Reports 2021/05

Refugees inside and outside the labour market 2019

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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 2019. 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 2019 a total of 108 832 refugees were registered as employed. Employed refugees constituted 52.7 per cent of the total refugee population 15-66 years of age. This was 1.9 percentage points more than the year before. In the whole Norwegian population at the same age the employment rate was 72.7 per cent. This disparity in the employment rate has been quite stable the last ten years.

Duration of residence in Norway is of great importance to the level of employment among refugees. However, the duration of residence 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 less than 10 years in Norway. Within some nationalities with equal time of residence in Norway we can, moreover, observe a higher level of employment among refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan compared to those from Syria, Iraq and Somalia. Within the three last mentioned groups plus Afhanistan, there are great gender disparities in men’s favour.

The education level also has a considerable impact on the employment rate. Persons with only compulsory education have the lowest employment rate among refugees as well as the population as a whole. Since half of the refugees have only a 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. Refugees with a completed secondary education have in general a higher employment rate than those with only a compulsory education in the whole population. 

63 per cent of the wage earners among refugees had full time work in 2019 versus 74.2 per cent among wage earners in total. The lower full time rate among refuges is partly a consequence of their overrepresentation within typical part-time occupations, such as service and sales workers and elementary occupations. The full time rate is, however, higher among groups with a longer time of residence. The full time rate is particularly low among women with less than 10 years of residence in Norway.

Refugees have average wages that are almost 27 per cent lower than that of the whole population. This is partly due to the overrepresentation in low-wage occupations among refugees. Refugees settled in Norway at young age (0-5 years) have, however, average wages roughly on par with the whole population. The refugees’ wages increase in the long run, and length of service affects positively. 

Among refugees settled in Norway in 2015 and 2016 the Syrian constitute a large group, but there is also a share of refugees from Eritrea. Most of them participate in the Introduction programme the first years in Norway, but in 2019 several were employed among those settled in 2015. The refugees from Eritrea had the highest employment rate, slightly above 50 per cent versus 41.3 per cent among the Syrians.  There is a great gender disparity among the Syrians, 51.8 per cent (males) and 20.2 per cent (females). Women from Syria and Eritrea had, however, a larger share of participants in education (Introduction programme included) than men.

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