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Norway to allow companies to send staff home until next year

The Norwegian government said on Thursday that it would extend provisions allowing companies to send staff home from 26 to 52 weeks.

Norway to allow companies to send staff home until next year
Hotels are among businesses hard-hit by the coronavirus slowdown. Photo: AFP

That means people who were sent home in March (for example) as a result of closures due to the coronaviruses lockdown can now remain so until March 2021 before the company is obliged to let them go.

The purpose of the extension, which comes into effect from November 1st until June 2021, is to prevent people from losing their jobs due to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said in a statement.

Sectors hardest hit by the corona crisis include tourism, export, the maritime sector, aviation and construction.

The announcement was first reported by VG.

“We saw before the summer that we would have to assess the situation with the economy until autumn, including to review lay-off rules,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

In a Norwegian context, ‘lay-off’ (permittering in Norwegian) means to temporarily, fully or partially release an employee from the obligation to work. Lay-offs under coronavirus rules are administered by Norway’s Labour and Welfare Administration, NAV.

 

“Now we have additionally received a letter from business representatives… asking for clarification and an extension of the lay-off rules to 52 weeks. That’s why we are making these changes now,” Solberg said.

Opposition parties as well as business interest organisations including the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions have called for the extension from 26 to 52 weeks of the provision, which was introduced in the spring in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Solberg also signalled an extra period for people sent home long-term. Companies would foot the bill for the extra period, she said.

“This must not become an obstacle to people getting back to work. We are concerned with ensuring employers actually assess whether they can keep on people who are sent home or whether their labour should be made available to others,” Solberg said to VG.

 

 

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WORKING IN NORWAY

What is Norway’s job market like for foreigners at the moment?

Currently, unemployment in Norway is at a very low level - but does that mean there are more job opportunities for foreigners in the country? 

What is Norway’s job market like for foreigners at the moment?

Unemployment in Norway remains at the low level of 2.6 percent of the workforce, according to the latest figures published by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) for August,

At the end of the previous month, there were 76,900 registered fully and partially unemployed workers, as well as people looking for jobs receiving assistance from the NAV. 

Some Norwegian media commentators and politicians have openly stated that this is a fantastic opportunity to have more people enter the workforce.

In early September, Labour and Inclusion Minister Marte Mjøs Persen stated that employers should make use of the “particularly favourable times” and include “vulnerable groups in the work life.” 

According to Mjøs Persen, employers should pay particular attention to applicants with somewhat different skill and experience profiles. 

Should employers in Norway take heed of the minister’s words, this year could offer substantial opportunities for international workers looking to find a job in the country. 

READ ALSO: Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don’t need it for work

NAV: 2022 is a good year for foreigners seeking work in Norway

The Labour and Inclusion Minister is backed in her assessment by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, which believes this is a good year for foreigners looking for work opportunities in Norway.

“Developments in the Norwegian labour market this year are good for foreigners seeking work. The demand for labour is very high, and the unemployment rate is very low. 

“In fact, the unemployment rate has not been as low as it is now since before the financial crisis in 2008. In 2022, there has been a very high number of vacancies available for jobseekers,” Johannes Sørbø, a Senior Adviser at the Directorate of Labour, told The Local.

Furthermore, Sørbø pointed out that many different industries are looking for workers.

“There is a significant labour shortage in the health sector; skilled nurses, in particular, are in demand. There is also a labour shortage in the building and construction industry, especially in carpentry and other skilled workers in general. 

“Other occupations with a shortage (of labour) include cooks and ICT (information and communication technology) and -related professions,” the Senior Adviser noted.

Stormy skies ahead?

Despite the currently encouraging situation in Norway’s job market, it seems that the positive trend might be short-lived, as several indicators point to adverse developments in the years ahead.

In September, NAV director Hans Christian Holte warned that the decline in unemployment might soon stop and that unemployment had already somewhat increased among young people in August.

On the other hand, Statistics Norway (SSB) also recently updated its economic forecast. In June, the SSB estimated that the Norwegian economy would go through a period of growth during the year. 

Now, as the overall situation in the economy has worsened, it believes that Norway is moving toward a recession – most likely within a period of several years – due to inflation, interest rate increases, and international factors. 

According to NTB, the national statistics bureau believes that the Norwegian economy will continue to grow during the expected recession but warns that economic activity is likely to decrease, which typically leads to higher unemployment.  

Furthermore, it predicts unemployment will increase to 4.2 percent in 2025 – a marked increase compared to the current unemployment levels. 

However, not all is negative in the SSB’s new forecast, as the bureau predicts that the increased unemployment and lower economic growth might lead to Norges Bank lowering interest rates at the end of 2023.

READ MORE: Could a recession be on the cards for Norway?

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