EXPLAINED: Why should I join a Norwegian trade union?

For those entering the Norwegian labour market for the first time, it is important to consider joining a union. There are several things to take into account before deciding which provider is right for you.

EXPLAINED: Why should I join a Norwegian trade union?
Photo by Casper Nielsen on Unsplash

The primary purpose of Norway’s trade unions (fagforeninger) is to support members’ working rights and the terms and conditions of their employment. Unions play a key role in negotiating salary and other conditions with employers, and settling disputes.

Unions are generally organized within professional areas or sectors, for example Skolenes landsforbund (Norwegian Union of School Employees) or Handel og Kontor i Norge (The Norwegian Union of Commerce and Office Employees, HK).

You can contact the union that is relevant to your professional area to find out about the salary and working conditions you can expect to receive in Norway.

Individual trade unions are generally further linked to larger, usually national, umbrella organizations or confederations for professional groups. Using the above examples, both the Norwegian Union of School Employees and The Norwegian Union of Commerce and Office Employees are part of LO or Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO Norway).

With over 900,000 members in 24 trade unions, LO is Norway's biggest organization for employees, but there are three others. These include Unio (The Confederation of Unions for Professionals), which counts nursing, police and other types of academic and healthcare professions amongst its affiliates; and the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS), which has 19 affiliated unions encompassing several sectors. Examples include unions for librarians, tax agency workers and dairy workers.

The final confederation is Akademikerne, which consists of 13 different unions and has a total membership of just under 200,000. Members of these are primarily business professionals with a master's degree or equivalent education al background.

The central organisations can refer you to the affiliated union that is connected to your professional group or field. Their websites are linked below.


​​​​​​​So what can a trade union do for me?

It is common in Norway for employees, including white-collar employees and management, to join a union. In 2018, 1,857,787 working people in the country were union members and close to 52 percent of all people in employment were union members in 2013. Although that is the lowest proportion amongst the Nordic countries, it is still much higher than the OECD value of 17 percent.

Unions can offer a variety of services and support to their members, such as reviewing employment contracts and other legal support, providing discounts on insurances and other products, and offering networking opportunities. Unions are generally focused around a specific profession or trade. Unions can help their members in the event of disputes between the member and their employer.

Many of the unions have websites with a section in English, which give a description of the types of professions that they cover. If you are still unsure of which to pick, you can always ask your co-workers for advice, especially those that are in the same profession or trade.

Tax deduction for trade union fees

If you are in employment, you can request a tax deduction on membership fees you have paid to a trade union.

Although this might be automatically included on your tax return, it is worth checking that this is the case.

You can find out how much you are entitled to in tax deductions via the Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten) website.

Sources: Skatteetaten, Statistisk sentralbyrå, Nordic Co-operation

Are there any general or specific topics related to working, living, studying or anything else in Norway that you'd like us to write about in detail? Let us know — we'd like to hear your suggestions.

READ ALSO: New laws: Here’s what changes in Norway in 2020

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Norway posts record number of vacant job listings

A record number of openings have been listed on the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s (NAV) job portal this year.

The job market in Norway is recovering from the pandemic quicker than expected according to Holte. Pictured is two employee's going over some paperwork
The job market in Norway is recovering from the pandemic quicker than expected according to Holte. Pictured is two employee's going over some paperwork. Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

Job vacancies on NAV’s job portal, are at record numbers already this year, with two months of 2021 still to go. 

So far this year, around 433,000 jobs have been listed on the portal, surpassing the figure for pre-pandemic 2019. 

“Already now, at the end of September, we have even more vacancies through this year so far than we had throughout 2019,” Hans Christian Holte, director of Nav, told public broadcaster NRK

NAV estimates that by the end of the year, well over 500,000 vacancies will have been registered in 2021. 

Some industries stand out in particular when it comes to the demand for labour. Tourism and catering, daycare, sales and health sciences are all areas with significant demand for workers, according to NAV’s director.

Holte rejected the idea that Norwegians may be too picky about the types of jobs they are willing to take as a partial explanation for the vacancies. He instead said it was about people having the necessary skills. 

READ ALSO: Five essential things to know for anyone working in Norway

In addition, he also said that the job market had recovered from the pandemic much quicker than expected. 

“We see that unemployment, in general, is back to the level it was before the pandemic. We actually expected this to happen next year,” he said. 

One trend concerning Holte is the rise in long-term unemployment in Norway. According to the NAV director, the number of people who have been unemployed for between one-and-a-half to two years has more than doubled since last year. 

“This is perhaps the biggest concern I have right now – there are the many who have been out of work for a long time. Maybe there are special reasons for it, such as gaps in the CV, language challenges, or health-related things. Norwegian society must now be good and help them back into working life,” he explained.