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Experts propose a more labour targeted and user friendly NAV
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Experts propose a more labour targeted and user friendly NAV

| Text : Berit Kvam, photo: Øyvinn Myge/ASD

One year has passed since Norway’s Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Robert Eriksson appointed the Expert group tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of the Labour and Welfare Administration NAV under the motto ‘From bureaucratic reform to user reform’. Now the report is ready: ‘A NAV with possibilities.’

“A brave report and exciting proposals,” the Minister said when he was given the Expert group’s report on 13 April 2015. He promised that the politicians would also take brave action. But first he was going to have a good think.

The day after the head of NAV was made to step down. 

“NAV is entering a new phase,” explained the Minister, who points out that we are at an important crossroads concerning NAV’s future development. 

NAV is organised as a partnership between the state and the municipalities. This week the Minister has also renewed the partnership agreement with the municipalities concerning NAV offices. 

“My top political priority is to secure a better functioning labour and welfare administration, says the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Robert Eriksson (Progress Party).

The government platform agreed by the coalition partners the Conservatives (H) and the Progress Party (FrP) clearly states that “there should be a comprehensive review of NAV with the aim of reducing bureaucracy for the users, in order to help more people off benefits and into work”.

The idea for a joint administration for labour, benefits and social services was born in  2001. In 2006 the administration was set up under the name NAV. Until spring 2011 NAV was organised through large and small offices in all municipalities and major city districts, all in all 457 NAV offices. The individual NAV office was meant to be the only door you would need for all your labour and welfare needs.

The 2006 NAV reform had three main aims:

  • more people in work and activities — fewer on benefits
  • simpler to use for clients and adapted to the clients’ needs
  • a wholesome and efficient labour and welfare management

The same goals formed the basis for the review of NAV which the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs ordered, and for the Expert group’s proposals. 

The committee has presented its recommendations, and sum them up in five points:

  • NAV must establish better contact with the labour market and employers
  • The services must become better adapted to the needs of the individual client
  • This means less central control and better leadership at the local NAV offices
  • The client must become more important than the system
  • There is a need to secure knowledge-based services and skills in the meeting with clients.

More labour market focus

NAV and work has become too separated, according to the Expert group. If you don’t improve the contact with employers, you will not be able to help more people find work, warned Sigrun Vågeng, who heads the Expert group, as she presented the report: a NAV with opportunities, better user handling, more room for action and closer to the labour market.

This got a response from the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, who says the A in NAV (“Arbeid’, meaning ‘Work’) must become bigger, and the contact with the labour market must improve. 

The Vågeng committee proposes to develop NAV’s jobs database, in order to improve the link between job seekers and employers and to create more transparency in the labour market.

“NAV must get a better overview over the labour market, and we need to develop a database in order to improve the services we offer to people who look for work and those who want to recruit people. This can also bring better working life skills to the NAV office.”

Better working life knowledge

The NAV Working life centre helps businesses which have entered into a three-partite agreement on an inclusive working life, and it has considerable contacts among employers. One of the aims is to help reduce levels of sick leave. People who work at the working life centres know the labour market well, while the NAV office is turning more and more into a provider of employment services from private service providers. The committee thinks this needs to change. One solution is to incorporate the Working life centres into the NAV offices.

Better leadership

“There is enough central control, we need better leadership at the NAV office,” the Expert group says. They propose that the NAV office is given more freedom and authority to decide necessary measures locally, and to develop special leadership programmes for NAV office leaders which will empower them to make their own decisions.

More individually targeted help 

The Expert group also highlights the importance of the meeting with the individual client. 

“There needs to me more attention on the client and not on the system.”

“Young people should be in education, not in work, in today’s Norway,” says Sigrun Vågeng, and points out that the right to upper secondary education can disappear for some and lead to young people falling outside of the labour market. 

“Young people between 20 and 24 can loose their right to upper secondary education because the end up in between the right to upper secondary education and the right to further education for adults. As a result, young people who are motivated to finish their upper secondary education could be left waiting for three years before they can finish their education.”

More knowledge and services

The Expert group highlights the need for better skills and more knowledge in the meeting with people with handicaps.

“The assessment of people’s ability to work must be improved and it must focus more on the individual’s potential. Those who perform this assessment should be specially trained for the task.”

More knowledge of what works is also needed, as well as more testing and trials in cooperation with competent research institutions.

 

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FrP concerned with NAV’s future

“It has always been an important task for the Progress Party to see how we can prepare NAV for the future,” says the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Roger Eriksson.

He highlighted three proposals in the Expert group’s 250 page report as being particularly exciting. Reducing the number of NAV offices is one issue which engages him in particular.

“At small offices with three employees in small communities you quickly get very narrow conditions and little competence.”

Simultaneously, the government has presented its proposal for municipal reform. The government wants fewer but larger municipalities and more tasks solved in the municipalities, and to “move power and authority closer to the people”. 

The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs says that NAV must become more focused on the clients than the system, and that local leaders must be given more freedom to operate locally.

“More people need to get into work. That’s why we need a NAV office which is more in touch with the labour market, with the skills and opportunity needed to implement measures which can help people in their local labour market.”

It is not yet clear whether the working life centres which now hold the knowledge about the labour market will be incorporated into the NAV offices. This must be debated with the social partners, because the working life centers are part of the joint agreement on an including working life. 

NAV is facing a crossroads, says the Minster of Labour and Social Affairs, Robert Eriksson. He wants the NAV office to be more focused on labour, more locally managed and more user friendly. 

“We need to develop a set of rules which puts people first, before the system,” is his mantra.

More about NAV and Norwegian labour politics

NAV’s main task is to get more people into work and activities, to create a well-functioning labour market, provide the right services and support at the right time, offer a good service adapted to the needs of the clients and to be a wholesome and efficient labour and welfare manager.  

Joakim Lystad has been NAV’s Director between 2010 and 2015. He took the helm from NAV’s first Director, Tor Saglie.

NAV manages one third of the state budget through a range of different measures like sick pay, pensions, cash support, child benefit and more.

Since 2006 NAV has been under construction, and 110 new NAV offices were established in 2007. In 2008-09 another 160 offices were opened and today there are 457 NAV offices spread around Norway’s municipalities and city districts. 

Each municipality has its own agreement with NAV stipulating which services the local NAV office should offer. This means NAV offices offer different services in different municipalities.

History

NAV (which was originally short for "ny arbeids- og velferdsforvaltning", or New Labour and Welfare Administration) was established on 1 July 2006 with the merging of Aetat (the Labour Administration) and the National Insurance Service. Social services retains responsibility for their tasks in accordance with the law on social services.

Source: Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian)

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