The first Norwegian national stakeholder meeting took place on the 19th of January 2016 at HiOA- NOVA with representatives from the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV), the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (ASD), the Oslo Region European Office (ORE) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The overarching aim was to discuss the most important challenges related to labour market entry for youth in Norway at the moment, how to respond politically to these challenges and discuss the research methods.
NOVA expressed its gratitude to the participants for their willingness to share their expertise with the NEGOTIATE research team. This was followed by three brief presentations covering (i) the research questions and overall framework of the NEGOTIATE project, (ii) the use of experiments and (iii) life course interviews. Both the presentation of the experiments and the life course interviews addressed how these two methods served to operationalize the larger questions addressed in the project. Following the presentations, the NEGOTIATE team discussed with the stakeholders how to deal with specific challenges in the project. The stakeholders generously provided important ideas and support for overcoming practical challenges related to recruitment, sampling and data collection in the life course interviews and the vignette experiments.
The NSCs were challenged to give their view on the most important challenges for youth in relation to the labour market in Norway and political responses to these. The NSC expressed concerns that the observed challenges for youth in the labour market are not an artefact of business cycles, but rather a result of structural changes in the organization of labour as a result of globalization. The NSC agreed on several aspects of both the challenges and the political responses. It was argued that there are several related challenges. In Norway one of the greatest concerns is related to the stable share of young people who do not finish upper secondary school, a parallel decrease in the share of jobs open for low-skilled workers and an increasing competition for these jobs due to labour migration. This may put pressure on, not only the youth’s opportunities in the labour market, but also on the working conditions in these jobs. Another acute challenge in the Norwegian labour market is related to the inclusion of non-EU immigrants and refugees. Moreover, the increase in poor mental health among the young is of great concern. There is a rising number of young people receiving disability benefits, and 60 % of the young recipients report mental health problems.
The most relevant political responses to these challenges are institutional changes of the educational system – downscaling the role of academic subjects in the vocational education and training (VET) system and working to increase the prestige of vocational training programmes and various types of manual labour. In addition, preventive measures to fight poor mental health should be strengthened. It was argued for the need to involve specialists like psychologists and physicians, by among other things strengthening the school based health-services. The stakeholders agreed on the important role of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare administration (NAV) in this field. NAV should be more efficient in terms of helping young adults back into the labour market. A specific critique was directed at the work load of case workers.