New agreement for an inclusive working life
In December 2005 the social partner organisations and national authorities in Norway signed a new agreement for an inclusive working life. As such the efforts to reduce sickness absence will continue. At the same time greater efforts will be made to make older people stay longer in employment, and improve the labour market situation of immigrants and other vulnerable groups.
In December 2005 the social partner organisations and the national authorities signed a new agreement for an inclusive working life (IA-avtale). The new agreement runs from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2009 . It carries on the work carried out in relation to the first agreement of intent concluded in the autumn of 2001 (NO0110107F; NO0311104F; NO0301104F). The objectives of the former agreement are thus continued; reduce the rate of sickness absence and the number of disability pensioners, and to achieve a more inclusive working life for individual workers, the work place and society. While emphasis was previously placed on retaining older employees in employment and to increase the recruitment of people with impaired functionality to working life, the overall goal now has been extended to also include improving the recruitment into employment of all vulnerable groups in the labour market, among others persons with immigrant background.
Part of the agreement entails a commitment by the national authorities not to make any changes to the existing sick pay scheme, affecting employees or employers. Discussions surrounding the sick pay scheme and on the importance of reducing sickness absence in working life, which were important justification for the agreement in the first place, has received the most attention of the various objectives of the agreement. The initial goal was a 20% reduction in sickness absence from the 2 quarter of 2001 to the end of 2005 (the first IA-agreement expiration date). So far the reduction in the sickness absence rate has been 10% from 2 quarter of 2001 to 3 quarter of 2005. The reduction has taken place in the latter parts of the agreement period, following a substantial increase over several years (NO0501103F). The objective stipulated in the new agreement is a reduction in sickness absence by 20% from 2001 to 2009.
The social partners stress the importance of increasing the average departure age from working life, i.e. encouraging more older employees and employees with impaired functionality to stay longer in employment. It is generally recognised that this objective has not been given due consideration, and efforts will be intensified in this area. In the course of the first 6 months of 2006 objectives and measures will be further specified, both at national- and company level, and will also include a review of the economic measures that exists today.
The evaluation of the previous IA-agreement (2001-2005) found that measures by and large have been directed at those already in employment, and that the agreement only to a limited degree has contributed to improving the situation of those located outside the labour market. Focus in the future will be directed at recruitment to working life of people without proper employment relationships. It is pointed to the need to increase efforts against discrimination in working life, among others discrimination of employees with immigrant background.
The labour market parties are on the whole content with the fact that a new agreement for an inclusive working life has been concluded. The new Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, Mr Bjarne Håkon Hansen, point to the difficulties with which many immigrants gain entry into working life, and express satisfaction with the fact that the social partners regard this as the most important challenge in Norway. He further states that he intends to invite the social partners to participate in developing the plan of action for integration of immigrants, to be published in the autumn 2006.
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