Norway’s state welfare agency NAV is reporting a sharp increase in the numbers of unemployed Europeans who are applying for welfare benefits in Norway. Through an apparent loophole in the law, they’re eligible, if they registered a company or managed to find a job in Norway but then lost it.
Norway is part of the European Free Trade Association that gives it access to European markets. Through its agreement on economic cooperation with the EU (known as the EØS-avtale), Norwegians and residents of EU and EFTA countries can freely cross borders and seek work.
That’s led to a major rise in so-called “work immigrants” from crisis-hit EU countries who can stay in Norway for up to six months while they seek jobs. They’re not eligible for welfare benefits, such as unemployment pay, during that period. If they find a job or register a company and thus stay in Norway for more than three months, however, they can get a form of residence permission that effectively gives them the same rights as Norwegians since it’s seldom recalled.
That’s led to a reported quadrupling of applications for unemployment benefits from EU citizens who lost jobs they’d found in Norway, wrote newspaper Aftenposten this week. Some NAV officials think the residence permission should be recalled and that they should be allowed to reject the applications. Otherwise, they claim, NAV’s costs can quickly spin out of control.