Reports 2020/08

Refugees inside and outside the labour market 2018

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This report describes the labour market situation for refugees 15-66 years old residing in Norway in the 4th quarter of 2018. The refugees’ labour market participation is compared to that of the the population at large. The refugees’ family immigrants are also included in the group of refugees.

In the 4th quarter of 2018 a total of 103 051 refugees were registered as employed. Employed refugees constituted 50.9 per cent of the total refugee population 15-66 years of age. This was the highest registered rate since 2015. In the whole Norwegian population the same age group had a rate of 72.5 per cent, i.e. a disparity of 21.6 percentage points. This disparity in the employment rate has been quite stable since 2010.

Duration of residence in Norway is of great importance to the level of employment among refugees. Among those who have resided 4 years or less in Norway, many participate in the Introduction programme, and they are therefore not included in the labour force. Among refugees with more than 4 years of residence the employment rate is higher, but it stagnates slightly below 60 per cent for persons who have been settled for between 8 - 20 years. Refugees residing 20 years or more in Norway have an employment rate slightly above 60 per cent.

However, the duration of residence in Norway does not have the same impact on the employment rate among all groups. For instance, male refugees enter the labour market earlier than females. There are great gender disparities (in men’s favour) among those who have resided 4-9 years in Norway. Within some selected nationalities with more than 4 years of residence in Norway we can, moreover, observe a higher level of employment among refugees from Myanmar, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan compared to those from Somalia, Russia, Iraq and Syria.

The education level also has a considerable impact on the employment rate. Persons with only compulsory education have the lowest employment rate irrespective of refugee background. Since half of the refugees have only compulsory education, this group reduces the average employment rate substantially. Refugees who have completed an upper secondary or higher education in Norway have, however, an employment rate close to that of the whole population at the same educational level.

73.1 per cent of the refugees are in the labour force (employed + unemployed) or in education (the Introduction programme included). The corresponding share in the whole population is 83.3 per cent.

The average wages among refugees are lower compared to the whole population, 34 701 vs. 43 790 NOK, a disparity of 26 per cent. This disparity is partly due to the relatively large share of refugees working in low-wage occupations: service and sales workers and elementary occupations. Refugees settled in Norway at young age (16 years or younger) have, however, average wages roughly on par with the whole population.

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