Labor Migration in Europe: examples from Norway

Norway as a country has been relatively lax about immigrant migration for the last 30 years, mainly because of having a shrinking population. The migrants have come on terms of seeking asylum, family reunification, and for employment. Those coming for employment possibility are interesting to study in the terms of labor economics. This population provides a good sample of what would happen if borders were opened. Bratsberg discusses this in his essay about the immigrant labor market in Norway, which is considered the welfare state. The findings point to a unsettling trend.
If immigrants are required to be employed upon arrival, then employment is quite high, logically, within the host country, superseding the native population employment rate. In his research, Brandsburg reviewed employment data for immigrants arriving in 1975/1976 and following them until the year 2000. He specifically focused on male employment rates, and different trends quickly became clear. Male employment was very high for the first 10 years, with 96% of migrants employed versus 86% of natives, but after that it dropped about 50%, much lower than the native population, matched for age and education. The family dynamic of the males providing for the family and the females being housewives and many children does not support continued employment. Most of these families, 90 percent, received some sort of social welfare, and so were able to continue to support itself. 74% of the non-employed labor migrants and 28% of their non-employed spouses received a permanent disability pension. The Norwegian welfare system has a high replacement ratio for household heads with low labor earnings, a nonworking spouse, and many children, finds Bratsberg, and provides a low incentive to work.

These findings do not bode well for prospective labor migrants. As this is the most comprehensive study on the economic development of migrant labor, it could easily be used as an example of what the market would face were some of the major countries facing population shrinkage to open their borders. Germany, for example, has a similar welfare system, and has been considering opening their borders for many years to provide a labor force for many of the not-so-favorable positions that citizens tend to avoid. However, given the current findings, it seems that, although in the short-term labor migrants contribute to the overall welfare of the system, a good percentage of these turn to leeching off the welfare system after a set period of time, about 10 years after migration. It might be concluded that these migrants then do more harm than good, as they spend the rest of their lives receiving benefits without continuing to contribute to the system, causing the governments of these countries to be saddled with the cost.

from: When Minority Labor Migrants Meet the Welfare State
By Bernt Bratsberg, Oddbjørn Raaum, Knut Røed
Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 28, No. 3 (July 2010), pp. 633-676


5 thoughts on “Labor Migration in Europe: examples from Norway

  1. This is something that the whole of Europe is now coping with, but I think that the west has been also taking alot from the countries of these migrants. I am not giving them right to use the welfare system but i think its just some kind of pay-back time. In my opinion everybody that can work should work

  2. I agree that everybody who is able to work should do so, but when the Norwegian welfare system doesn´t provide incentives to that, for being too generous, it´s not the problem of immigrants. They benefit from the system as well as the native population. Maybe the government should control or restrict a distribution of social benefits to someone who has been working just few years and stopped it without any reason.

  3. would it be correct to state that the Norwegian Government is extremly generous? It nearly gives the people of Norway the excuse not to work. Everybody that has the incentive to work should work. As Lenu11 states it is not the problem of the immigrants. Every country has immigrants settling but Norway more than any country gives them the excuse to migrate there as they receive the outstanding benefits. The Government should implement ways of reducing the hand out of benefits by assessing those who deem themselves unable to work. They should also try to implement the idea of back to education for those to receive benefits.

  4. It’s not ok to exploit a country in this way, as the country has given migrants a new way of live and I honestly wonder about them. There are so many people who would like to work and cannot because they are sick or simply do not have job opportunities in their country. Simply, the problem is that the government failed there and the Norwegian welfare system is not in the right order, otherwise it would not be so easy to get welfare assistance. These people are a bad example for all migrants across Europe.

  5. I agree this may increase Norway’s population and provide an increase in workforce for the country, however, in my opinion, the government must take into consideration the state the USA is in at the moment because of letting Mexicans come into their country. this doesn’t necessarily mean Norway will be in the same situation, however, the government of Norway must limit the allowance of immigrants to do as much to prevent that situation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s