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Working conditions in Norway

What can you expect from the Norwegian labour market and a Norwegian employer? What kind of rights do you have and where can you find more information? From the menu below you can find answers related to all these kinds of questions.

In cooperation with The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration and the European Job Mobility Portal:


1. Short overview of the labour market

4 640 000 inhabitants.
The unemployment rate at the end of June 2007 was: 1.8%
Norway has a low level of unemployment compared to many other European countries and it has fallen to an historical low in recent months.
Since the second quarter of 2003, the Norwegian economy has been experiencing a period of growth, and there is now great demand for labour in Norway. This is true for most industries and geographic areas.
The high level of investment in oil and increased prices of traditional exports, particularly engineering products, has led to a growth in industrial production in the last few years.
Norwegian industry has enjoyed good conditions due to low interest rates and high oil prices, combined with an international economic upturn. After several years of industrial recession, the number of people working in industry has gone up in the last two years.
There is a particularly strong need for labour in machinery and electronics manufacturing.
Since 2003 there has been strong growth in residential investments and these are now at a premium. The favourable economic climate is also contributing to an increase in demand for commercial building and holiday houses, which in turn further increases the demand for labour in the construction industry. Construction industry turnover reached a record high last year and there are reports in some areas that it is difficult to find a building firm with any free capacity. A significant amount of manpower has also been imported from abroad in recent years; in particular there has been a sharp rise in the number of economic immigrants arriving from EU countries such as Poland and Lithuania.
The labour market in Norway is characterised by its sizeable public sector, which employs people of different backgrounds, both skilled and unskilled, as well as being a major employer of highly-educated professionals.
The unemployment rate is lowest among people with higher education; it is also low among skilled workers in a number of occupations.
There are geographic variations in the economy between different areas in Norway. In the northern part of the country, the public sector and fishing are extremely important. Fishing employs many people in the coastal parts of Sør-Norge [southern Norway]. Vestlandet is characterised by furniture-making, fishing, ship building, oil and shipping. As you would expect for regional centres, the major cities such as Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim have labour forces that work within a broad spectrum of businesses.
Norway also has one of the highest employment rates in Europe.
Despite this, the Norwegian labour market is split along gender lines, with the public sector dominated to a great extent by women, whilst men are more likely to work in the private sector. Due to tight municipal finances, the unemployment rate has been higher for women than for men, but the recent improvement in municipal finances has led to a fall in the female unemployment rate too, with the demand for labour in typical female occupations rising.

2. How to find a job in Norway
Most vacancies in Norway are advertised on the Internet. The biggest database of vacancies is the NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation) website. Vacancies in Norway can also be found on the Europaportalen website. Most companies have their own websites. You may find vacancies here which are not advertised anywhere else. Use the Yellow Pages to find the addresses.
NAV service centre:
Call +47 800 33 166 (Monday – Friday, 08.00 – 18.00) for information on vacancies. This service can also send out job ads that may be of interest, but these are only in Norwegian. Consider what kind of job you want and where in Norway you want to live and work before you make the call.
Most newspapers advertise vacancies. The biggest of these is Aftenposten, and the Sunday edition of this has a separate jobs supplement where all the ads placed over the previous week are listed.
Open job searches:
There is a huge ‘grey market’ for vacancies – vacancies which are not advertised. These vacancies can be found by sending open job applications to the relevant companies. It is important to follow up your application with a telephone call. At Nortrade you can search for Norwegian companies, products and services and Yellow Pages also provides address information.
NAV services are available from abroad. The job centres in all EU/EEA countries all work together via the EURES network, which is able to provide information on working and living conditions, etc. A jobs database is also available which contains vacancies in Norway and other countries.
Recruitment agencies:
You can register with a recruitment agency. These recruit employees for temporary positions in the first instance. A number of them specialise in particular professions and industries. These can be found in Yellow Pages.

3. How to apply for a job in Norway
Your application should be typewritten and be no more than two A4 pages long.
Please be aware of the following:
-         Read the advertisement carefully, and be sure that you are answering the questions they are asking
-         You should state in your application why you are applying for that particular position, or why you are sending an open application.
-         Make it clear that you know something about the company and that you have the necessary qualifications for the job, and how you meet their requirements.
-         Tell them about your motivation for the job, and ideally explain why you want to move to Norway.
-         Companies will always expect to see your CV and references.
-         Send your application by post or e-mail.
Your CV should ideally cover one side of A4, adding a photo is not common. It is important to make sure that it contains correct information, is readily legible and typewritten.
Your CV should include the following points:
-         Personal details: your name, address, telephone numbers, e-mail address, date of birth, nationality and civil status.
-         Training: formal qualifications. If possible, you should state the equivalent Norwegian degree or education levels. It is always useful to explain the main content of the education programmes you followed.
-         Work experience: this is an extremely important part of your CV. Include a brief description of each relevant job/position.
-         Other qualifications: include verbal and written language skills and IT skills. Mention any positions of trust you have held, and other relevant qualifications.
-         Interests: in just a few lines, describe your interests and favourite leisure activities.
-         References: it is extremely important to make sure you provide at least two references from your current and/or previous employment, stating their position and telephone number. Ideally, your referees should be able to speak English.
It is important to be aware of the fact that we always start off by listing our latest training and work experience. It is also possible to use a standardised EU CV template known as Europass.
4. Kinds of employment
Essentially, you have to be 15 in order to enter into a work contract. Light work which does not impede health and compulsory schooling, such as newspaper delivery or cultural activities, is not included in this regulation.
When employing people under the age of 18, work must not impede schooling.
As an employee, you are entitled to a work contract for both permanent and temporary employment, whether full time or part time. This is laid down in the Norwegian Working Environment Act.
Temporary employment must be restricted and may be used for seasonal work and abnormal workloads at a workplace.
The most common working conditions involve 37.5 or 40 hours’ work a week, with five weeks’ holiday.
Au pairs
If you work as an au pair, you will be living as part of a family. You must not work more than five hours a day or 30 hours a week. A minimum of one day a week must be free. Au pairs are not covered by any form of wage contract or collective contract. v

5. Employment contracts
As an employee, you are entitled to a work contract for both temporary and permanent employment, whether part time or full time.
A work contract should include the following:
-         Name and address of the employer and employee
-         Date the work contract comes into force
-         Name of the workplace
-         The employee’s duties and tasks
-         The employee’s position
-         Nature of the employment: temporary, part-time or permanent
-         Any trial period and its length (in the case of limited-time employment)
-         End date for the contract
-         Wage and payment systems
-         Working hours, any overtime arrangements
-         Holidays, holiday pay
-         Relevant collective/wage contracts
As a rule, any employment begins with a trial period. This must not exceed six months. Any trial period and the length of the trial period must be agreed in advance. Both the employer and the employee are entitled to a notice period of two weeks over this period. 
Notice must be given in writing and, as a rule, will be applicable as of the first of the month following submission of the notice. The notice period must be specified in the work contract. An employer must have good reasons for giving an employee notice.
If you are absent from work on account of illness or injury, you cannot be given notice in the first six months of your absence from work. If you have been employed by your employer for five years, this protection period is twelve months.

6. Self-employment
As a citizen of the EU/EEA, you may live and set up a business in Norway. Companies set up in Norway have to be entered in the Brønnøysund register. You will then be given a company registration number which is used when dealing with tax authorities and customers.
When you register, the authorities will check whether you are running an independent business.
‘Narvikstelefonen’, a free telephone service on +47 800 33 840, can provide you with information on setting up a business in Norway.
Næring og handelsdepartementet [the Ministry of Trade and Industry] will also be able to give you some useful information.
Næringsetaten [Department of Business Services] in the municipality in which you wish to reside will also be able to provide you with information.

7. Remuneration
You as the employee and your employer agree your wage from the outset – this is part of your work contract. Qualifications, theoretical and practical work experience, and seniority are all taken into account when your wage is set.
When wage contracts were made generally applicable in the building and construction industry, a minimum wage was also introduced. For skilled workers, this is NOK 132.25, or for unskilled workers with no experience of the industry NOK 118.00. People with a minimum of one year of experience of the industry are entitled to NOK 123.00.
Wage contracts and collective contracts are applied in most industries. These are negotiated between the employer and employee organisations. These wage contracts set the framework for wages within the relevant industry and/or company.
Norway has entered into bilateral tax agreements with the other EU/EEA countries so as to avoid double taxation. If you are going to work for a Norwegian employer, you have to pay tax in Norway. If you will be staying in Norway for less than six months, separate rules will apply: your local tax office can inform you of these. Your employer is obliged to deduct tax before paying you your wage. You will get a tax deduction card at your local tax office, where you will be told what percentage of your wage will be deducted in tax. If no tax card is given, 50% tax will be deducted. The average tax rate is approx. 33%. If you pay too much tax, you will receive a refund from the tax authorities the next year. Other rules may apply to people who commute to work or to employees on assignment in Norway.
Your National Insurance payment of 7.8% is included in the tax you pay.
You will receive a wage slip when your wages are paid. This will show your wage and the amount of tax you have paid. Your wage will normally be paid into your bank account once a month.
People staying temporarily in Norway – less than two years – may be given a tax allowance of 10%, up to a maximum of NOK 40 000, of their gross income. Requirements in respect of this must be set forth when the tax deduction card is issued. The tax office for foreign affairs can provide you with more information.
At the end of the year, you will receive a wage and deductions slip showing the wage you have received over the year and the amount of tax you have paid. This forms the basis for completion of the ‘self assessment’ submitted on 30 April. You will receive a form completed by the tax authorities, but you will have to check and sign it.

8. Working time
Your working hours must not exceed nine hours a day, or 40 hours a week, in accordance with the Norwegian Working Environment Act. Shorter working hours may be agreed in a collective contract/wage contract or in an individual contract. Nowadays many people work a 37.5-hour week.
You may be entitled to work shorter hours for health-related, social or similar reasons as long as the reduction in your working hours does not cause insurmountable problems for your employer.
Work in excess of 40 hours a week is considered to be overtime. For overtime, you must be paid a minimum of 40% more than your standard hourly wage. This is applicable when overtime is imposed on employees, and for employees who work days. If you work shifts, afternoons or nights, you will receive overtime payments for every hour you work over 36 or 38 hours a week. There is no statutory requirement to pay overtime to people in managerial positions. People are not normally allowed to work more than 200 hours of overtime a year.
Night work
Night work is done between 22.00 and 06.00.
Essentially, working nights is not permitted, although the Working Environment Act provides for a range of exceptions in the transport sector, health services, hotels, restaurants and various industries, for example.
Working on Sundays and public holidays
Essentially, working on Sundays and public holidays is not permitted. But nowadays there are a range of exceptions to this which are authorised by the Norwegian Working Environment Act. If you work on a Sunday, you are entitled to a day off on the next Sunday. You must be paid extra for working on Sundays and public holidays.
When your working day is in excess of 5½ hours, you must take at least one break during that time. This break must be counted as working time if the employee is not allowed to leave the place of work.

9. Leave (annual leave, parental leave, public holidays etc) 
The Norwegian Annual Holiday Act entitles all employees to holiday time every year. The Act is applicable to all, in the public and private sector alike. The intention is to give everyone the opportunity to take a holiday, and to ensure that employees are entitled to holiday pay. You are entitled to four weeks’ plus one day’s holiday in a holiday year. An entitlement to four extra days off has been agreed in a number of industries and wage areas. This means that most employees are entitled to five weeks’ holiday. The holiday year follows the calendar year.
Employees aged over 60 are entitled to an extra holiday week.
You earn your entitlement to holiday pay in the calendar year preceding the holiday year, the year in which the holiday is taken. You have to have been employed for the entire qualifying year to be entitled to holiday pay equivalent to your full wage if you take your full holiday entitlement. If you have not been employed for long, you are entitled to full holiday, but your holiday pay will be set in relation to how long you have been employed at your company. You are not entitled to your regular wage during your holidays.
When you stop working for your employer, you will receive accrued holiday pay with your last wage payment. You will not be entitled to holiday pay in any new job you may take until you have accrued holiday pay.
It is not up to the employee to decide when to take holiday. The employer is entitled to decide this, but is obliged to discuss it with the employee and/or representative first. You are entitled to take three consecutive weeks of holiday between 1 June and 30 September.
If you fall ill just before taking a holiday, you will be entitled to postpone it. In such cases, you must provide a doctor’s certificate. Your request for postponement of your holiday must be submitted at the latest on the last working day before your planned holiday. If you fall ill over the course of your holiday, a minimum of six days, you will be entitled to take a corresponding number of holiday days at a later date. You must present a doctor’s certificate on your first day back at work.
Public holidays:
1 January, New Year’s Day
Palm Sunday
Maundy Thursday
Good Friday
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
Ascension Day
1 May
17 May, National Day of Norway
Whit Sunday
Whit Monday
25 December, Christmas Day
26 December, Boxing Day

10.Ending employment
When you enter into a work contract, the end date of your employment will be stated if the job is a temporary one. It is then expected that your position there will be terminated once the contract has expired.
The end date of your employment is not mentioned if you have permanent employment. In such cases, you normally have a mutual notice period of three months. When you enter into a work contract, a six-month trial period is generally applied, with two weeks’ mutual notice permitted.
Notice must always be given in writing. Employers must confirm in writing the reasons for giving notice, and this letter must be sent by registered mail.
The pensionable age in Norway is 67. The pensionable age is lower than the standard 67 in some industries and professions. The police, the military, pilots, divers and firemen are all subject to lower retirement ages.
To receive a full pension when you retire, you have to have made pension contributions for 40 years.
In Norway, there is an Act relating to insurance against injury at work. This means that your employer has to insure you so that if you suffer from an injury at work which leads to disability, you will be covered by the policy and receive compensation.
11. Representation of workers
Joining a trade union is standard practice in Norway. This is viewed as a positive thing by both employers and employees. The organisation level is approx. 53%. The figure varies widely between industries and between the private and the public sector.
The main national organisations – Akademikerne [Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations], Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO) [Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions], Universitets og høyskoleutdannedes organisajon (Unio) [Confederation of Unions for Professionals] and Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund (YS) [Confederation of Vocational Unions] – have around 1 517 000 members, amounting to some 93% of organised employees. Each of these organisations has a number of membership associations which cover different training, industries and professions. You can join by contacting one of the organisations or a representative at your workplace.

The trade union organisations have extensive rights in respect of information and negotiations. This includes the trade unions’ entitlement to negotiations with the employer and their organisations, including all conditions relating to the relationship between employer and employee. Central wage contracts are entered into between the trade union organisations and the relevant employer organisation.
The Norwegian trade union movement is also a crucial factor in society and takes part in industry committees and in hearings of relevance for Norwegian working life.
The trade union organisations maintain close European cooperation. Get in touch with the trade union organisation in your country, this may also provide you with useful information.

12. Labour disputes - strikes
The main agreement between the parties in Norwegian working life forces the parties (the employee and employer organisations) to offer a labour peace guarantee for the period of validity of a collective contract. Strikes and lockouts are hence illegal if these take place in connection with conflicts during the labour peace guarantee period. The organisation of strikes and/or lockouts is legal in connection with negotiations over collective contracts, but only when there is a breakdown in negotiations.
The main negotiations take place every two years, resulting in a two-year contract being signed. The contract is reviewed in the interim year.
Generally, there are few strikes and lockouts in Norway. But since these take place on a national level, a large number of employees get involved. The involvement of the authorities through compulsory arbitration and transfer of negotiations to compulsory mediation attempts has always been a central way for the authorities to bring strikes and lockouts to a close. This is also controversial, particularly for groups denied the right to go on strike.
If an employee is called out on strike, the individual in question will not receive a wage, but he will receive strike pay from the relevant trade union organisation. They all have large strike funds set aside for such purposes.
13. Vocational training
The term Vocational Education and Training refers to practical activities and courses related to a specific occupation or vocation, aimed at preparing participants for their future careers. Vocational training is an essential means to achieve professional recognition and improve chances to get a job. It is therefore vital that vocational training systems in Europe respond to the needs of citizens and the labour market in order to facilitate access to employment.
Vocational education and training has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European Community. It is also a crucial element of the so-called EU Lisbon Strategy, which aims at transforming Europe into the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society. In 2002 the European Council reaffirmed this vital role, and established yet another ambitious goal – to make European education and training renowned globally by the year 2010 – by championing a number of world-class initiatives, and in particular by strengthening cooperation in the area of vocational training.
EU initiatives for the promotion of vocational training cooperation
In its efforts to promote a collaborative approach to the development of vocational training systems in Europe, the European Union makes use of a variety of instruments and implements a wide series of programmes and initiatives.
 Socrates advocates European cooperation in all areas of education. This cooperation takes different forms:
  1. mobility (moving around Europe),
  2. organising joint projects,
  3. setting up European networks (disseminating ideas and good practice), and
  4. conducting studies and comparative analyses.
In practice, Socrates offers people grants to study, teach, undertake a placement or follow a training course in another country. It provides support for educational establishments to organise teaching projects and to exchange experiences. It helps associations and NGOs in organising activities on educational topics, etc.
Leonardo da Vinci
The Leonardo da Vinci programme, adopted in 1994, has as a main objective the implementation of the EU’s training policy. It is one of the major instruments supporting trans-national mobility in Europe and provides funding to public and private organisations active in training issues. Leonardo also supports placement and exchange projects, study visits and trans-national networks, amongst others.
Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe
Lifelong learning is a process that involves all forms of education – formal, informal and non-formal – and lasts from the pre-school period until after retirement. It is meant to enable people to develop and maintain key competencies throughout their life as well as to empower citizens to move freely between jobs, regions and countries. Lifelong learning is also a core element of the previously mentioned Lisbon Strategy, as it is crucial for self-development and the raising of competitiveness and employability. The EU has adopted several instruments for the promotion of adult education in Europe.
A European area of lifelong learning
In order to make lifelong learning a reality in Europe, the European Commission has set itself the objective of creating a European Area of Lifelong Learning. In this context, the Commission focuses on identifying the needs of both learners and the labour market in order to make education more accessible and subsequently create partnerships between public administrations, suppliers of educational services and civil society.
This EU initiative is based on the objective of providing basic skills – by strengthening counselling and information services at a European level, and by recognising all forms of learning, including formal education and informal and non-formal training.
Grundtvig is one of the actions of the EU education programme Socrates and aims primarily at improving the quality of vocational adult education. It also seeks to promote exchanges and cooperation that facilitate opportunities and access to lifelong learning for EU citizens.
EU organisations promoting vocational education in Europe
With the objective of facilitating cooperation and exchange in the field of vocational training, the EU has set up specialised bodies working in the field of VOCATIONAL TRAINING.
The European Centre for Vocational Training (CEDEFOP / Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle) was created in 1975 as a specialised EU agency for the promotion and development of vocational education and training in Europe. Based in Thessaloniki, Greece, it carries out research and analysis on vocational training and disseminates its expertise to various European partners, such as related research institutions, universities or training facilities.
The European Training Foundationwas established in 1995 and works in close collaboration with CEDEFOP. Its mission is to support partner countries (from outside the EU) to modernise and develop their systems for vocational training.