Norway's skills challenges
Relationship between literacy proficiency and age
Trend scores in literacy, by age, foreign-born adults excluded
Source: OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing doi: 10.1787/9789264204256-en
Developing relevant skills
1. Ensuring strong foundation skills for all: while student performance in PISA 2012 is at, or above, the OECD average, the share of low performers in Norway has increased in recent years from 18.2% in 2009 to 22.3% in 2012. New data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) shows that on average, adults in Norway are more proficient in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments than the average across all participating countries. However, a relatively large share of the adult population in Norway has poor foundation skills. Looking to the future, perhaps of greater concern is the finding that Norway’s young adults are below average in literacy and are average in numeracy when compared with their peers in other countries.
2. Reducing drop-out: over the past decade educational attainment in Norway, as reflected in the proportion of 25-64 year olds holding an upper-secondary education or higher, has fallen from 85% in 2000 to 82% in 2011. A contributing factor has been the large number of students that drop out of upper secondary school. Persistently lower completion rates among students of vocational courses (62% in 2010) compared with students enrolled in more general courses (83%) are also a contributing factor.
3. Informing educational choices: across the OECD there are shrinking numbers of jobs in elementary occupations and production, a trend which is also seen in Norway. Better public data on current and projected labour market needs and professional career guidance services for young people in education and for adults seeking to reskill can help people make better choices. Yet to date, only 14 out of 19 counties have opened career centres. Meeting Norway’s projected skills shortages in areas such as nursing, care-giving, technical and scientific fields will require renewed efforts to better inform students’ educational choices and provide appropriate incentives.
Incidence of sickness absence of full-time employees in selected OECD countries, 2012
Source: OECD Absence Database, based on the European Union Labour Force Survey and national labour force surveys for Australia, Canada and the United States; and OECD (2013), Mental Health and Work: Norway, Mental Health and Work, OECD Publishing doi: 10.1787/9789264178984-en
Activating skills supply
4. Enhancing labour market participation among those receiving disability benefits: within the OECD area, Norway has by far the highest rates of sickness absence with almost 7% of the workforce on sick leave at any given moment. Over 10% of all working age adults receive permanent or temporary disability allowances, a figure which rises to 14% if people on Work Assessment Allowances are included. At the same time, rejection rates for disability claims are among the lowest in the OECD. Given that the rates of return to full-time employment are low, people on disability represent a lost asset for Norway’s stock of available skills.
5. Encouraging labour market attachment among low skilled youth: Norway fares well when it comes to youth unemployment rates which in 2012 stood at 8.6%, among the lowest in the OECD where the average was 16.3%. The share of youth who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) was also low at 7%. However important variations among youth exist – those who do not complete upper secondary school are almost four times more likely to be unemployed than those who had completed tertiary education, underscoring the need for Norway to focus on its low skilled youth.
6. Ensuring Norwegians remain active longer: although Norway is better placed to meet its future demographic challenges than many other OECD countries, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over is projected to double from 30% in 2011 to around 60% by 2050. While employment rates among older workers are high in Norway, almost one quarter of people over 55 years old are registered as disabled which is nearly double the OECD average. The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) reveals that older Norwegians have relatively high literacy skills, which means they are an important asset on which to draw.
Self-employment as a share of total employment
Source: OECD (2013), OECD Factbook 2013: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics, OECD Publishing doi: 10.1787/factbook-2013-en
Using skills effectively
7. Engaging employers in ensuring a highly skilled workforce: the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) provides a measure of skills mismatch and results show that around 20% of Norwegian workers consider that they are over-qualified and 15% believe they are under-qualified for their current jobs. The gap in literacy proficiency between workers in elementary occupations, such as labourers and production workers, and those in skilled occupations, such as professionals and technicians, is the largest observed at 55.6 score points. Norway performs well in terms of the prevalence of employer funded training, yet these skills investments often go to high-skilled employees and may not benefit those who need it most – namely workers with low proficiency levels in low-skilled occupations who are most at risk in the event of downsizing or restructuring.
8. Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship: among OECD countries, the level of self-employment as a share of total employment in Norway is the second lowest after Luxembourg, while business start-up rates are also among the lowest. Without innovative businesses and skilled entrepreneurs to run them, Norway may struggle to maintain its current levels of prosperity in the future as the contribution of natural resources to the economy declines.
9. Enhancing the use of migrants’ skills: according to projections from Statistics Norway, by 2040 migrants will comprise close to 20% of the Norwegian population and over 30% in Oslo. The Survey of Adults Skills (PIAAC) shows that over-qualification is relatively widespread among the foreign-born population in Norway – who are two and a half times more likely to be over-qualified for their job than native born Norwegians. This rate is higher than that found in Austria, Sweden and Germany and indicates that migrants offer a significant stock of untapped skills in Norway.
Strengthening Norway’s skills system
The last 3 skills challenges refer to the “enabling” conditions which strengthen the overall skills system. Success in tackling these skills challenges will boost performance within each of the pillars – as well as across the pillars.
10. Facilitating a “whole-of government approach to skills”: a responsive and efficient skills system requires effective horizontal co-ordination across ministerial silos and concrete mechanisms to develop and deliver on shared goals. Vertical co-ordination across national, county and municipal levels is rendered particularly complex in Norway where overlapping boundaries of different agencies for education, labour and migrant integration services do not correspond with county limits.
11. Ensuring local flexibility and adaptability for nationally designed policies: Norway’s geographic diversity is reflected in the unique skills profiles and needs of its 19 counties and 428 municipalities. By way of example, completion of upper secondary education within two years of the expected date ranges from just 55% in Finnmark County to close to 80% in Sogn og Fjordane. Subnational authorities play an important role in implementing national skills policies. To do so successfully, they require adequate information, strong professional capacities and resources to balance the twin requirements of local autonomy and accountability for results.
12. Building partnerships at the local and national level to improve implementation: achieving better skills outcomes for Norway’s future is not a task which can be left to government alone. Employers, trade unions, education and training institutions, researchers and students can all play a role in tackling Norway’s skills challenges. Broad-based partnerships, which develop shared goals while mobilising the respective expertise and experience of each partner, are most likely to develop innovative approaches to addressing Norway’s emerging skills challenges.
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