Work Life Challenges

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Summary & aims

The recession of 2008 and 2009 was felt across the globe, but countries like Norway fared far better than Britain. This project examined workplace-level data to examine the challenges facing management and employees after the 2008-2009 recession.


Background During 2008 and 2009 the global financial crisis hit the world economy and caused wide-spread recession, but less in Norway where the downturn was short-lived. At the end of 2009 unemployment in Norway (2.8%) is a third of the level in neighbouring countries. But there remain important challenges to future standards of Norwegian work life. As in most industrialised economies Norway faces reductions in the labour force due to ageing of the population. Similarly, technological and environmental standards will place new demands on resource reallocation. Our current level of living can be sustained by i) increased productivity, ii) improved resource reallocation, iii) immigration of labour, and iv) higher labour force participation rates. Today, Norway’s productivity ranks at the top by international standards, our reallocation rates are in line with other economies, immigrant workers constitute 9-10% of the employed population, but 6-700 000 people of the Norwegian prime aged population receive public support. This latter group is important since disability, sickness absence and unemployment signify detrimental health and economic problems as well as substantial public expenditures. Still, it is commonly argued that this group is partly employable, and therefore constitutes an important source of labour supply. Aims Our project, entitled “Work Life Challenges – workforce management and worker involvement solutions” (hereafter, “WLC”), focused on the roles of the firm and the workplace. Through analyses of workforce management, reallocation of jobs, and other labour demand considerations – and the interplay between these factors and worker involvement, especially targeting inclusion and exclusion issues – the project will contribute to our understanding of, and provide solutions for, work life challenges. Job prospects for marginal employees are strongly affected by employer decisions, as is productivity growth. Successful labour market integration requires incentives to work and job opportunities for those who want to participate. With the EU expansions and relaxed restrictions on labour immigration, employers have seen improved opportunities to recruit workers outside Norway in recent years. Methods Our project conducts a new detailed questionnaire survey; the Norwegian Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2011 (NWERS2011), which when linked with the previous two employer surveys (Fleksi1997/NWERS2003) and added extensive employer-employee register data on individuals and organisations gives us unique panel information on establishments and workers over 16 years. Thus we will be able to study trends as well as causal mechanisms. An important component of the project is a comparative part that contrasts Norway and the UK, a typical liberal economy hit hard by the global recession, allowing for analyses of institutional differences in how employers’ workforce management and worker involvement adapt to changing business cycles and changing legislation. Funder and partners The research was funded by the Norwegian Research Council. Alex Bryson will be working with Harald Dale-Olsen and Erling Barth at the Norwegian Institute for Social Research

Findings and Recommendations

The project began in late 2013 and finished at the end of 2014. The outputs were academic papers.