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Norwegian workers lukewarm to further education

Norwegian workers lukewarm to further education

| Text: Line Scheistrøen

The annual workforce barometer shows fewer and fewer workers in Norway want to take further education and training.

Workers’ interest in pursuing further education and training has fallen steadily over the past 15 years. When researchers from Norway’s Work Research Institute (AFI) at OsloMet started collating data on this, the number was 64 per cent. This year it is only 48 per cent. 

Norway’s stated goal for skills development is that no one should be past their sell-by-date. These figures should alert the social partners, politicians and authorities that something has to be done, argues Mari Holm Ingelsrud at AFI.

Measuring trends

With her colleague Elin Moen Dahl, Holm Ingelsrud presented the results from this year’s Arbeidslivbarometer (workforce barometer) during a seminar organised by the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) during Arendalsuka, Norway’s largest annual political gathering.

This year’s YS workforce barometer is the fifteenth of its kind. It measures the state of and developments in central areas of the Norwegian workforce:

  • Trade union support 
  • Support for collective wage formation
  • Working conditions, stress and coping
  • Gender equality
  • Security and connection to working life
  • Skills

“The Norwegian workforce is in good shape. Generally, we see small changes year-on-year. The Norwegian labour market is very stable,” sums up AFI researcher Mari Holm Ingelsrud. 

A worrying result

Each year, the researchers do an in-depth study of a new theme. This year they looked at further education and training. Other themes have included digitalisation and the green transition. 

The survey shows that:

  • 62 per cent do not take further education or training because they do not need it in their jobs. 
  • 55 per cent say they personally do not need more skills.
  • More than previously believe digitalisation and the use of artificial intelligence will lead to the loss of working tasks.
  • Half of the workers surveyed do not believe the green transition will have consequences for their own jobs. Fewer than previously believe they can contribute to cutting emissions at work. 

YS President Hans-Erik Skjæggerud thinks the results are worrying.

“The workforce is facing major changes linked to digitalisation and climate change. When few people want further education and training, it might spell trouble for both the private and public sectors,” says Skjæggerud.

More learning at work

The workforce barometer shows that workers are more positive about further education and training when this takes the form of courses and seminars, while they are less interested in classroom teaching and/or gaining educational points at higher education institutions. 

Trine Lise Sundnes and Erik Johan Tellefsen Lindøe

Trine Lise Sundnes (Labour) and Erik Johan Tellefsen Lindøe (Conservatives) participated in the political debate about further education and training. Photo: Liv Hilde Hansen

Hans-Erik Skjæggerud thinks there should be more of what he calls training close to the workplace. He gets support from Trine Lise Sundnes, former head of Norwegian LO’s international department and now a Labour MP and a member of the Norwegian parliament’s Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs. She too thinks more must be done to implement learning in the workplace.

Asked what the state should do to contribute, Sundnes said:

“There is no indication that a state-funded further education and training fund will be established tomorrow. Up until now, all governments regardless of political hue, have pointed to the State Educational Loan Fund. That is our approach. Something has to be done to turn this trend, and I believe the authorities must contribute – but that this must be in cooperation with the social partners.”

Sundnes believes Norway could learn from Sweden and Denmark’s models for further education and training.

Young people fear ill health

The researchers highlight other worrying results in the barometer, including a surprising increase in the number of young people who fear becoming disabled in the future. 

“The trend is particularly concerning because that these workers have the longest time left until retirement age,” says AFI researcher Elin Moen Dahl. Her colleague Mari Holm Ingelsrud thinks it is interesting to see whether this trend is linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, or whether other factors might explain it. 

Satisfaction lower than in years

Another worrying tendency, according to the researchers, is that fewer people experience job satisfaction or that they cope well with their jobs. Workers earning less than the median are more likely to have jobs that are physically hard and risky. They are also more likely to report that they lack an interesting, independent and meaningful job.

“We have measured job satisfaction since 2014, and this year’s level is the lowest we have seen for a long time,” says Halm Ingelsrud. This is also one of the trends that the researchers will follow particularly closely in their work going forward.

Thinking of ourselves more

The barometer also indicates that workers have felt that many things have become more expensive, the researchers say. They believe they are seeing a slight shift towards more individualism. There is also a slight increase in the number of people who say they want performance-related pay.

The 2023 wage settlement was a mid-term settlement and the first in decades that led to a strike that lasted for four days. The economic framework for the main settlements ended up between 5.2 and 5.4 per cent, based on an estimated inflation rate of 4.8 per cent.

Now, everything points to a higher rate of inflation and that this will erode the wage settlement.

“Could this weaken the support for allowing trade unions to negotiate wages on behalf of workers?” ask the researchers.

“Increased prices on items like food and electricity may have made workers more individualistic and made them want to do more of the wage negotiation themselves, but we do not know whether this can be directly linked to this year’s wage settlement,” says AFI researcher Elin Moen Dahl.

Seminar during Arendalsuka

AFI researchers Mari Holm Ingelsrud and Elin Moen Dahl in conversation with  YS President Hans-Erik Skjæggerud during the seminar at Arendalsuka.


is produced by the Norwegian Work Research Institute (AFI – OsloMet) on behalf of the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS).

This year’s report is called "The Norwegian labour market 2023: Skills development for new times? Participation, motivation and obstacle". You can read it (in Norwegian only) here.

Arbeidslivsbarometeret 2023

Arbeidslivsbarometeret was published for the first time in 2009. The survey is annual, with 3,000 participating workers. It has its own website (in Norwegian).


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