Committee on the long-term consequences of high immigration

Committee that will submit a report by 1 February 2017.

1. Background

Immigration to Norway has reached new highs in the last decade. Measured as a proportion of the population, immigration to Norway has been among the highest in the OECD countries. The peak was reached in 2011–2012 with annual immigration of nearly 80,000 individuals, primarily due to the strong growth in labour immigration in the wake of the expansion of the EU in 2004 and 2007. In the last few years, labour immigration from the EEA has slowed down somewhat. Since summer 2015, however, there has been a very sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers, mainly young men. If many of these asylum seekers are granted a temporary residence permit, this will have a huge impact on the immigration numbers over the next few years and will also affect the gender distribution among immigrants. 

The authorities are far more involved when it comes to refugees and their families than they are with migrant workers from countries both within and outside the EEA. Migrant workers must themselves arrange financial support and accommodation; in addition, they have to use ordinary services and do not qualify for the introduction programme for immigrants. However, both types of immigration result in increased demand for housing and the need for expansion of public services in areas such as education and health. 

Immigration leads to marked changes in the composition of the Norwegian population. In Statistics Norway's latest population projections (2014), the medium alternative shows continued strong population growth in coming decades, driven primarily by the inflow of immigrants. The proportion of people with an immigrant background (immigrants and their children) was predicted to be 30 per cent in 2055 and beyond, compared with close to 16 per cent today. Furthermore, it is estimated that about 60 per cent of people with an immigrant background will be from countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and non-EEA Europe. 

The sustainability of the Norwegian welfare state depends on high employment among all persons of working age. Refugees and their family members are, with some exceptions, among the groups with the lowest rates of employment, especially among women. For Norway to be able to maintain its welfare schemes at a level and standard to which we are accustomed, immigrants to Norway need to join the workforce promptly and maintain a high employment rate over time.

Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2011: 7 Velferd og migrasjon – Den norske modellens framtid (Welfare and migration – the future of the Norwegian model) is still relevant as a starting point for analysing and assessing the relationships between the labour market, income security and integration processes in Norway. However, this report was prepared in a period dominated by high labour immigration and high demand for labour. Nowadays, the main challenge is the sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers and refugees. A new review is therefore necessary. 

Immigration leads to greater diversity in society, new ideas and cultural exchange. Diversity encourages new approaches, innovation and creativity. At the same time, wider economic, social, cultural and value differences may challenge the sense of community among citizens and trust in the authorities and could affect support for welfare systems. Greater diversity may also create conflicts and a sense of insecurity. These kinds of tendencies can be reinforced if there are many young people who are not in work or education and thus become marginalised. Official Norwegian Report (NOU) 2011: 14 Bedre integrering – Mål, strategier, tiltak (Better integration – goals, strategies, initiatives) discussed issues such as a sense of community, values and conflict resolution and may provide useful background information for further analysis. 

To improve the knowledge base for policy decisions, it is important to analyse the various possible developments in immigration and assess the effects of different measures to help refugees and other immigrants become active citizens. Better knowledge will improve our ability to meet the challenges facing society as a result of high immigration and more refugees. 

2. Questions and issues

1. The Committee shall consider the extent to which continued high immigration may affect social cohesion and trust in Norway. Important issues include the extent to which and how immigration might lead to wider economic, social, cultural and value differences and the impact this might have on social developments in the long term and relations between different groups in the population. The Committee shall also discuss what might help reduce the risk of polarisation and conflict and strengthen the sense of community and security among the population.

2. The Committee shall cast light on the socio-economic consequences of high immigration and a growing proportion of the population having an immigrant background. The Committee shall describe the assumptions about the scope and composition of future immigration to and emigration from Norway and the development in the Norwegian economy, etc. that they use as a basis in their analyses.

3. The Committee shall consider how the Norwegian economy ought to and shall be adapted to continued high rates of immigration, particularly of refugees. Important issues in this context include the effect immigration may have on the labour market, terms and conditions of employment, wage setting, developments in the employment rate, skills and competencies in the workforce, number of dependants, and public finances.

4. The Committee shall analyse the relationship between welfare schemes and immigration to Norway. In this context, the Committee shall analyse and assess whether the current general income security schemes, labour market and training programmes, educational options, and other public services are appropriate in terms of their content and scope in a situation where a large proportion of immigrants are refugees and their families. The Committee shall also assess the effectiveness of the special systems for the reception and resettlement of asylum seekers and training and qualification of refugees in terms of getting refugees into work and participating actively in society quickly.

5. The Committee shall, based on its own analyses and assessments, outline alternative strategies to meet challenges linked to continued high immigration. Knowledge and experience from comparable countries ought to be incorporated into the analysis.

3. General

In the Supplementary Proposition for the 2016 National Budget (Prop. 1 S 2015-2016), the Government announced that a white paper on integration policy would be presented in spring 2016. Other forthcoming parliamentary reports may also be relevant to the Committee's work, such as the report on lifelong learning and social exclusion. In the same Supplementary Proposition, the Government also announced that it had commissioned a review of the rules for membership of the National Insurance Scheme, the requirements related to period of residence and the right to residence-related benefit, with a view to introducing cutbacks, as well as the appointment of an expert committee to assess key aspects of the immigration legislation compared with other countries' legislation and international obligations. In addition, a committee has been appointed to look into benefits for families with children. The findings from these and other relevant inquiries and reports ought to be included in the Committee's analyses and assessments to the extent that it is possible within the allocated time frame. 

The Committee's work must be able to serve as input to the Government's perspective report, due to be presented in winter 2017. 

The Committee will have a dedicated secretariat, affiliated to the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety. If necessary, the Committee may seek expert assistance and input from relevant resource communities, expert centres and affected authorities. The Committee will be allocated funds allowing it to outsource certain elements when this is necessary to supplement the knowledge base.

The Committee's report shall be submitted by 1 February 2017.