Norway is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The government consists of a prime minister, a cabinet, and a 169-seat parliament (Storting), which is elected every four years and may not be dissolved. The monarch generally appoints the leader of the majority party or majority coalition as prime minister with the approval of parliament. Observers considered the multiparty parliamentary elections in 2017 to be free and fair.
The national police have primary responsibility for internal security. Police may call on the armed forces for assistance in crises. In such circumstances, the armed forces operate under police authority. The National Police Directorate oversees the police force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police.
There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.
The government investigated officials who allegedly committed violations of human rights.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits “threatening or insulting anyone, or inciting hatred or repression of or contempt for anyone because of his or her: (a) skin color or national or ethnic origin; (b) religion or life stance; (c) sexual orientation or lifestyle; or (d) disability.” Violators are subject to a fine or imprisonment for not more than three years.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The prohibitions against hate speech applied also to the print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
f. Protection of Refugees
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as NOAS and Amnesty International criticized the government for issuing instructions to immigration authorities that more strictly interpreted immigration and asylum regulations as a means of restricting access to asylum without changing the underlying legislation. NOAS cited examples of the government’s redefining the level of civil safety in Somalia in order to withdraw or deny asylum to applicants by claiming it was “safe to return to Somalia.”
In one example in June, immigration authorities revoked the refugee status of a single mother of Afghan descent and her three children who had fled from Iran. Immigration authorities attempted to return them to Afghanistan even though none of the three children was born in Afghanistan and had never visited. The basis for the revocation was a claim by the government that it was safe for the family to return to Afghanistan. In the course of her detention, although the mother lapsed into unconsciousness, she was still placed on an airplane with the three children. Upon arrival in Istanbul, the mother, who had not regained consciousness, had to be returned to Norway for medical reasons. The minor children remained in Istanbul pending their deportation to Afghanistan. The Afghan government ultimately refused to accept them, forcing Norwegian officials to accept the children back after 10 days. Under these circumstances and due to the efforts of several NGO’s, the children were allowed to remain in the country pending an appeal of their immigration status.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which allows the government to transfer asylum seekers to the European country determined to be responsible under the regulation for adjudicating the case.
Freedom of Movement: The law permits detention of migrants to establish their identity or to deport them if authorities deem it likely the persons would evade an order to leave. The detention is limited and subject to judicial review.
Employment: Regulations allow asylum seekers who reside in integration facilities to obtain employment while their applications are under review. Eligible asylum seekers must fulfill certain criteria, including possession of valid documentation proving identity, a finding following an asylum interview that the individual will likely receive asylum, and participation in government-defined “integration” programs that assist asylum seekers in adapting to Norwegian society by the use of educational resources such as language or job training.
Durable Solutions: The government offered resettlement for refugees in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The government’s Directorate of Immigration had several programs to settle refugees permanently in the country.
Through the International Organization for Migration and other government partners, the government assisted the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to their countries of origin through voluntary programs that offered financial and logistical support for repatriation. Identity documents issued by either the Norwegian or the returnee’s government are required in order to use this program. The government continued routinely to offer migrants cash support in addition to airfare to encourage persons with rejected asylum claims to leave the country voluntarily.
Individuals granted refugee status may apply for citizenship when they meet the legal requirements, which include a minimum length of residence of seven of the previous 10 years, completion of an integration course on Norwegian society and pass a language test.
The government continued to provide welfare and support for refugees living in the country as part of the government’s Integration Goals administered by the Ministry of Children and Families. In order to facilitate the transition of immigrants into productive members of society, certain categories of immigrants, including refugees, are eligible for programs designed to provide Norwegian language instruction, job training, job placement, access to schools and universities, and basic instruction for living in Norwegian society. Refugees and asylum applicants have access to welfare benefits for short-term or long-term housing and medical care, and are provided direct access to, or financial support for, necessities such as food, clothing, basic entertainment, and public transportation. Children are eligible to attend public schools and preschools as if they were citizens, and there are programs for children who have recently arrived and need language assistance prior to entering the regular education system.
In 2018 parliament passed legislation to allow dual citizenship. The new law will come into effect as of 2020, and thereafter eligibility for citizenship will no longer be contingent on renouncing one’s prior citizenship.
Temporary Protection: Through the end of August, the government provided temporary humanitarian protection to 48 individuals who may not qualify as refugees. The permits for temporary protection may be renewed and can become permanent. The government provided temporary protection to fewer than 10 unaccompanied minors, who were granted residence permits in the country until the age of 18. NOAS and the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council claimed that the government’s policy is not to renew temporary protection for these minors when they turn 18 so they may be deported, even though the circumstances that led to their humanitarian protection remain unchanged.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.
Financial Disclosure: By law income and asset information from the tax forms of all citizens, including public officials, must be made public each year. Failure to declare properly may result in up to two years in prison. Each year ministers and members of parliament must declare their income, assets, liabilities, outside employment, and holdings in public companies. Ministers may face fines for noncompliance, but the law does not provide formal sanctions for members of parliament. Disclosures made by ministers and members of parliament are publicly available on the parliamentary website within 20 days of disclosure. Civil servants face fines if they fail to disclose any conflict of interest during decision-making processes. Ministers, members of parliament, and civil servants must disclose any employment obtained within a year after leaving public service.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has ombudsmen for public administration (the parliamentary ombudsman), children, equality and discrimination (the equality and antidiscrimination ombudsman or LDO), and health-care patients. Parliament appoints the parliamentary ombudsman, while the government appoints the others. All ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government interference. The parliamentary ombudsman and the LDO hear complaints against actions by government officials. Although the ombudsmen’s recommendations are not legally binding, authorities usually complied with them.
Parliament’s Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs reviews the reports of the parliamentary ombudsman, while the Standing Committee on Justice is responsible for matters relating to the judicial system, police, and the penal, civil, and criminal codes.
The Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (NIM) is an independent body funded by the parliament. NIM submits an annual report to parliament on human rights in the country. By advising the government, disseminating public information, promoting education and research on human rights, and facilitating cooperation with relevant public bodies, it makes recommendations to help ensure that the country’s international human rights obligations are fulfilled.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of workers, including migrant workers (those who have a work permit in the country), to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
The right to strike excludes members of the military and senior civil servants. With the approval of parliament, the government may compel arbitration in any industrial sector if it determines that a strike threatens public safety. Trade unions criticized the government for intervening too quickly in labor disputes.
The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced laws against it. A maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for violations of the law was sufficiently stringent to deter violations. In 2018 police received 95 reports of violations of the labor law and no reports of forced labor from the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority (NLIA).
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
Children between the ages of 13 and 15 may be employed up to 12 hours per week in light work that does not adversely affect their health, development, or schooling. Examples of light work include assistant work in offices or stores. Children younger than 15 need parental permission to work, and those older than 15 can work as part of vocational training, as long as they are supervised. Between the ages of 15 and 18, children not in school may work up to 40 hours per week and a maximum eight hours per day. The law limits work by children who remain in school to only those hours “not affecting schooling” without specific limits, but less than 40 hours per week. Child welfare laws explicitly protect children from exploitive labor practices. The government effectively enforced these laws, and both civil and criminal penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
While employers generally observed minimum age rules, there were reports that children were trafficked for forced labor (see section 7.b.). Children were subjected to forced begging and criminal activity, particularly drug smuggling and theft. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred. There were also reports of children forced to work as unpaid domestic help.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced the law and invoked penalties when violations were discovered.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and ethnicity. The law provides that women and men engaged in the same activity shall receive equal wages for work of equal value. In 2018 women earned on average 13.8 percent less than men on a monthly basis, according to Statistics Norway, which also reported that 37 percent of women and 14.6 percent of men worked part time in 2017, the most recent year for which data were available.
Equally qualified immigrants sometimes had more difficulty finding employment than nonimmigrants. As of August the unemployment rate among immigrants was 5.2 percent, compared with 3.6 percent among nonimmigrants, according to Statistics Norway. African immigrants had the highest unemployment rate at 9.6 percent, followed by Asians at 5.9 percent, immigrants from eastern EU countries at 5.3 percent, and South and Central Americans at 5.1 percent.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law does not mandate an official minimum wage. Instead, minimum wages were set in collective bargaining agreements. Statistics Norway uses 60 percent of the median household income after tax for the relative poverty limit. In 2018, the most recent year for which data were available, 11.5 percent of the population had an income below the poverty limit.
The law provides for premium pay of 40 percent of salary for overtime and prohibits compulsory overtime in excess of 10 hours per week.
The law provides the same benefits for citizens and foreign workers with residency permits but forbids the employment of foreign workers who do not have residency permits. The law provides for safe and physically acceptable working conditions for all employed persons. The NLIA, in consultation with nongovernment experts, sets occupational safety and health standards. These standards are appropriate across all sectors of the industry in the country. The law requires enterprises with 50 or more workers to establish environment committees composed of management, workers, and health-care personnel. Enterprises with 10 or more workers must have safety delegates elected by their employees. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment; authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.
The NLIA effectively enforced laws and standards regarding acceptable work conditions in the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. The NLIA may close an enterprise immediately if the life or health of employees is in imminent danger and may report enterprises to police for serious breaches of the law. A serious violation may result in fines or, in the worst case, imprisonment. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations.