· Features

A postcard from... Norway

Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

Norway has a stable economy with a strong private sector, a large public sector, and an extensive social welfare net. Norway opted out of the EU in 1994 but is a member of the European Economic Area.

The country has abundant natural resources, including oil, gas, fish, forests, and minerals. The government manages petroleum resources through extensive regulation, and the sector provides about 9% of jobs. In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production Norway saves state revenue from petroleum sector activities in the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at almost USD$900 billion.


Norway is not an ethnically diverse country; 94.4% of its people are Norwegian. The population are also fairly young, with the majority aged 54 and under (59%). Norway has a higher birth rate (12.2 births per 1,000 people) than death rate (8.1/1,000) so the population is growing. This is aided by steady migration, for which the country ranks 16th in the world. Most citizens live in the South for better connectivity to mainland Europe.

Legal lowdown

Areas such as job security, holiday, working hours, and health and safety are regulated by state laws. However, Catriona Elisabeth McIntyre, senior associate at Norwegian law firm Kvale, explains that: “through collective agreements the parties on the labour market have vast opportunities to deviate from many of the provisions in these laws”.

Unlike the UK, Norway has no statutory provisions regarding the minimum wage. “Such provisions are generally set by a collective agreement/general application of collective agreements within certain sectors,” McIntyre says. “For overtime work a supplement is paid in addition to normal pay. Most collective agreements demand a minimum of 50%.”

From the HR frontline

In Norway the feeling in many workplaces is that life comes before work. “The rush hour starts at 3pm, or earlier on a Friday where many leave at lunch,” explains Daniel Needlestone, learning and development lead at energy company Aibel. To allow this most office jobs offer some form of flexible working.

Parental leave is among the most generous in the world with up to 49 weeks of leave on full pay with a minimum of 10 weeks reserved for the father. Another year of unpaid leave can be added on top.

Presenteeism is not financially or culturally encouraged. “There is no unpaid overtime except for those in senior positions who receive a fixed number of days in lieu and commensurate salary instead,” says Aibel.