This scourge would seem to affect mainly women between the ages of 50 and 60: a quarter of them would in fact resort to drugs to reduce stress, anxiety and other problems.
[Wind] In analyzing this condition, social contact should not be underestimated: logically, the more an individual feels isolated from the rest of the community, the more likely he or she will be to develop discomfort. At a glance, one might think that social contact in the Nordic countries is somewhat reduced, both because of the meteorological conditions, in winter prohibitive, with storms and perpetual nights, and because of the unwillingness of people to forge relationships or to hang out in the usual way which we mean, for example, we Italians. In reality, the culture of sociability here is certainly different, but not necessarily a cause of isolation as one might think. A third of the entire population of Iceland lives in what we could ironically call the metropolitan area of Reykjavìk, i.e.
Reykjavík and neighboring areas, such as the cities of Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörður, in the southwestern quadrant of the island. With the exception of Akureyri, in the north, the other settlements do not exceed 10,000 inhabitants: therefore, about 200,000 people live in small realities where most of the individuals live next to their families, to which they are generally very close. But generally Icelanders are very keen on having a family, even with in-laws who all meet, have dinners, spend time together. The Réttir are the sorting of the sheep that take place above all at the beginning of September, until October; but the highlight is in September and there is one weekend in particular, where all those who have relatives in the countryside go to help, but it's not so much the work: it's above all the beauty of being together and doing something as a family.
Then there are also the tourists who take part in these things here, because it's fun, even if you break your back lifting sheep by the horns to take them to your enclosure. In the case of many of my friends, parents are an important element in the life of their kids, and of course of their nephews. Since I have a background in Social Psychology, I know that there are researches that states that it's important to be in contact with something green, with something which is alive, it's important for the mental health and for one's happiness. [Roberto plays langspil] In the small villages overlooking the fjords but also in the streets of the residential districts of Reykjavík itself, children are the real masters of the street. And yet, despite the excellent social policies in the field of the family, equal rights and work, in the countries of Northern Europe there still persist several rather problematic topics whose origins are not easy to understand and which it is not even easy to outline. In particular, those of you who have been to Iceland or in any case to a Nordic country will know that to buy a bottle of wine, a spirit, a liqueur or even simple cans of beer with an alcohol content of more than three degrees, it is not possible to go to the supermarket, as happens in Italy.
These peculiarities are due to the phenomenon of binge drinking, or extreme alcoholism, common to all the Nordic countries, to which the authorities of these countries themselves want to put a stop. According to a study conducted by the Icelandic Ministry of Health, in 2017, 46% of respondents admitted to abusing huge amounts of alcohol less than once a month; almost 20%, however, confessed to raising their elbow even one or more times every thirty days. When we tell Scandinavians about our experience in these terms, they are shocked, because they have this very prohibitive relationship with alcohol. For example, in Denmark there is no state monopoly on alcohol, you go to the supermarkets and buy bottles of wine like in Italy.
In Iceland and also in Norway there is a monopoly. I remember that, when I lived in Iceland, when the weekend approached, people stocked up on VinBudin and then found themselves in the evening, from Friday to Saturday, to celebrate at home. Another problem, in my opinion, with this management of the state alcohol monopoly is that it obviously encourages a bit of collecting behaviour: that is, people try to save as much alcohol as possible, here is the fact that one of the companies so advanced, where there is a great deal of freedom for many aspects of social life...
well it seems to me a bit paradoxical that people have this relationship to some extent necessarily regulated by the State Authority. According to the Icelandic sociologist Helgi Gunnlaugsson, binge drinking in Iceland, mainly relating to the consumption of beer, would be a derivation of a prohibition law in force from 1915 to March 1, 1989, the date on which the day of the Beer. In other words, drinking beer would be nothing more than a claim to freedom. Whatever anyone says, however, the Nordic countries have low per capita rates of alcohol consumption compared with such polar opposites as Nigeria, Belarus and New Zealand. Each of these countries is affected by such high rates for reasons that vary enormously from country to country, given that the phenomenon cannot be reduced to the same causes for every area of the world: that of drunken Vikings, therefore, would only be a stereotype. Continuing to navigate the sea of assumptions, the certainly non-tropical climate of the Nordic countries can affect a person's degree of satisfaction and contentment.
This disorder takes the rather eloquent name of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and is found mainly in early autumn and winter. It remains to be understood what relationship may exist between loneliness, adverse weather and the consumption of hard and soft drugs. According to a 2020 study conducted by researchers from Forensic Science International, the Dutch academic journal of forensic science, overdose deaths in the Nordic countries have increased over the last decade. Specifically, for every 100 000 people, on average six die from opioid, methadone or heroin abuse in all five Nordic countries.
Iceland is the country most affected by the phenomenon, with a figure of 6.5. Until a few decades ago, the problem raged even more especially among young people, together with the consumption of nicotine, through cigarettes, and alcohol, at least until, in the 1990s, when the Icelandic government took action by imposing curfews for children aged 13 to 16 and encouraging their participation in sports and cultural activities. Today in the public debate, alcohol is not seen as an issue of public health. And more to say, the use of alcohol especially among youngsters has lowered.
And when I was young, people started to drink at the age of 14 or so. Nowadays it seems like it's not like this anymore. Generally, young people of 14, 15, 16 years old - they don't do at all - they don't do it. And they start doing it when they're at high school maybe, but they do it surely later compared to 20, 30, 40 years ago. The phenomenon is reduced in some age ranges, I can't say for sure about the older people, but the abuse of alcohol has lowered among the youngest, surely.
Concerning loneliness, in conclusion, it is necessary to talk about a phenomenon which, referring to the Nordic countries, is often treated with superficiality by the generalist press: suicide. It is a sensitive subject, to which this documentary cannot do justice, but suffice it to say, if you have not yet stumbled upon some misleading article, that the Nordic countries are indicated as the states with the highest suicide rates in the world, due to the cold climate and lack of sociability. The theory according to which cold latitudes and lack of light would in all cases be directly proportional to the number of suicides in a country is false: in 2019, in fact, Lesotho recorded 72 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, while South Africa, with 23, he figured tenth in the list taken into account. Historically, the Nordic countries have suffered heavily from the phenomenon throughout their history, but not in recent decades, in which suicide rates have drastically reduced, although currently they still stand at around 12 deaths per 100,000 people.
[noise of car tires] I've been walking for at least half an hour and I haven't met, apart from two cars, a living soul I myself am working on a research on depression and anxiety among young people, and I didn't notice a much bigger increase - at least in Scandinavian Countries. But, it may even be that we are more good at tweeting it, you know. And that we Icelanders are maybe much more good at admitting at here's depressione and we're depressed and there's something to do against it. - You don't hide it - No, we don't hide it. Yes, it may be so. Among all the social issues one may assume to have a role in this problem there could be social exclusion, drug use, and SAD.
The reasons behind such gestures, however, can be many. In this article on Reddit, we talk about a 12-year-old Icelandic resident of Hafnarfjörður who attempted to take his own life after being subjected to prolonged bullying and suffering from loneliness. The user "Biochem-dude" confesses that he too has a twelve-year-old son who, despite being constantly harassed by his peers, was not listened to either by the teachers or by the school, which limited itself to wanting to resolve the issue internally, without making a move finger.
Between those who complain about an alleged collapse of the primary education system, and those who instead accuse the parents of children who behave like bullies, what emerges from the article is that there is a generalized problem, that is bullying, of which every school system in Europe today seems to suffer. This brief cross -section shows us how the perfection of Nordic societies is simply a myth, a stereotype that we often use as a yardstick but which, in reality, we should abandon in favor of critical reflections. There is a reason, in addition to trust, that Nordic citizens share a solid national identity and a strong civic sense: education.
However, education does not only mean knowledge in the strict sense, but also respect for public affairs, respect for others, as well as the values that the State intends to transmit through its communications. The importance given to culture is also reflected in the relationship that the Icelandic people have with books, which are still among the most appreciated gifts and are read and published assiduously, so much so that one in ten Icelanders has written a book. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir also recently published a mystery novel. Several medieval sources clearly state that Icelanders were considered great story tellers. It is interesting to see how people who, in Italy, would be considered poorly educated, such as people who work in the countryside, farmers, are very often actually people who spend a lot of time reading. This attention towards books also finds its explanation in the time that Icelanders carve out for themselves: the work-life balance, in fact, is now a fact that society protects almost as if it were a core value It is no coincidence that the debate in Iceland on the reduction of working hours is very lively.
Some time ago there was a high-sounding rumor that the island had finally adopted the four-day working week. However, it was a rough approximation by the press: the cut amounted to just five hours, out of the forty weekly, and only affected two thousand people. In some jobs, and not all, it was decided to bring the working week from 40 hours to 36, something that was done in Italy in the 1970s.
Absolutely nothing has changed compared to the Italian situation, on the contrary, we have recovered where we were left behind here in Iceland. Icelanders work more on average than any other citizen in the Nordic countries, and with the pandemic, Icelandic unions such as the BRSB have begun to push for shorter working hours. On a BRSB page dedicated to the topic, called "styttri.is", precisely, "shorter.is" features the phrase "it is important to work less"
We, Icelanders, would like to have a better balance between private life and work, and we'd like to look at the Scandinavian model, specifically Sweden - Norway - they're those that seem to us to have a better model under this point of view. After all, as they say in Icelandic, Lífið er til að lifa , ekki bara vinna, life is for living, not just for working. In the report “The Nordic Exceptionalism” I found a reflection that particularly struck me: “The Nordic countries would seem to be places where people frequently experience positive emotions, yet, they are not among the countries where they experience them the most. In other words, this assumption would seem to reflect the stereotype that we all have of Nordic citizens: cold, antisocial, very pragmatic people, not very smiling and certainly not inclined to show emotions, at least apparently. The Icelanders, let's say, are defined as the Italians of Scandinavia and Northern Europe, because they are a little more disorganized, they are more down-to-earth people, they are also much more open and friendly, I must say. In short, the theme of happiness is intricate, complex, vast and fascinating, both for us Mediterraneans and for the inhabitants of the Nordic countries.
The Nordic countries are not part of a utopian and otherworldly universe, just as Iceland is not an Eden of geysers and ice. Now, we are aware more than ever that reality on this island is not as white as the snowfields on its uninhabited Northwest fjords or as black as the lava fields on its South coast, it cannot always be answered with a yes, or a simple no. What unites us in this world, after all, is precisely the social need to seek, rather than happiness, coexistence in a human society and even in the most extreme of environments, despite all the difficulties, look for a reason to be able to move on. [Music]