Living and working in Norway

11 Agosto 2021

Data source: Eurostat

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Norway has a bilateral agreement with Eurofound and pays to be included in the European Working Conditions Survey, participating since 2000 (previous four editions). It also participated in the second edition of the European Quality of Life Survey in 2007–2008. Norway also acts as observers for the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) on Eurofound’s Governing Board. Furthermore, Eurofound maintains a Network of European Correspondents covering all EU Member States plus Norway, which provides expert national input relevant for the European debate. Via the network, Eurofound’s European Restructuring Monitor also monitors the employment impact of large-scale restructuring events, restructuring support instruments and restructuring-related legislation in the EU Member States and Norway.

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Norway: 94% of people are satisfied with working conditions in their job

Living and working in Norway and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Three rounds of the survey have been carried out to date: in April 2020 when most Member States were in lockdown, in July 2020 when society and economies were slowly reopening, and in March 2021 as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown and vaccine rollout. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, democracy and trust, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, the quality of public services, support measures and vaccinations during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are now available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in Norway.

 

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Correspondents in Norway

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Fafo and STAMI on behalf of the Norwegian Government

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Working life in Norway

About

  • Autore: Ester Bøckmann
  • Institution: Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research
  • Published on: Mercoledì, Agosto 11, 2021

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Norway. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Author: Åsmund Arup Seip 
Institution: Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research
Highlights updated on: 15 March 2021
Working paper: Norway: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2020

Norway was hit by the COVID-19 crisis in the middle of March 2020, with a second wave arriving in mid-October 2020. Norway has experienced low levels of infection compared with most European countries, and its health system has been successful in handling the tracing of infected cases in the community and providing the necessary hospital care. The government adopted several rescue packages to compensate businesses that had to close down or saw their operations restricted because of the introduction of measures to combat the pandemic. Employees who were temporarily laid off received compensation above the standard level and were given benefits for a prolonged period. Self-employed people and freelancers also received compensation. However, although the number of bankruptcies was low in 2020 because of the ability to defer tax, many smaller clothes shops lost their target markets and freelancers with irregular incomes faced difficulties.

Since the crisis struck in March 2020, the government has led the design and implementation of measures to handle infection risks and mitigate their effects. From the beginning of the pandemic, the government sought cooperation with the social partners and other actors in society and was open to petitions from interest groups. During March 2020, cooperation between the leader of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, the Chief Executive Officer of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and politicians in the government and in parliament set the tone for close tripartite cooperation. Although there were disagreements on specific matters, the government and the parliament worked closely with the social partners and other interest groups during the first months of the pandemic to create and implement measures to support businesses and to give the measures a social profile.

In autumn 2020, with a second wave of infection looming, the political opposition in parliament became more critical of the government’s proposals and often extended these measures. In January 2021, this group became even more active, developing its own crisis measures and amending the government’s proposals. The parties forming the minority government were forced by four opposition parties, who the media call ‘the gang of four’, to accept comprehensive support packages and an extension to the income security schemes until October 2021. In such parliamentary disputes, each party has tried to raise its profile. The upcoming general election may further impact the handling of the pandemic in Norway in the year to come.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Norway

 

2019

2020

% (point) change 2012 –2019

% (point) change 2019 –2020

 

Norway

EU27

Norway

EU27

Norway

EU27

Norway

EU27

GDP per capita

69,560

27,970

68,630

26,230

4.0%

11.5%

-1.3%

-6.2%

Unemployment rate – total

3.7

6.7

4.4

7.1

0.6

-4.1

0.7

0.4

Unemployment rate – women

3.4

7

4.1

7.3

0.8

-4.0

0.7

0.3

Unemployment rate – men

3.9

6.4

4.7

6.8

0.3

-4.3

0.8

0.4

Unemployment rate – youth

10

15

11.3

16.8

1.5

-8.7

1.3

1.8

Employment rate – total

78.3

73.4

78.2

72.9

0.1

2.4

-0.1

-0.5

Employment rate – women

75.7

67.9

75.8

67.5

-0.1

3.0

0.1

-0.4

Employment rate – men

80.7

79

80.4

78.3

0.1

1.8

-0.3

-0.7

Employment rate – youth

55.5

39.4

55.6

37.9

-1.5

-0.4

0.1

-1.5

Source: Eurostat – Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012–2020 (both based on sdg_08_10). Unemployment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–74 years, % active population) and youth (15–24 years) % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–64 years, unit % total population, employment indicator active population) % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

Between 2012 and 2019, Norway’s GDP grew 4%, and the country remained one of the most prosperous in Europe. Unemployment levels grew slightly during this time, increasing most among young people (1.5 percentage points) and the rates for all categories were about 2-4 percentage points lower than the EU averages, in 2019. Youth unemployment stood at 10.0% in 2019, compared with an EU27 average of 15%. Total employment rate stayed high during the seven. Total employment in 2019 was 78.3%, higher than the EU average of 73.4% for the same year. In 2020, GDP per capita decreased by 1.3% compared to 2019. Overall unemployment rate increased by 0.7 pp, while there was a 1.3 pp increase for the youth age category.

More information on:

Legal context

The Working Environment Act (Arbeidsmiljøloven) is the main piece of legislation concerned with the rights of the individual employee. The Act establishes the general requirements with regard to the working environment, including health and safety. The Act also regulates matters such as employment protection, protection against discrimination, employee rights in relation to transfers of undertakings, working time, as well as rights of information and consultation of employees (that are not covered by collective agreements).

The Labour Disputes Act (Arbeidstvistloven) includes rules for mediation and the use of the Labour Court for disputes in terms of collective agreements and industrial conflicts in the private and municipal sectors. For the state sector, the Civil Service Disputes Act (Tjenestetvistloven) mandates collective bargaining and procedures for mediation and arbitration. Basic agreements formed by trade unions and employer organisations complement Norwegian labour law by defining overall aims as well as a set of principles and procedures that regulate the relationship between the labour market parties in all sectors.

Industrial relations context

The system of collective bargaining took form during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, and the first national collective agreement was signed in 1907. A statutory framework came into place in 1915 and the first basic agreement between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) and the employer organisation N.A.F (Norwegian Employer Confederation, Norsk Arbeidsgiverforening) was concluded in 1935.

The Norwegian industrial relations system is a centralised one. Strong confederations on both the employee and employer side, together with the nationwide trade union federations and employers’ organisations, play an important role in collective bargaining. Industry-level collective agreements dominate, but they are supplemented by company-level negotiations under peace duty in large parts of the private sector.

Collective bargaining is based on the frontrunner or trend-setting industries model. The rationale has been, and still is, that the framework for wage increases is determined by the price increase in the international export markets and productivity increases in the export industries. In addition, currency rates influence the competitiveness of the export industries, and monetary policy (and changes in this) is an important factor in the model too. Public institutions are important in the coordination process.

The industrial relations have been stable the last three years, following the normal scheme of renegotiating collective agreements every second years (2018 and 2020), and wage increases every year. In 2020, the Covid-19 breakout in Norway resulted in a partly lock-down the 12th of March, with a gradual opening in May. Since then, the infection rates were low and stable, before it increased again during the last quarter of 2020. The immediate impact on industrial relations was that the planned centralised collective bargaining round in March, was postponed until August. The negative shock on the economy due to measures taken to control Covid-19 breakouts resulted in conservative wage demands. Still, bargaining along other dimensions than wage, led to a few strikes during the last six months of the year.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Norway.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has the administrative responsibility for the Working Environment Act and the Labour Dispute Act and for institutions such as the Labour Inspectorate Authority, the Labour Court and the National Mediator, and tripartite bodies such as the Norwegian Technical Calculation Committee for Wage Settlements and the Advisory Committee on Labour Market and Pension Issues. The authorities’ role is to facilitate coordination and to provide the regulatory framework for wage bargaining, as well as setting up institutions that can resolve disputes. Normally, state involvement in wage settlements will be a matter for the government and the prime minister, and such decisions are normally made on ad hoc basis and by request from the bargaining parties. In previous periods of economic downturns, cooperation on income policy has taken the form of social pacts. The authorities will also get involved in a labour dispute if it endangers life and health or society. In such cases, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs would discuss the situation with the public authority responsible for the sector as well as the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision.

The Working Environment Act is divided into public law provisions enforced by the Labour Inspection Authority, and private law provisions enforced by the employee, usually supported by the trade union for unionised employees. In order to enforce their private legal rights, employees have to bring their case in front of the court. Collective agreements are enforced by the bargaining parties and brought to the Labour Court. For some provisions in the Working Environment Act, decisions are made by a committee (Tvisteløsningsnemnda), but its decisions can be appealed to the courts. Rights that can be put in front of the committee are related to working time schedules, leave and priority rights for part-time workers. The committee is composed of a neutral leader plus two members from the employer side and two members from the trade union side.

The Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet) is a government agency under the authority of the Ministry of Labour. The task of the Labour Inspection Authority is to ensure that enterprises comply with the public law regulations of the Working Environment Act through, for example, information, guidance and supervision. The Labour Inspection Authority can also approve working time arrangements that depart from the Working Environment Act, within limits. The inspectorate has tasks relating to other Acts too. Over the last few years, the authority’s activities have increased, as they have been given an important role in the supervision of pay and working conditions in industries with generally applicable collective agreements.

Provisions in collective agreements can be extended to apply to all persons performing work within an industry or a geographic area in accordance to the General Application Act. The decision to do so is taken by the Tariff Board (Tariffnemnda) which is an independent administrative body. It consists of five members – one chair, two neutral members, and one member from each of the peak confederations for employers and trade unions. The aim of the act is partly to ensure foreign employees terms of wages and employment equal to those of Norwegian employees (section 1-1).

Trade unions

About trade union representation

The right to join a trade union is protected by the Constitution section 101, which covers all workers. Trade union density in Norway was 50% in 2019 (Nergaard, 2020). Union density has seen a slight decrease since the early 1990s, when it was 57%, but it has remained stable over the last decade (Nergaard, 2018). Union density levels vary considerably between industries and sectors. Density is highest in the public sector and manufacturing industries. In parts of the private services sector, including retail trade and hotels and restaurants, only 18 % of workers were unionised in 2018 (Nergaard, 2020).

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees

49.8

50

50

49.9

50.4

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union density in terms of active employees

50

50

50

50

50

Nergaard 2020

Trade union membership in 1,000s (total including non-active)

1,793

1,814

1,831

1,864

1,904

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union membership in 1,000s (total including non-active)

1,793

1,814

1,831

1,864

1,904

Nergaard 2020

Main trade union confederations and federations

The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) is the largest trade union confederation, with 25 affiliated trade unions and about half of all unionised workers. The second largest confederation is the Confederation of Unions for Professionals (Unio), whose 13 member associations mainly represent professional groups in the public sector, including teachers, nurses, police officers and employees in research and higher education. The two other main trade union confederations are the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne) and the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS). Akademikerne organises employees with higher academic education, including doctors, lawyers and technical professionals such as graduate engineers. YS is in direct competition with LO over many groups of workers, but has traditionally had a larger proportion of white-collar workers among its membership base.

Norway’s largest trade union federation is the LO-affiliated Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet), followed by the LO-affiliated Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet) and, thirdly, the Norway Union of Education (Utdanningsforbundet), which is a member of Unio.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Involved in collective bargaining

Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge)

LO

952,394 (2019)

Yes

Confederation of Unions for Professionals (Unio)

Unio

375,181 (2019)

Yes

Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne)

Akademikerne

220,005 (2019)

Yes

Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund)

YS

225,794 (2019)

Yes

Source: Statistics Norway: Nergaard 2020

The number of trade unions has declined slightly over time. There were 132 national trade unions in 1975, but that number had dropped to 88 unions by 2013. The smaller trade unions in particular have disappeared, mainly through mergers, but there have also been mergers between larger unions.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Companies do not have to join an employers’ organisation, but rather they do so voluntarily. Companies can be members of an employers’ organisation without being bound by a collective agreement. Organisational density on the employer side in the private sector has increased somewhat over time. Whereas the employer density rate was estimated at around 50% in 1995, and was stable up to until year 2000, it has increased sice. In 2019 it is estimated at approximately 70% in the private sector (Alsos et al. 2021). Larger companies are more often members of an employers’ organisation, while the organisational density rate among smaller businesses is lower. If the public sector is included, the density is between close to 80% (2017).

The increase in employer density has not led to a similar increase in collective bargaining cover, indicating that many of the new members are not bound by collective agreements. In 2019, Norway experienced an increase in collective bargaining coverage for the first time over the last two decades (Nergaard, 2020)

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Source

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

82,4%

81,2%

n.a.

80%

n.a.

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

69%

71%

71%

71%

73%

Nergaard, 2020

* Percentage of employees working in an establishment that is a member of any employers’ organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The largest employers’ organisation in the private sector is the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO). NHO organises around 28,000 member companies, with about 674,000 workers in industries such as manufacturing, construction and parts of private services (Nergaard, 2020).

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Year

Involved in collective bargaining

Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon)

NHO

27,620

2019

Yes

Enterprise Federation of Norway (Virke)

Virke

22,328

2019

Yes

The Employers’ Association Spekter (Arbeidsforeningen Spekter)

Spekter

283

2019

Yes

Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS)*

KS

900

2019

Yes

Source: Statistics Norway, Employers’ organisations, 2017. *) Including members of Samfunnsbedriftene, employer organisation for enterprises in the municipal sector.

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

Norway has a long tradition of different types of income policies and tripartite concertation. Such cooperation may take the form of social pacts, such as during the 1990s, or state aid to finalise negotiations.. The social partners also cooperate on other non-pay issues, such as the Inclusive Working Life Agreement (Inkluderende arbeidsliv, IA-agreement), which was first concluded in 2001 and has been renegotiated and extended several times since then.

Various bodies facilitate income policy cooperation and tripartite concertation. Employers and employees meet regularly in the government’s Contact Committee (Kontaktutvalget), where matters of importance for wage formation are discussed between the government and the labour market parties. Another important committee is the Arbeidslivs- og pensjonspolitisk råd, established as a forum between the government and the labour market parties for dialogue on issues such as the labour market and pensions. Moreover, the Technical Calculation Committee for Income Settlements (Teknisk beregningsutvalg for inntektsoppgjørene, TBU) generates and presents statistics on wage developments and other relevant issues prior to the annual wage negotiations.

Employers and employees are also represented in a number of ad hoc public committees that handle matters that are relevant to working life.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

Technical Calculation Committee (Det tekniske beregningsutvalget for inntektsoppgjørene,TBU)

Tripartite

National

Contributes to a common understanding of the economic situation, which is seen as an imperative factor for the opening negotiations in the export sectors as well as for coordination across industries and sectors

Contact Committee (Kontaktutvalget)

Tripartite

National

Wage formation

Advisory Committee on Labour Market and Pension Issues

Tripartite

National

Labour law and labour market policies

Workplace-level employee representation

The main channel of employee representation at workplace level is trade union representatives through a system of single channel representation. Different bodies are established at company level to facilitate dialogue between employers and the trade union representatives (contact committees, works councils, etc.). Shop stewards have an important role in workplace representation and they are consulted in matters that concern the workplace. They are elected in accordance with regulations in collective agreements.

Provisions in the Working Environment Act give employee representatives rights to information and consultation. Such representatives cover local trade union representatives, but they also cover other representatives that are not elected in accordance with collective agreements.

The Norwegian legal framework provides employees with the right to be represented on company boards and in general assemblies. Normally, if a local branch of a trade union is established at company level, its board will take the initiative to draw up a list of potential candidates for elections to company boards. Cooperation may take place between trade union representatives and health and safety representatives in the company in a similar way.

At workplace level, health and safety delegates and working environment committees established by law play an important role too.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Shop steward (Tillitstvalgt)

Collective agreements (CA)

The elected shop steward

Yes

If the company is bound by a collective agreement

Working environment committees (Arbeidsmiljøutvalg, AMU)

Law and CA

HSE delegates and employer representatives

No

If the company has 50 employees or more, or if one side demands it and the company has 20 employees or more

HSE representative (verneombud)

Law and CA

HSE representative

No

If the company has 10 employees or more

Work councils (Bedriftsutvalg)

CA

Both sides. Number of members depends on the size of the company.

To work for the most efficient production possible and for the maximum well-being of all who work in the enterprise. Can be joint with working environment committees.

100 employees or more

Departmental committees (Avdelingsutvalg)

CA

Decided by the parties

Mainly the same as work councils, but only as regarding the department

200 employees or more and independent departments under their own management with the authority to make decisions on matters concerning the department/smaller companies with departments scattered geographically

Committees for group of companies (Konsernutvalg)

CA

A coordinating shop steward committee, bipartite committee of shop steward representatives and management, or others

Mainly the same as work councils

If there exists ‘an amalgamation of legally and/or administratively independent units (for example, limited companies and/or divisions) which financially and in part also administratively and commercially form one unit’, the parties ‘shall seek’ to establish such a committee

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in Norway.

Bargaining system

The dominant level of bargaining is sector- or industry-level bargaining. Bargaining rounds are dominated by the so-called trend-setting trade model for wage formation, which assumes that wage growth in the industries most exposed to international competition provides the framework for wage growth in other sectors of economic activity, including the public sector. The model presupposes a strong degree of coordination.

In most parts of the economy, a two-tiered bargaining system exists. Company-level negotiations in the private sector take place without any predefined economic framework but are based on results and the economic prospects of the company. In the public sector, funds are set aside in the central negotiations. Company-level negotiations take place after the central negotiations, and without the right to go on strike.

National collective agreements predominate and are legally binding for companies where the agreement has been made binding. For companies that are members of employers’ organisations, the trade union would normally have to organise a minimum of 10% of the employees in order to have the company covered by a collective agreement.

Wage bargaining coverage

No exact figures are available concerning the collective agreement coverage rate in Norwegian working life. Surveys among workers estimate the overall collective agreement coverage to be about 69% (Labour Force Survey, 2017), but such surveys tend to exaggerate the actual coverage in the private sector. Estimates based on register-based statistics suggest that around 63% of employees are covered by collective agreements. If we include the effect of generally extended agreements, around 71 percent of employees are covered by collective agreements (Alsos et al. 2021).

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources

Level

% (year)

Source

All levels

68 (2013)

2013 - ICTWSS

All levels

69 (2017)

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database

All levels

72 (2014)

2014 - LFS

All levels

61 (2006)

2006 – SES

All levels

71 (2010)

2010 – SES

All levels

72 (2014)

2014 – SES

All levels

n.a. (2018)

2018 – SES

All levels

app. 70% (2018)

Nergaard, 2018

All levels

app. 63%/71% (2019/20)

Nergaard, 2020; Alsos et al. 2021

Sources: Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-SxO), single answer for each local unit: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement – online dataset codes: [EARN_SES10_01], [EARN_SES14_01], [EARN_SES18_01] (Percentage of employees working in local units where more than 50% of the employees are covered under a collective pay agreement against the total number of employees in the scope of the survey); Nergaard, 2018; Nergaard 2020; Alsos, Nergaard & Svarstad 2021; OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database.

Bargaining levels

In most parts of the economy, a two-tiered bargaining system exists. Company-level wage negotiations take place after the central negotiations, and without the right to go on strike. The collective agreements establish a framework when it comes to working time, but company agreements are also important when it comes to working time arrangements and scheduling at company level for employees working outside the ‘normal’ working day (unsocial hours). It is possible to derogate from many of the working time provisions set down by the Act through collective agreements at the company level.

Levels of collective bargaining, 2019

 

National level* (Intersectoral)

Sectoral level*

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

X

 

 

 

X

X

Important but not dominant level

 

 

 

 

 

 

Existing level

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articulation

The industry-level collective agreements set a framework for the parties at company level that they have to respect. The collective agreements also regulate how company-level wage bargaining is to be conducted.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

The settlement period in both the private and public sector is two years, but allows for wage negotiations for the second year. During the biennial bargaining round, the entire contents of a collective agreement are open for revision. Bargaining is conducted at both sector and company levels, and centralised bargaining for wages is therefor usually supplemented with bargaining at company level, under a peace clause (Løken et al, 2013).

Most of the industry-level agreements expire on 31 March in major parts of the private sector, or on 30 April in the public sector and for some agreements in the private sector. There are exceptions, but no major ones.

Coordination

Bargaining rounds are dominated by pattern bargaining, by the so-called trend-setting trade model for wage formation, which assumes that wage growth in the industries most exposed to international competition provides the framework for wage growth in other sectors of economic activity, including the public sector. The model presupposes a strong degree of coordination – both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal coordination takes place partly through the adaptation of general guidelines for the wage negotiations at confederation level, and partly through signals given from the employer organisations to their companies on the economic situation. The peak confederations have committed themselves to the trend-setting model through tripartite commissions, and thereby ensure a vertical coordination.

Extension mechanisms

No long-standing tradition exists in Norway of making collective agreements generally applicable. However, since1993 the legal framework has allowed for the extension of nationwide agreements, or parts of these, if it is documented that foreign employees perform work on terms that are less favourable than those that apply pursuant to relevant nationwide collective agreements (General Application Act, Allmenngjøringsloven). In light of increasing labour migration from the new EU Member States that joined the EU in May 2004 onwards, key clauses of collective agreements have been made generally applicable within several industries.

Industries where key clauses of CA are generally applicable by January 2019:

  • Construction
  • Shipbuilding
  • Cleaning
  • Accommodation, restaurants and catering
  • Agriculture
  • Processing of fish
  • Electrical work
  • Road transport
  • Passenger transport by tour bus

Source: The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority

Some companies in the private sector comply with parts of the collective agreement on a voluntary basis by including a reference in the individual employment contract or by following wage rates that are agreed upon by the social partners.

Derogation mechanisms

Derogation is (with a few exceptions) not embedded in the collective agreements, but might in rare cases be agreed on. An option to postpone or disregard the general increase was part of the private sector agreements in 2003 and 2009 (to be agreed on at company level). As far as is known, few companies took advantage of this option.

Expiry of collective agreements

If a collective agreement is not brought to an end three months prior to the end of the predefined period, it will be prolonged by one year (see the Labour Dispute Act section 5 (3)).

Peace clauses

The parties to an agreement have a legal obligation to keep industrial peace during the validity of a collective agreement (Labour Dispute Act section 8; Act relating to Civil Service Disputes section 20). Peace clauses that regulate the use of industrial action in cases where a party demands that an agreement be made applicable in an enterprise not covered are common in collective agreements.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

During the last few years, measures to combat social dumping among migrant workers have been high on the agenda. As part of this, regulations for temporary agency workers have been addressed, both in regulations addressing hiring companies and temporary employment agencies. In 2014 the parties in the manufacturing sector decided to include temporary employment agencies in the scope of their industry collective agreement, and this was followed by other industries. This means that agencies will be bound by collective agreements covering the industry to which they send workers. However, so far only a handful of agencies are bound by a collective agreement.

Furthermore, gender issues related to the pay gap have played a role in the bargaining round when it comes to the profile of the general wage increase and local funds.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The right to use industrial action (arbeidskamp) is regulated by the Labour Disputes Act, which includes definitions of a strike and lockout. These terms also include blockades.

A strike (streik) is defined as ‘full or partial stoppage of work implemented by employees acting jointly or in concert in order to force resolution of a dispute between a trade union and an employer or employers’ association. Any action to block a company’s premises in order to prevent the labour force from working is also considered to be part of a strike.’

A lockout (lockout) is defined as ‘full or partial stoppage of work implemented by an employer in order to force resolution of a dispute between an employer or employers’ association and a trade union, regardless of whether other employees are hired to replace those locked out. Preventing the locked-out employees from acquiring other work is also considered to be part of a lockout.’

The right to use industrial action is limited to conflicts of interests and where the dispute has been mediated.

Industrial action developments, 2015–2019

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Working days lost, total

25,329

165,798

8,942

24,142

21,532

Number of strikes (‘work stoppages’)

7

14

10

11

8

Source: Statistics Norway, Work stoppages, Nergaard (2020)

 

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

Norway has a system of compulsory mediation in connection with bargaining: if the parties involved fail to come to an agreement, the dispute will be subjected to a process of mediation. This arrangement is an integral part of the bargaining system, and the state-appointed mediator (the National Mediator) will often help the parties involved in the final stages of negotiations. The system is not controversial and receives broad support from the social partners.

The Norwegian parliament may intervene in a labour dispute by adopting an act of compulsory arbitration if the conflict is perceived to threaten the life and health of the population. The use of compulsory arbitration is often controversial, and the Norwegian government has had to be careful in recent years not to resort to compulsory arbitration too early in a labour dispute.

Disagreement in company-level negotiations is usually resolved with help from the national organisations or by using various dispute resolution mechanisms.

Disputes over the interpretation of, or compliance with, collective agreements will ultimately be a matter for the Labour Court, and it is the parties to the agreement themselves that may bring a case before the court.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

Private legal issues as related to the employment contract will normally be brought before the ordinary courts – for example, in the case of dismissal. In that type of case, unionised workers will often be entitled to legal support from their representative trade union.

Public legal issues, such as work environment issues or workplace safety, may be dealt with by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet) or the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (Petroleumstilsynet) in the oil sector.

Dispute resolution commissions may also be used in some cases, and issues pertaining to discrimination may be brought before the Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud (Likestillings- og diskrimineringsombudet, LDO) or Tvisteløsningsnemnda as regards, for instance, working time schedules, leave and priority rights for part-time workers.

The National Mediator handled 41 disputes in 2018 and this dropped to only 25 in the following year. The volatility in numbers is because all collective agreements are renewed every even year, while odd years are mid-term years where only pay is being negotiated.

Use of dispute resolution mechanisms

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

National Mediator: total number of cases at national level

23

114

25

41

29

National Mediator: total number of cases at regional level

24

32

49

46

18

Source: National Mediator, Annual report 2017; 2019.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Norway.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

Children under 15 years of age or children who are attending compulsory education will normally not be allowed to work. People under 18 must not perform work that may be detrimental to their safety, health, development or schooling. There are no formal requirements to enter an employment relationship for Norwegian workers or people from the EEA. A written contract of employment shall be entered into as early as possible and at the latest one month following commencement of the employment (Working Environment Act, section 14-5).

Dismissal and termination procedures

Dismissals shall be given in writing and respect the terms of notice in the Working Environment Act or collective or individual agreements. Notice should be given to the employee in person or forwarded to his or her address. The notice shall inform the employee of their rights when it comes to negotiations, legal proceedings and more. Employees may not be dismissed unless this is objectively justified on the basis of circumstances relating to the undertaking, the employer or the employee.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The right to parental and maternity leave is laid down in the Working Environment Act, while the right to payment is laid down in the National Insurance Act (or collective or individual agreements). The right to leave does not specify the period that can be taken by fathers only, but the entitlement to pay for parts of the period is connected to the father’s quota. The father’s quota was increased from 2005 to 2013, and by 1 July 2013 it was 14 weeks. The quota was then reduced by the government that has been in office from 2013 to 10 weeks, and subsequently increased to 15 weeks in 2018.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Up to 12 weeks during pregnancy, mandatory six weeks after birth and nine weeks of maternal leave, as well as share of parental leave (up to 16 weeks).

Reimbursement

Three weeks prior to birth and a total of 15 weeks after birth is mandatory for mothers to gain reimbursement. Six of the 15 weeks must be taken immediately after birth.

Who pays?

National Insurance (and the employer if the parents are granted full payment above National Insurance level based on a collective or individual agreement).

Legal basis

Working Environment Act of 2005, chapter 12, and National Insurance Act of 1997, chapter 14.

Parental leave

Maximum duration

12 months or more if benefits are paid by the National Insurance. In addition, each parent is entitled to leave for up to 12 months for each birth.

Reimbursement

49 weeks with 100% pay or 59 weeks with 80% pay (based on income, but not income exceeding six times the basic amount – in 2016 maximum pay was NOK555,456 or approximately €62,000).

Multiple births: Additional five weeks for each child (100%) or seven weeks (80%). To be extended from 1 July 2018.

Who pays?

National Insurance (and the employer if the parents are granted full payment above National Insurance level based on a collective or individual agreement).

Legal basis

Working Environment Act of 2005, section 12, and National Insurance Act of 1997, section 14.

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

See above. Fathers are entitled to two weeks’ leave of absence in connection with childbirth or in order to help the mother.

Reimbursement

Based on collective agreements or company administrative regulations.

Who pays?

Employer if this is laid down in collective or individual agreements or company administrative regulations.

Legal basis

Working Environment Act of 2005, section 12

Sick leave

Sick leave is regulated by the National Insurance Act, chapter 8. The employer pays the first 16 calendar days of the leave, and after that payment is made by the National Insurance. Payment by the National Insurance is calculated on the basis of income. The daily rate is 1/260 of the calculation basis. The calculation basis cannot exceed six times the basic amount (in January 2019 that was NOK 581,298 or approximately €63,000). If the employment relationship is terminated while the employee is on sick leave, the National Insurance is responsible for paying the benefit. Employees may have better rights to sick payment based on collective or individual agreements.

Retirement age

The general retirement age is 72 years (from July 2015), although since 2011, the pension reform has made it possible to withdraw a pension from 62 years of age. All work until the age of 75 will count when it comes to earning rights. There are no gender differences in the provisions.

According to the Working Environment Act, employment may be terminated when an employee reaches 72, but a lower age limit (but not below 70) is allowed if it is combined with a satisfactorily occupational pension scheme and is objectively justified and does not involve disproportionate intervention (see section 15-13a).

    Pay

    Pay

    Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Norway and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

    Median gross wage per month, full-time employment, by year and gender

     

    2016

    2020

     

    NOK

    EUR

    NOK

    EUR

    All

    41,200

    4,297

    45,600

    4,457

    Men

    42,400

    4,422

    46,700

    4,564

    Women

    39,700

    4,141

    44,500

    4,349

    Source: Statistics Norway, Wages SN2007, 2017.

    Minimum wages

    Minimum wages are set within collective agreements following negotiations by the social partners. There is no statutory minimum wage in Norway. In some cases, collective agreements are made generally applicable, through extending the collectively agreed minimum wage to companies not bound by such an agreement.

    For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

    Collectively agreed pay outcomes

    For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

    Working time

    Working time

    Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Norway.

    Working time regulation

    The Working Environment Act sets a framework for working time, but these provisions may be derogated from in many cases. Which provisions can be derogated from, and how far parties can go in this respect, depend on who the parties of such an agreement are. Peak organisations will have the most extensive derogation rights, while parties at company level have more restricted rights. Companies may also apply to the Labour Inspectorate to be allowed to have working time arrangements that derogate from the Act.

    For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

    Overtime regulation

    Normal working hours may not exceed nine hours per 24 hours and 40 hours per seven days, and work outside these limits will be overtime work. If working time is calculated on average, other limits apply (see the Working Environment Act, chapter 10). Collective agreements set lower limits, usually 37.5 hours a week, with overtime starting after this. This limit is often used in individual agreements in companies that are not covered by collective agreements. Section 10-6 of the Working Environment Act defines overtime as ‘work in excess of agreed working hours’. Overtime work should be compensated by a minimum of 40%. Collective and individual agreements normally set the rate at 50% and 100% in evenings and during weekends.

    Part-time work

    23.8% of all employees in Norway were employed on part-time contracts in 2019. This figure has been more or less stable during the last 10 years. Part-time work is not defined by statutory law but is defined in some collective agreements. In Landsoverenskomsten, the collective agreement between Virke and LO/Handel og Kontor, for employees in trade and offices, part-time employees are defined as employees that on an annual basis are employed certain days of the week with full or reduced hours on these days, or workers who on an annual basis permanently work every day with reduced daily working hours.

    A prohibition on discriminating against part-time workers, as well as preferential rights, are included in the Working Environment Act, chapters 13 and 14. Such provisions can also be found in collective agreements.

    More women than men work part time in Norway but percentages for both categories of employees are above the EU average, as shown in the table below. This is partly due to the high proportion of Norwegian women who are working, as well as a labour market that is divided when it comes to gender. Female-dominated sectors with high rates of part-time work are health and social care, retail and the hospitality sector.

    Persons employed part-time in Norway and EU27 (% of total employment)

     

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    2019

    2020

    Total (EU27)

    18.2

    18.1

    18

    17.8

    17.8

    16.6

    Total (Norway)

    23.7

    23.8

    23.4

    23.8

    23.8

    23.3

    Women (EU27)

    30.2

    30

    29.8

    29.5

    29.4

    27.6

    Women (Norway)

    35.9

    35.7

    34.4

    35.6

    35.4

    34

    Men (EU27)

    8

    7.9

    7.9

    7.7

    7.8

    7.2

    Men (Norway)

    12.8

    13.1

    13.3

    13.3

    13.5

    13.6

    Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

    Involuntary part-time

    Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part-time because they could not find a full-time job.

    Persons employed in involuntary part-time in Norway and EU27 (% of total part-time employment)

     

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    2019

    2020

    Total (EU27)

    32.3

    31

    29.7

    28

    26.5

    25

    Total (Norway)

    21.9

    20.9

    18.7

    21.8

    20.8

    21.8

    Women (EU27)

    28.8

    27.7

    26.4

    25.2

    23.9

    22.5

    Women (Norway)

    22.3

    20.7

    19.2

    22

    21.5

    22.1

    Men (EU27)

    43.6

    41.8

    40.4

    37.2

    34.9

    33.1

    Men (Norway)

    20.6

    n/a

    17.2

    21.2

    19

    21.2

    Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

    Night work

    Night work is defined – according to the Working Environment Act (section10-11) – as work performed between 21:00 and 06:00. Work within this period is as a general rule not permitted. There are several exceptions to this rule, both for company agreements and if the nature of the work makes it necessary. On the initiative of the employee, part of the daily work can be undertaken between 21.00 and 23.00. This exception was introduced in 2017 in order to facilitate work–life balance, for instance for parents who have to bring/collect their children to preschool or school.

    Shift work

    For shift work, the weekly maximum working hours is reduced (see Working Environment Act section10-4). Maximum hours depend on the nature of the shift work; these could be 38 or 36 hours. Collective agreements have set the maximum level below the statutory legislation.

    Weekend work

    The Working Environment Act has special regulations for Sundays (section 10-10). As a rule, work is not permitted between 18:00 on Saturday and 22:00 on Sunday, unless necessitated by the nature of work. Exceptions can also be made by written agreement between local parties at companies bound by collective agreement (as for night work) and by an individual agreement in cases where the employee prefers an alternative day off according to their religious practice. There are also regulations on how often employees may work Sundays.

    Rest and breaks

    An employee shall have at least 11 hours continuous off duty in every 24-hour period, and 35 continuous hours in every seven-day period (section10-8). The daily off-duty period shall be placed between two main work periods, while the weekly off-duty period should as far as possible include Sundays. Exceptions from the provisions could be agreed on in companies bound by collective agreements, but with minimum rest periods of 8 and 28 hours as a main rule.

    Working time flexibility

    All employees are entitled to flexible working hours if this can be arranged without major inconvenience to the undertaking (see section 10-2 (3) of the Working Environment Act).

    Health and well-being

    Health and well-being

    Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Norway.

    Health and safety at work

    The main regulation on health and safety at work in Norway is the Working Environment Act of 2005.

    Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost

     

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    2019

    All accidents

    6,076

    5,595

    5,634

    5,909

    n.a.

    Percentage change on previous year

    6,7

    -7.9

    -0.7

    4.9

     

    Per 1,000 employees

    2.4

    2.4

    2.4

    2.4

     

    Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

    The survey on living conditions covers a number of physical and psychosocial issues. The data can be accessed on the Statistics Norway website.

    Psychosocial risks

    The Working Environment Act addresses issues related to psychosocial risk at work in chapters 2–9. Regulations affecting this issue can also be found elsewhere in the Act, for instance chapter 10 on working hours. Chapter 2 lays down the duties of the employer and the employees when it comes to provisions in the Act. Sections 2-4 and 2-5 outline regulations on protection of whistle-blowers. Chapter 3 lays down measures for the working environment, while chapter 4 lays down specific requirements. This starts with section 4-1, which provides a general requirement aimed at ensuring all employees have a working environment that is fully satisfactory when the factors in the working environment that may influence the employees’ physical and mental health and welfare are judged separately and collectively.

    Section 4-3 sets requirements regarding the psychosocial working environment, stating that the work shall be arranged so as to preserve the employees’ integrity and dignity. Effort shall be made to arrange work so as to enable contact and communication with other employees of the undertaking. Employees shall not be subjected to harassment or other improper conduct and shall be protected against violence, threats and undesirable strain.

    For more detailed information on health and well-being at work, please consult:

    Skills, learning and employability

    Skills, learning and employability

    Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Norwegian system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

    National system for ensuring skills and employability

    Following initiatives from the social partners as well as the Storting, the Norwegian parliament, a Norwegian reform for lifelong learning (the Competence Reform) was developed during the late 1990s. The main features of the reform were approved by the parliament in 1999 and included the decision to set up a national system for the validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning. The ultimate aim was to recognise these competencies in relation to the institutionalised education system as well as in a labour market context.

    The national validation system was a key building block of the reform, along with new statutory rights to primary and secondary education for adults, a new right to a leave of absence for educational purposes, the development of improved funding arrangements for learning and a Competence Development Programme to develop the market for further and continuing education (Skule and Ure, 2004).

    Kompetanse Norge is the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning and belongs to the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Its main goal is to contribute to supporting active citizenship, improving employability and increasing participation in education. The agency promotes access and participation in formal, non-formal and informal adult education through research, basic skills, integration, career guidance, programmes and subsidies. The agency is also involved in international cooperation and is the current national coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning. Kompetanse Norge also acts as the secretariat for the National Council for Tertiary Vocational Education (Nasjonalt fagskoleråd), where the social partners are represented. This council has appointed several working groups that cooperate with national expert committees, such as SRY (see below).

    The Council for Vocational Training (SRY) is the national body in which the social partners meet education authorities. Under the Education Act, the Council shall advise the Ministry, take the initiative to promote vocational training and promote cooperation between actors nationally and locally. The Council is appointed by the Ministry of Education and Research.

    The social partners play a key role in the apprentice scheme and participate in designing skill policies through various councils and hearings. The Basic Agreement LO-NHO has a chapter devoted to skills/competence development. The company shall identify employees’ needs for competence, and where there are gaps between the company’s current and future needs, this should be covered by appropriate training or other measures. The costs of continuing and further education in accordance with business needs are the company’s responsibility. The company and the employees are both responsible for ensuring that potential competency gaps are adequately covered. The agreement also states that it is important that the company has a system for documenting the individual’s experience, training and practice related to employment (OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report, Norway).

    Training

    Vocational education and training (VET), including apprenticeship, is integrated as an equal part of upper secondary education and is regulated by the same Acts that apply to general education. Labour market representatives from business, industry and public sectors are important to help identify new labour market and skills needs. In the decision-making system for upper secondary VET, therefore, the social partners hold the majority of seats in all advisory bodies and thus shape the provision of VET at this level. Social partners are consulted through the National Council for Post-secondary VET and two advisory bodies are consulted for technical and maritime education and health and social education, respectively. As part of the recognition process for programmes at this level, there should also always be a needs estimate. In higher education there is academic freedom, but cooperation with relevant labour market players is encouraged to ensure relevance of provision (Norway VET in Europe – Country report).

    Work organisation

    Work organisation

    Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

    For more detailed information on work organisation, please consult:

    Equality and non-discrimination at work

    Equality and non-discrimination at work

    Prohibition against discrimination is laid down in several acts, including the constitution. The Working Environment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of political views, membership of trade unions, sexual orientation, disability or age (see section 13-1). The section also directs the reader to other acts, most importantly the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act. The act bans direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, national origin, descent, colour, language, religion, ethical and cultural orientation and disability.

    Issues pertaining to discrimination can be brought before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (Diskrimineringsnemnda).

    Equal pay and gender pay gap

    The Gender Equality Act section 17 prohibits discrimination in the employment relationship, and this includes pay and working conditions.

    For the last 10 years, the pay gap has slightly decreased. According to numbers from the Technical Calculation Committee for Income Settlements (Teknisk beregningsutvalg for inntektsoppgjørene, TBU), the pay gap decreased from 2018 to 2019 for full-time employees. In 2019, their women in average earned 88.9% of what men earned, up 0.4 pp from 2018 . If part-time employees are included, the pay gap from 20108 to 2019 has decreased from 85 % in 2010 to 87.6% in 2019 (TBU, 20120, p. 25). Women’s median wage was 95.1 % of men’s in 2019.

    Issues pertaining to discrimination on pay can be brought before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

    The gender pay gap is also addressed by trade unions in wage bargaining, including the general wage increase (low-wage profile or other profile that favours women). In 2010 the social partners agreed to earmark part of the wage increase to be distributed at company level in order to reduce the pay gap.

    In general, wage transparency in Norway is good, and formal pay transparency instruments contribute to this. From 2015, a new electronic registration replaced the old sample wage registration. All employers in private and public sector are legally obliged to report monthly individual data on wages and employment to public agencies, including Statistics Norway. These data are used and published at an aggregate level by the Technical Calculation Committee for Income Settlements (Teknisk beregningsutvalg for inntektsoppgjørene, TBU).

    Collective agreements may entitle union representatives at the workplace the right to wage statistics showing wage levels and wage development by gender and groups.

    Quota regulations

    Since 2005, all public limited liability companies are required to have at least 40% female board members (see the Public Limited Liability Companies Act, section 6-11 a). There are also regulations on female members when it comes to the election of board members among employees.

    Other than that, there are no legal obligations for quotas. However, legislation that aims to combat discrimination allows positive special treatment of disadvantaged groups.

    Bibliography

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