New NAV study shatters welfare myths

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At least 25 percent of people who are long-term unemployed in Norway receive no welfare support whatsoever, and instead get by on their own resources. Many of them are immigrants, according to a new study that shatters not only myths about generous social benefits in Norway but also who receives them.

“It’s a myth that the Norwegian welfare state covers everyone completely,” Yngvar Åsholt, a director of state welfare agency NAV, told newspaper Dagsavisen. A considerable portion of those who are unemployed, he noted, take care of themselves and only half receive what’s called dagpenger, a set amount of direct payment based on a daily rate that can be equal to 62.4 percent of their earlier income. It can be distributed for up to two years.

“Compared with other countries, I’d say we have a social welfare system that’s about average,” Åsholt said. “Some countries have more generous systems, but there are also those with less generous systems. And when benefits are about to run out, many people become willing to go into other lines of work and then find jobs.”

Analysis revealed surprises
Included among the long-term unemployed in Norway are as many as 27,000 citizens or legal residents who are out of work but receive neither unemployment benefits nor other forms of social welfare benefits. A new analysis of unemployment statistics for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 reveals that NAV does not open up its coffers for everyone. The analysis, according to Åsholt, offered quite a few surprises.

Less than 10 percent of those registered as unemployed for more than two years receive welfare benefits, even after their unemployment benefits run out. And the vast majority of immigrants in Norway receive no unemployment or welfare benefits at all.

“Among the unemployed who come from countries outside the European Economic Area, 13 percent received financial assistance in 2012,” Åsholt told Dagsavisen. “We think this is a relatively low figure, since most of them are refugees with few ties to the labour market. Very few of them actually receive daily cash allowances.”

Among those unemployed who are citizens of countries within the European Economic Area, 4 percent received welfare benefits in Norway, according to the analysis. Work migrants from Poland, Latvia, Estonia and several other European countries only account for a minimal degree of long-term social benefits if they lose their jobs.

Far more native Norwegians on welfare
Instead, according to the analysis, immigrants tend to tackle the challenges of unemployment themselves and often very well, compared to unemployed workers born in Norway.  Among them, fully 9 percent received social welfare benefits in 2012, more than twice the rate of immigrants.

Åsholt noted that only those with no visible means of support, either through income or other means, qualify for long-term welfare benefits. That means those with savings or employed spouses who can support them often are denied benefits. Asked whether NAV requires people to sell their car or holiday home, for example, and exhaust their savings before qualifying for benefits, Åsholt said that evaluations are made in each individual case. “But the main rule is that if you can support yourself through use of other assets, you’re supposed to do so,” he added.

Those losing jobs in Norway nonetheless qualify for unemployment benefits until they find new work, for up to 104 weeks. Young Norwegians whose parents no longer are legally obligated to support them have also been known to apply for NAV benefits if they drop out of school and don’t find work. Dagsavisen reported that an estimated 300,000 Norwegians face unemployment for various reasons, but that it’s short-term for the majority. There also are various forms of unemployment benefits, including paid programs aimed at getting people back to work.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund