Working conditions in Norway

What can you expect from the Norwegian labour market and a Norwegian employer? What kind of rights do you have and where can you find more information? From the menu below you can find answers related to all these kinds of questions.


1. Short overview of the labour market
2. How to find a job
3. How to apply a job
4. Kinds of employment
5. Employment contracts
6. Self-employment
7. Remuneration
8. Working time
9. Leave (annual leave, parental leave etc)
10. Unemployment insurance
11. Sickness insurance
12. Ending employment
13. Representation of workers
14. Labour disputes - strikes
15. Vocational training

1. Short overview of the labour market


The registered unemployment rate for Norway has decreased slightly during the last year due to positive developments in the Norwegian and international economic situation over the past year. As of January 2011 the rate is 3.1 % of the work force and is expected to remain stable during 2011.


There has also been an increase in the number of vacancies registered by NAV the past year, and a recent survey of employers has shown that the demand for labour both within Norway and from other countries is expected to continue to rise slightly in the near future. Most occupational categories have registered more vacancies during the past year, but the greatest increases in vacancies the last year has been within bulding and construction sector, heavy industry as well as in engineering and ICT.


The public sector has however seen a reduction in the number of vacancies, especially in the educational sector with fewer positions being advertised for teachers and youth workers..But unemployment is still relatively low in Norway compared to many other countries and in both public and private sector the number of job vacancies iis expected to increase somewhat in the coming year.


The lowest unemployment rate is registered in the county of Sogn og Fjordane on the west coast of Norway (approx. 2,4 %). The highest rate is found in the southern counties of Oslo, Østfold and Aust-Agder (approx. 3,9-4,0 %).


The demand for unskilled workers in Norway is not expected to rise in the coming year, but some sectors are expected to experience a continuing demand for highly skilled workers:


- Health personnel (specialists, general practitioners, dentists, nurses and other skilled workers)

- Engineers in most fields (especially oil and petroleum, maritime sector)

- Highly skilled construction workers

- Transport workers (lorry and bus drivers)

- Highly skilled IT personnel

- Cooks and bakers

- Skilled industrial workers (pipefitters, welders, CNC operators, miners) 


2. How to find a job in Norway



Most vacancies in Norway are advertised on the Internet. The biggest database of vacancies is the NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation) website. Vacancies in Norway can also be found on the Europaportalen website. Most companies have their own websites. You may find vacancies here which are not advertised anywhere else. Use the Yellow Pages to find the addresses.


NAV service centre:

Call +47 800 33 166 (Monday – Friday, 08.00 – 18.00) for information on vacancies. This service can also send out job ads that may be of interest, but these are only in Norwegian. Consider what kind of job you want and where in Norway you want to live and work before you make the call.



Most newspapers advertise vacancies. The biggest of these is Aftenposten, and the Sunday edition of this has a separate jobs supplement where all the ads placed over the previous week are listed.


Open job searches:

There is a huge ‘grey market’ for vacancies – vacancies which are not advertised. These vacancies can be found by sending open job applications to the relevant companies. It is important to follow up your application with a telephone call. At Nortrade you can search for Norwegian companies, products and services and Yellow Pages also provides address information.



NAV services are available from abroad. The job centres in all EU/EEA countries all work together via the EURES network, which is able to provide information on working and living conditions, etc. A jobs database is also available which contains vacancies in Norway and other countries.


Recruitment agencies:

You can register with a recruitment agency. These recruit employees for temporary positions in the first instance. A number of them specialise in particular professions and industries. These can be found in Yellow Pages.



3. How to apply for a job in Norway



Your application should be typewritten and be no more than two A4 pages long. Please be aware of the following:


- Read the advertisement carefully, and be sure that you are answering the questions they are asking 

- You should state in your application why you are applying for that particular position, or why you are sending an open application. 

- Make it clear that you know something about the company and that you have the necessary qualifications for the job, and how you meet their requirements. 

- Tell them about your motivation for the job, and ideally explain why you want to move to Norway. 

- Companies will always expect to see your CV and references. 

- Send your application by post or e-mail.



Your CV should ideally cover one side of A4, adding a photo is not common. It is important to make sure that it contains correct information, is readily legible and typewritten.


Your CV should include the following points:

- Personal details: your name, address, telephone numbers, e-mail address, date of birth, nationality and civil status. 

- Training: formal qualifications. If possible, you should state the equivalent Norwegian degree or education levels. It is always useful to explain the main content of the education programmes you followed. 

- Work experience: this is an extremely important part of your CV. Include a brief description of each relevant job/position. 

- Other qualifications: include verbal and written language skills and IT skills. Mention any positions of trust you have held, and other relevant qualifications. 

- Interests: in just a few lines, describe your interests and favourite leisure activities. 

- References: it is extremely important to make sure you provide at least two references from your current and/or previous employment, stating their position and telephone number. Ideally, your referees should be able to speak English.


It is important to be aware of the fact that we always start off by listing our latest training and work experience. It is also possible to use a standardised EU CV template known as Europass.



4. Kinds of employment


Essentially, you have to be 15 in order to enter into a work contract. Light work which does not impede health and compulsory schooling, such as newspaper delivery or cultural activities, is not included in this regulation.

When employing people under the age of 18, work must not impede schooling.


As an employee, you are entitled to a work contract for both permanent and temporary employment, whether full time or part time. This is laid down in the Norwegian Working Environment Act.


Temporary employment must be restricted and may be used for seasonal work and abnormal workloads at a workplace.


The most common working conditions involve 37.5 or 40 hours’ work a week, with five weeks’ holiday.


Au pairs

If you work as an au pair, you will be living as part of a family. You must not work more than five hours a day or 30 hours a week. A minimum of one day a week must be free. Au pairs are not covered by any form of wage contract or collective contract.



5. Employment contracts


As an employee, you are entitled to a work contract for both temporary and permanent employment, whether part time or full time.


A work contract should include the following:

- Name and address of the employer and employee

- Date the work contract comes into force

- Name of the workplace

- The employee’s duties and tasks

- The employee’s position

- Nature of the employment: temporary, part-time or permanent

- Any trial period and its length (in the case of limited-time employment)

- End date for the contract

- Wage and payment systems

- Working hours, any overtime arrangements

- Holidays, holiday pay

- Relevant collective/wage contracts

As a rule, any employment begins with a trial period. This must not exceed six months. Any trial period and the length of the trial period must be agreed in advance. Both the employer and the employee are entitled to a notice period of two weeks over this period. 


Notice must be given in writing and, as a rule, will be applicable as of the first of the month following submission of the notice. The notice period must be specified in the work contract. An employer must have good reasons for giving an employee notice. If you are absent from work on account of illness or injury, you cannot be given notice in the first six months of your absence from work. If you have been employed by your employer for five years, this protection period is twelve months.



6. Self-employment


As a citizen of the EU/EEA, you may live and set up a business in Norway. Companies set up in Norway have to be entered in the Brønnøysund register. You will then be given a company registration number which is used when dealing with tax authorities and customers. When you register, the authorities will check whether you are running an independent business.


‘Narvikstelefonen’, a free telephone service on +47 800 33 840, can provide you with information on setting up a business in Norway.


Næring og handelsdepartementet [the Ministry of Trade and Industry] will also be able to give you some useful information.


Næringsetaten [Department of Business Services] in the municipality in which you wish to reside will also be able to provide you with information.



7. Remuneration


You as the employee and your employer agree your wage from the outset – this is part of your work contract. Qualifications, theoretical and practical work experience, and seniority are all taken into account when your wage is set.


When wage contracts were made generally applicable in the building and construction industry, a minimum wage was also introduced. For skilled workers, this is NOK 132.25, or for unskilled workers with no experience of the industry NOK 118.00. People with a minimum of one year of experience of the industry are entitled to NOK 123.00.


Wage contracts and collective contracts are applied in most industries. These are negotiated between the employer and employee organisations. These wage contracts set the framework for wages within the relevant industry and/or company.


Norway has entered into bilateral tax agreements with the other EU/EEA countries so as to avoid double taxation. If you are going to work for a Norwegian employer, you have to pay tax in Norway. If you will be staying in Norway for less than six months, separate rules will apply: your local tax office can inform you of these. Your employer is obliged to deduct tax before paying you your wage. You will get a tax deduction card at your local tax office, where you will be told what percentage of your wage will be deducted in tax. If no tax card is given, 50% tax will be deducted. The average tax rate is approx. 33%. If you pay too much tax, you will receive a refund from the tax authorities the next year. Other rules may apply to people who commute to work or to employees on assignment in Norway. Your National Insurance payment of 7.8% is included in the tax you pay.


You will receive a wage slip when your wages are paid. This will show your wage and the amount of tax you have paid. Your wage will normally be paid into your bank account once a month.


People staying temporarily in Norway – less than two years – may be given a tax allowance of 10%, up to a maximum of NOK 40 000, of their gross income. Requirements in respect of this must be set forth when the tax deduction card is issued. The tax office for foreign affairs can provide you with more information.


At the end of the year, you will receive a wage and deductions slip showing the wage you have received over the year and the amount of tax you have paid. This forms the basis for completion of the ‘self assessment’ submitted on 30 April. You will receive a form completed by the tax authorities, but you will have to check and sign it.



8. Working time


Your working hours must not exceed nine hours a day, or 40 hours a week, in accordance with the Norwegian Working Environment Act. Shorter working hours may be agreed in a collective contract/wage contract or in an individual contract. Nowadays many people work a 37.5-hour week.


You may be entitled to work shorter hours for health-related, social or similar reasons as long as the reduction in your working hours does not cause insurmountable problems for your employer.



Work in excess of 40 hours a week is considered to be overtime. For overtime, you must be paid a minimum of 40% more than your standard hourly wage. This is applicable when overtime is imposed on employees, and for employees who work days. If you work shifts, afternoons or nights, you will receive overtime payments for every hour you work over 36 or 38 hours a week. There is no statutory requirement to pay overtime to people in managerial positions. People are not normally allowed to work more than 200 hours of overtime a year.


Night work

Night work is done between 22.00 and 06.00.


Essentially, working nights is not permitted, although the Working Environment Act provides for a range of exceptions in the transport sector, health services, hotels, restaurants and various industries, for example.


Working on Sundays and public holidays

Essentially, working on Sundays and public holidays is not permitted. But nowadays there are a range of exceptions to this which are authorised by the Norwegian Working Environment Act. If you work on a Sunday, you are entitled to a day off on the next Sunday. You must be paid extra for working on Sundays and public holidays.



When your working day is in excess of 5½ hours, you must take at least one break during that time. This break must be counted as working time if the employee is not allowed to leave the place of work.



9. Leave (annual leave, parental leave, public holidays etc) 


The Norwegian Annual Holiday Act entitles all employees to holiday time every year. The Act is applicable to all, in the public and private sector alike. The intention is to give everyone the opportunity to take a holiday, and to ensure that employees are entitled to holiday pay. You are entitled to four weeks’ plus one day’s holiday in a holiday year. An entitlement to four extra days off has been agreed in a number of industries and wage areas. This means that most employees are entitled to five weeks’ holiday. The holiday year follows the calendar year.


Employees aged over 60 are entitled to an extra holiday week.


You earn your entitlement to holiday pay in the calendar year preceding the holiday year, the year in which the holiday is taken. You have to have been employed for the entire qualifying year to be entitled to holiday pay equivalent to your full wage if you take your full holiday entitlement. If you have not been employed for long, you are entitled to full holiday, but your holiday pay will be set in relation to how long you have been employed at your company. You are not entitled to your regular wage during your holidays.


When you stop working for your employer, you will receive accrued holiday pay with your last wage payment. You will not be entitled to holiday pay in any new job you may take until you have accrued holiday pay.


It is not up to the employee to decide when to take holiday. The employer is entitled to decide this, but is obliged to discuss it with the employee and/or representative first. You are entitled to take three consecutive weeks of holiday between 1 June and 30 September.


If you fall ill just before taking a holiday, you will be entitled to postpone it. In such cases, you must provide a doctor’s certificate. Your request for postponement of your holiday must be submitted at the latest on the last working day before your planned holiday. If you fall ill over the course of your holiday, a minimum of six days, you will be entitled to take a corresponding number of holiday days at a later date. You must present a doctor’s certificate on your first day back at work.


Public holidays:

1 January, New Year’s Day

Palm Sunday

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Easter Sunday

Easter Monday

Ascension Day

1 May

17 May, National Day of Norway

Whit Sunday

Whit Monday

25 December, Christmas Day

26 December, Boxing Day



10. Unemployment insurance

If your employment is terminated or you become unemployed for other reasons, you must contact your local NAV office immediately to register as unemployed. When you are unemployed, you can apply for ‘unemployment benefit’. NAV is the body that will deal with your application. With your application enclose confirmation of your unemployment, the date on which you last worked and the reason for your unemployment. Your income must also be documented.


Your unemployment benefit will be calculated from the income you had over the last calendar year, or your average income over the past three years. Tax must be paid on unemployment benefit. Unemployment benefit will be paid out for up to two years. You will be deemed to be ‘long-term unemployed’ if you are unemployed for six months.


You may also be entitled to unemployment benefit if you are granted a full-time or part-time leave of absence. In such instances, you must get in touch with NAV at the earliest opportunity.


If you become unemployed in Norway and do not meet the requirements for unemployment benefit, your earned entitlements may be transferred from another EU/EEA country. In such instances, you will need form E-301 from the country where you worked over the past three years. Your application for unemployment benefit must be submitted to your nearest NAV office.



11. Sickness insurance

If you are an employee in Norway, you have the same rights as Norwegian citizens via Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance]. To be entitled to sick pay, you have to have worked for four weeks.


If you are ill, you must notify your employer of your absence due to illness on the first day you are ill, and if you are absent from work for more than three days, you have to present a doctor’s certificate. Your employer will also pay your salary when you are ill. Your employer will have his money refunded by Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance] following the period when employers are obliged to provide finance. You may receive sick pay for up to one year.


In Norway, there is an Act relating to insurance against injury at work. This means that insurance must be provided for you via your employer to cover you for accidents in the workplace. If you have an accident or suffer injury in connection with your work, you or your employer must contact the Arbeidstilsynet [Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority] without delay.



12.Ending employment


When you enter into a work contract, the end date of your employment will be stated if the job is a temporary one. It is then expected that your position there will be terminated once the contract has expired.


The end date of your employment is not mentioned if you have permanent employment. In such cases, you normally have a mutual notice period of three months. When you enter into a work contract, a six-month trial period is generally applied, with two weeks’ mutual notice permitted. Notice must always be given in writing. Employers must confirm in writing the reasons for giving notice, and this letter must be sent by registered mail.


The pensionable age in Norway is 67. The pensionable age is lower than the standard 67 in some industries and professions. The police, the military, pilots, divers and firemen are all subject to lower retirement ages. To receive a full pension when you retire, you have to have made pension contributions for 40 years.


In Norway, there is an Act relating to insurance against injury at work. This means that your employer has to insure you so that if you suffer from an injury at work which leads to disability, you will be covered by the policy and receive compensation.



13. Representation of workers


Joining a trade union is standard practice in Norway. This is viewed as a positive thing by both employers and employees. The organisation level is approx. 53%. The figure varies widely between industries and between the private and the public sector.


The main national organisations – Akademikerne [Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations], Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO) [Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions], Universitets og høyskoleutdannedes organisajon (Unio) [Confederation of Unions for Professionals] and Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund (YS) [Confederation of Vocational Unions] – have around 1 517 000 members, amounting to some 93% of organised employees. Each of these organisations has a number of membership associations which cover different training, industries and professions. You can join by contacting one of the organisations or a representative at your workplace.

The trade union organisations have extensive rights in respect of information and negotiations. This includes the trade unions’ entitlement to negotiations with the employer and their organisations, including all conditions relating to the relationship between employer and employee. Central wage contracts are entered into between the trade union organisations and the relevant employer organisation.


The Norwegian trade union movement is also a crucial factor in society and takes part in industry committees and in hearings of relevance for Norwegian working life. The trade union organisations maintain close European cooperation. Get in touch with the trade union organisation in your country, this may also provide you with useful information.



14. Labour disputes - strikes


The main agreement between the parties in Norwegian working life forces the parties (the employee and employer organisations) to offer a labour peace guarantee for the period of validity of a collective contract. Strikes and lockouts are hence illegal if these take place in connection with conflicts during the labour peace guarantee period. The organisation of strikes and/or lockouts is legal in connection with negotiations over collective contracts, but only when there is a breakdown in negotiations.


The main negotiations take place every two years, resulting in a two-year contract being signed. The contract is reviewed in the interim year.


Generally, there are few strikes and lockouts in Norway. But since these take place on a national level, a large number of employees get involved. The involvement of the authorities through compulsory arbitration and transfer of negotiations to compulsory mediation attempts has always been a central way for the authorities to bring strikes and lockouts to a close. This is also controversial, particularly for groups denied the right to go on strike.


If an employee is called out on strike, the individual in question will not receive a wage, but he will receive strike pay from the relevant trade union organisation. They all have large strike funds set aside for such purposes.



15. Vocational training


The term Vocational Education and Training refers to practical activities and courses related to a specific occupation or vocation, aimed at preparing participants for their future careers. Vocational training is an essential means to achieve professional recognition and improve chances to get a job. It is therefore vital that vocational training systems in Europe respond to the needs of citizens and the labour market in order to facilitate access to employment.


Vocational education and training has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European Community. It is also a crucial element of the so-called EU Lisbon Strategy, which aims at transforming Europe into the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society. In 2002 the European Council reaffirmed this vital role, and established yet another ambitious goal – to make European education and training renowned globally by the year 2010 – by championing a number of world-class initiatives, and in particular by strengthening cooperation in the area of vocational training.


EU initiatives for the promotion of vocational training cooperation


In its efforts to promote a collaborative approach to the development of vocational training systems in Europe, the European Union makes use of a variety of instruments and implements a wide series of programmes and initiatives.



Socrates advocates European cooperation in all areas of education. This cooperation takes different forms:

- mobility (moving around Europe),

- organising joint projects,

- setting up European networks (disseminating ideas and good practice), and

- conducting studies and comparative analyses.


In practice, Socrates offers people grants to study, teach, undertake a placement or follow a training course in another country. It provides support for educational establishments to organise teaching projects and to exchange experiences. It helps associations and NGOs in organising activities on educational topics, etc.


Leonardo da Vinci

The Leonardo da Vinci programme, adopted in 1994, has as a main objective the implementation of the EU’s training policy. It is one of the major instruments supporting trans-national mobility in Europe and provides funding to public and private organisations active in training issues. Leonardo also supports placement and exchange projects, study visits and trans-national networks, amongst others.


Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe

Lifelong learning is a process that involves all forms of education – formal, informal and non-formal – and lasts from the pre-school period until after retirement. It is meant to enable people to develop and maintain key competencies throughout their life as well as to empower citizens to move freely between jobs, regions and countries. Lifelong learning is also a core element of the previously mentioned Lisbon Strategy, as it is crucial for self-development and the raising of competitiveness and employability. The EU has adopted several instruments for the promotion of adult education in Europe.


A European area of lifelong learning

In order to make lifelong learning a reality in Europe, the European Commission has set itself the objective of creating a European Area of Lifelong Learning. In this context, the Commission focuses on identifying the needs of both learners and the labour market in order to make education more accessible and subsequently create partnerships between public administrations, suppliers of educational services and civil society.


This EU initiative is based on the objective of providing basic skills – by strengthening counselling and information services at a European level, and by recognising all forms of learning, including formal education and informal and non-formal training.



Grundtvig is one of the actions of the EU education programme Socrates and aims primarily at improving the quality of vocational adult education. It also seeks to promote exchanges and cooperation that facilitate opportunities and access to lifelong learning for EU citizens.


EU organisations promoting vocational education in Europe

With the objective of facilitating cooperation and exchange in the field of vocational training, the EU has set up specialised bodies working in the field of VOCATIONAL TRAINING.


The European Centre for Vocational Training (CEDEFOP / Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle) was created in 1975 as a specialised EU agency for the promotion and development of vocational education and training in Europe. Based in Thessaloniki, Greece, it carries out research and analysis on vocational training and disseminates its expertise to various European partners, such as related research institutions, universities or training facilities.


The European Training Foundationwas established in 1995 and works in close collaboration with CEDEFOP. Its mission is to support partner countries (from outside the EU) to modernise and develop their systems for vocational training.

Related articles

Latest articles

The Fishy Biotech Future

There is something fishy about two of the Research Council’s six large projects under the new strategic initiative “Digital Life.”

Engineering Nanoparticles to Boost Oil

Norwegian scientists are combining nanotechnology with petroleum research to enhance recovery. In the future, even nanoparticles from trees could squeeze out more oil.

Ship Energy Efficiency: The Fourth Wave

Shipping has seen three waves of energy efficiency trends since 2007. The latest buzz is the Big Data revolution.

Sustainable Fish Farming Solutions: From Feed to Egg

The challenge of rising fish feed and sea lice costs is stimulating new sustainable technology solutions in Norwegian aquaculture. In the future, producers might raise salmon in egg-shaped offshore farms.

Standardization Key During Low Oil Price

The Norwegian petroleum industry is focusing on standardized solutions, inspired by Formula One and Lego, to help tackle rising field development costs.

Blue Growth for a Green Future

The Norwegian government recently launched its new maritime strategy “Blue Growth for a Green Future” aimed at keeping the country’s second largest export industry competitive and sustainable.

New Development Licenses Spur Ocean Farming

Norway has initiated free development licenses to spur new technology concepts to tackle the aquaculture industry’s acreage and environmental challenges. Many of the applicants are innovative ocean farms.

Bucking the trend: Norwegian Shelf Still Attractive

The Norwegian Continental Shelf continues to be attractive even amidst the low oil price environment. Statoil’s giant Johan Sverdrup oil field development is just the latest example.

British Showing Great Interest in “Frozen at sea”

The British are the world’s largest consumers of cod. 70 percent is used in the “fish and chips” market. Lately several Norwegian owners of trawlers have discovered the British market for the “frozen at sea” concept.