The Government pursues a humane asylum policy in accordance with the international provisions by which Norway is bound, in particular the UN Refugee Convention the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
According to the Norwegian Immigration Act, a foreign national who applies for protection in Norway must be offered accommodation while they are waiting for the immigration authorities to reach a decision. If the application for protection has been rejected, the foreign national will be offered accommodation pending his or her exit from Norway.
Asylum seekers have the same right to health care as Norwegian citizens. Applicants whose cases are rejected are offered emergency health care. Asylum seekers under 18 years of age are always offered health care on the same basis as Norwegian children.
Migrant workers are in a vulnerable position in the labour market. Norway puts great emphasis on ensuring that migrant workers enjoy the same pay and working conditions as Norwegian workers. Two action plans against social dumping have been implemented, and contain a number of measures to ensure that migrant workers are paid according to Norwegian standards.
Overall labour market policy in Norway consists of three main labour market schemes – vocational training, work practice and wage subsidies. An individual work capability assessment determines whether or not an individual is offered the opportunity to participate in a labour market scheme. There are also two main schemes that are directly targeted at newly-arrived immigrants: the above-mentioned introductory programme and a Norwegian language instruction programme.
The strong economic growth in Norway in recent years has caused labour shortages, and labour migration, particularly from the new EU member states, has increased significantly. The great majority have come from Poland, which accounted for almost 15 000 immigrants (more than 26% of total immigration) in 2007. Poland has not only been the main origin country of the new wave of immigrants since 2005, it has now replaced Sweden as the single most important origin country of the total immigrant population.
During the favourable economic situation that prevailed until recently, many Polish labour migrants found employment in the construction industry. With the strong decline in this industry, immigrants from the new EU countries now have the second highest unemployment rate of any immigrant group in Norway, and their lack of language skills is a major obstacle to employment in other sectors, both now and in the future. Labour migrants from the new EU member countries are eligible for mainstream labour market schemes, some of which include language training.
Unemployment benefit for an unemployed person represents partial compensation for loss of income and is intended to provide an incentive to find a new job. In principle, labour migrants have the same right to unemployment benefit as others. However, the duration of their residence permit will determine the period during which they may receive the benefit.
EEA nationals may reside and work in Norway for a period of up to three months without a permit. Jobseekers from EEA countries may stay in Norway for up to six months without a permit. Transitional rules apply to persons from the new EU countries, Bulgaria and Romania. EEA nationals who have acquired some connection with working life in Norway by working here for a certain period and paying social insurance contributions may submit claims for Norwegian unemployment benefits on the basis of unemployment benefit rights earned in another EEA country.
The local government sector is responsible for services that ensure that all inhabitants in their respective areas experience good living conditions. The municipality is responsible for implementing the Social Services Act. Those unable to support themselves by working or exercising financial rights are entitled to financial support, which is intended to make the person self-supporting.
In spite of the current international financial situation, Norway still aims to achieve a high level of employment, low unemployment and an inclusive labour market with room for everyone who is able and willing to work. The main goals of labour market policy are therefore to facilitate high participation in employment and efficient utilisation of the available workforce by ensuring a well-functioning labour market and inclusive and well-ordered workplaces. Extensive labour market and rehabilitation measures are aimed at contributing to high employment and low unemployment, and combating exclusion by helping people with labour market-related problems to find and keep a relevant job.
The Norwegian Employment and Welfare Administration is responsible for implementing labour market policy. The Administration facilitates efforts to match jobseekers with vacant jobs and to ensure comprehensive help and security for persons who need work-oriented assistance to find and keep employment.
In 2006 Norway presented a plan of action for combating poverty. The plan is based on an integrated approach and focuses on measures to prevent people from experiencing poverty and social exclusion. These include general economic policy, employment and labour market policies, education, social security and other measures to reduce inequalities of income. The goal is that everyone is to be given the opportunity to enter employment. Norway has developed social programmes for those on the margins of the labour market to increase their labour market participation.
The efforts to reduce poverty and social exclusion have both a short-term and a long-term perspective. The short-term goal is to reduce poverty and improve the situation for vulnerable groups, and the long-term goal is to protect the next generation from poverty and inequality.
There is no simple recipe for action or solution to this problem, and inclusive welfare systems are necessary. The Nordic welfare model is marked by a relatively large redistribution of wealth through the income tax system, universal welfare systems, a comprehensive, publicly financed education system, an active labour market policy and a flexible labour market. The welfare model has resulted in less poverty and inequality and a more equitable income distribution in Norway than in many other countries. Norway continues to build on this model, and is reforming and further developing the welfare system.
Norway has also developed strategies and action plans in several other areas that promote social inclusion and poverty reduction by combating inequality, including white papers on education and inequality, a national strategy for reducing social inequalities in health, a National Action Plan on Alcohol and Drugs, and the above-mentioned Action Plan for Integration and Social Inclusion of the Immigrant Population and Goals for Social Inclusion.
In its efforts, the Government has strengthened cooperation and communication with user and other organisations and associations in the voluntary sector. These organisations are important cooperation partners for both central and local government. A liaison committee has been established to strengthen the dialogue between the Government and self-appointed representatives of socially and financially disadvantaged persons.
Freedom of choice in respect of where to live
The point of departure for the Government’s regional policy is the establishment and maintenance of conditions that ensure Norway’s inhabitants real freedom to live in the place of their choice. The Government’s objective is to maintain the main features of the current settlement pattern and to further develop the plurality of historical and cultural resources deriving from it.
Rural and regional policy is an integrated part of the Government’s overall political agenda. A well-developed infrastructure is vital to positive development in a country like Norway, with its sparse population and long distances. The Government will continue to strengthen municipal finances, introduce large-scale expansion of road and railway construction programmes, set new objectives for the expansion of broadband infrastructure and pursue an active and differentiated policy for economic growth and jobs in order to secure the goal of full employment.
The Government believes that local challenges are most effectively met by local initiatives. It therefore gives priority to providing support for the municipality as a development driver and for community development. In this way the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development invites the county authorities to cooperate further on strengthening and more effectively mobilising community development initiatives in the municipalities. The ministry is also considering the allocation of additional funds to local and regional projects focusing on knowledge creation and the development of strategies designed to attract new inhabitants and make local communities more attractive to live in. By adapting policy measures and encouraging regional cooperation, county authorities can often support local industry in a more targeted and coordinated manner than is possible through direct state involvement, which traditionally has a sector-oriented focus.
The primary resource of a modern economy is the creativity and ingenuity of its people, particularly their ability to deal with socio-economic change through innovation. The Government’s policy is to promote these resources where people live rather than forcing them to move to concentrated urban areas. It intends to facilitate innovation and restructuring by businesses in all parts of the country. In order to stimulate new activity, the Government will continue to place significant emphasis on efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship: a new action plan for entrepreneurship in the education system, a more systematic approach to entrepreneurship advisory services and increased funding for entrepreneurs in order to help them create new high-quality jobs. The Government also emphasises that innovation and entrepreneurship from women must be stimulated more effectively than at present.
North Norway faces particular challenges because of its sparse population, the long distances between settlements and the small labour markets. The Government is therefore giving priority to North Norway in order to stimulate land-based business development and improve the region’s infrastructure.
1 More information about employment in Norway is available at Eurostat: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/
2 This type of statistics was not collected in 2010.
4 People with unknown or no education are not included.
5 Negative amounts have been set to zero
6 Negative amounts have been set to zero.
7 Persons in student households are excluded.
8 2005 is the earliest year with comparable figures.
9 Updated July 2013
10 For example the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Article 22 and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Article 14.