Skills and Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and their Children in Norway

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Norway’s foreign-born population has tripled since 2000, and the share of migrants among the population has seen one of the largest increases across the OECD, mostly driven by labour migration from EU countries. Most migrants from non-EU countries, in contrast, are refugees and their family members. High qualification levels and labour market participation of the native-born raise the question of an adequate benchmark for integration outcomes, especially for the low-educated refugees and their families. Against this backdrop, Norway puts significant investment into integration, and a number of recent reforms have been aimed at strengthening the system. This review, the third in a series on the skills and labour market integration of immigrants and their children, provides an assessment of these reforms and the remaining challenges. It includes an overview of Norway’s integration services – and the many substantial changes in recent years – as well as challenges in access and uptake of integration offers, activation programmes and outcomes of native-born children of immigrants in Norway. Earlier reviews in this series looked at integration in Sweden (2016) and Finland (2018).


Executive summary

In just 20 years, Norway’s foreign-born population tripled and the share of migrants in the population increased from 6.5% in 2000 to close to 16% in 2020. This is one of the largest increases across the OECD. Norway has a diverse migrant population, with different integration needs. As a result of free mobility arrangements, more than four in ten foreign-born are from the EU, with over half of these having arrived in the last decade, mainly to meet labour market needs. However, Norway also has a long tradition of humanitarian migration. Refugees and their family members accounted for 22% of registered arrivals over the last 20 years, including via resettlement programmes. Norway’s extensive social welfare system depends on high employment of both genders. In 2020, 68% of immigrants were in employment (OECD average: 67%). However, the difference in employment rates between EU born and non-EU-born are higher in Norway than elsewhere, for both genders. Overall employment rates of EU-born are, at 76%, well above the EU average of 70%, but this is not the case for non-EU immigrants (62% vs. 65%). The Norwegian labour market requires relatively high skill levels. Less than 4% of the overall employment in Norway is in elementary jobs, the lowest share in the OECD. Indeed, high qualification levels and labour market participation of both gender for the native‑born in Norway raise the question of what outcomes of immigrants, who have been raised and educated in a very different context, would be considered a success, especially for the many low-educated refugees and their families who account for the bulk of non-EU migrants. Yet half of refugees and their family members have at most lower secondary education, compared with one in five of the native‑born.


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