Review of Norwegian welfare benefits in the aim of implementing cutbacks

Supplementary proposition for the 2016 budget

“We must shape the Norwegian welfare society in a way that ensures we maintain its sustainability and legitimacy. Doing so will enable us to sustain a secure and just welfare society in the future. The rising influx of asylum seekers makes it necessary to review the benefits provided to refugees and immigrants in the aim of introducing cutbacks,” says Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Robert Eriksson.

In its review, the Government will analyse, among other things:

  • Issues related to membership of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme;
  • Requirements related to period of residence and the right to residence-related benefits;
  • Benefits derived from employment based on a temporary work permit (the right to unemployment benefits; daily cash benefits in the case of sickness; work assessment allowance; disability benefits; and occupational injury benefits);
  • Special schemes for people with refugee status;
  • The potential for and impact of restricting economic rights in accordance with legislation administered by the municipalities.

Put to the test

The refugees arriving now will generally have a much weaker connection to the labour market  than the population as a whole, at least in the short term. At the same time, Norway is facing a population trend in which there will be a reduction in the percentage of working-age people compared with the non-working age segment of the population.   

“This will truly put Norway’s welfare schemes to the test. To ensure a safe, secure and just welfare society in the future, it is essential to review the various benefits provided to refugees and immigrants. This is important both as a cost-saving measure and to avoid a situation in which Norway receives a disproportionate share of refugees solely because we have more generous schemes than our neighbouring countries,” says the minister.

Refugees

Under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Norway has an obligation to allow refugees coverage under the National Insurance Scheme so they may obtain entitlements and rights. However, the benefits package afforded to refugees under Norway’s National Insurance Scheme extends  beyond this.

“In light of today’s situation, with a large surge in the number of asylum seekers, I am not sure we can continue giving refugees the positive preferential treatment they have been receiving,” says Mr Eriksson.

Opportunity for an independent life

“Parallel to this, we will implement measures to create a framework for enabling asylum seekers with a right to residence to build an independent life in Norway. So they can get housing, learn Norwegian and gain entry into the labour market,” says the minister.

The Government will also appoint an expert committee to study the long-term impact on Norwegian society and how to promote a better-functioning society in a situation with a large inflow of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.