Article | Last updated: 2009-10-08
Today, Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world. The Norwegian welfare model has managed to combine solid financial growth, high employment rates and comprehensive universal welfare programmes with an even distribution of income. The Norwegian model is based on close cooperation between the authorities and employee and employer organisations, and is characterised, not least, by active labour market policies, redistribution through the taxation system, a good system of unemployment benefits and other social welfare programmes, and good protection of employee working conditions and the working environment. A high rate of participation in working life is a basic underpinning of the welfare society.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the mobility of labour across borders and an increase in immigration into Norway. This migration and mobility across national borders will probably continue to increase in the coming years, even if, in the short term, mobility is affected by market conditions and the demand for labour. The need and opportunities for persons to be mobile across national borders are increasing due to the growth in world trade, reduced transport costs, fewer border barriers and tighter interaction between countries. Through the EEA agreement and the EFTA Treaty, Norway has given its approval of the goal of increased mobility across national borders between the countries covered by these agreements. The increase in mobility contributes to more efficient exploitation of labour across countries. This in itself is a guarantee for the financing of universal welfare programmes.
The relatively large and rapid increase in immigration gives a more diverse population. It is now easier to move between countries both on a temporary and permanent basis. Students, employees and pensioners spend much more time in other countries than has previously been the case. Greater mobility across national borders and a more diverse population have consequences for various elements of the Norwegian welfare model. This model establishes important frameworks for the development of immigration and integration policy, and influences the lives of migrants in Norway. The welfare model is in turn affected by the large variation in the backgrounds of the users and producers of the welfare services. These challenges have an especially strong impact on programmes guaranteeing incomes and the measures in integration and labour market policies.
Greater international mobility requires greater knowledge about and better understanding of the connection between migration and the future development of the welfare model and welfare programmes, which in the next instance will provide a better basis for comprehensive development of policy. Even though this is the case, there has not been enough research, reporting and discussion on the consequences and dilemmas for the welfare model and the welfare programmes that arise from this increased migration and international mobility.
The committee shall describe and assess in more detail the elements in the Norwegian welfare model that influence and are influenced by increasing migration. The committee shall give an updated description of the rights immigrants and emigrants have in relation to the universal welfare programmes that are part of guaranteeing income in cases involving sickness, unemployment, disability, old age, income transfers to families with children and so on. To place the work in a comprehensive framework, the committee shall also describe the rights to other universal welfare programmes, such as education and health and social care.
The committee shall describe and take as its point of departure the current migration picture and expected developments in Norway. The committee shall describe in more detail which factors are expected to influence immigration and emigration in the future. On an independent basis, the committee will assess in more detail the scope and composition of migration to and from Norway that will be reasonable to use as the basis for the committee's work.
The committee will focus on the design of the income guaranteeing programmes and the measures used in integration and labour market policy, but will, to the extent needed, also include the design of the other welfare programmes. The committee will not examine in detail Norwegian immigration policy as such, but will nevertheless assess whether there are aspects of the immigration policy that have special relevance for the future development and design of the Norwegian welfare model. The committee will also describe how the design of Norwegian welfare programmes may influence the migration flows.
The committee shall base its work on a broad understanding of migration; immigration and emigration. This means, for example, that persons with residence based on the EEA agreement, asylum seekers and persons without legal residence will be included in the committee's assessments.
The committee will asses the societal consequences of any changes in immigration and emigration, including the conditions that must be present if we are to sustain our welfare model in the short and long run. Specifically, the committee is tasked with assessing:
- Whether the universal welfare programmes together with the specific integration measures support the goal of having the highest possible participation in working life.
- The importance of increased mobility for the relation between welfare production and welfare consumption.
- Whether it can be assumed that greater ethnic and cultural diversity can influence the view on and use of today's welfare programmes. This means the committee will have to asses closely the conditions for the legitimacy and sustainability of the programmes, as well as standards and the formation of standards.
- How increased immigration can impact wages, exclusion from working life and the scope of the informal sector. It will be important to establish which circumstances and measures may impact this picture.
The committee shall also assess whether the scope of the increased immigration and emigration in itself may put pressure on the Norwegian welfare programmes. Specifically, the committee is tasked with assessing:
- Whether the programmes for earning rights, export of benefits etc. are sustainable in a situation with a much higher rate of migration than today.
- The administrative burden and other challenges introduced by increased migration.
Based on the committee's assessments of the current situation and the importance of the welfare programmes, the committee must outline a proposal for possible changes to or adaptations of the measures that may contribute to long-term sustainability. It will be particularly important to clarify the conditions and uncertainties that are the basis for the proposals. Financial, administrative and other important consequences of the proposals must be detailed.
The committee must have a comparative perspective, where the development in other Nordic countries and other countries must be assessed and compared to relevant development trends in Norway. The development compared to other countries that have considerably different welfare models than Norway must also be assessed.
The committee will have its own secretariat. When necessary, the committee may ask for support and input from experts while it is performing its work, for example from research institutions and centres of expertise and from stakeholder authorities. It is assumed that the committee will have contact with other relevant public committees. The committee may also commission studies and reports in cases where the committee itself does not have the required expertise or the possibility of obtaining the required knowledge.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion will convene a reference group that will assist the committee with input.
The committee will submit its report at the latest two years after initiation.