Starting in 2020, immigrants to Norway must display a sufficient command of the Norwegian language in order to be entitled to social assistance. At present, immigrants are heavily over-represented in the list of welfare recipients.
Norway’s Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg has announced stricter requirements for eligibility for social assistance, the newspaper Nettavisen reported.
In 2017, the Norwegian state paid out NOK 6.6 billion ($770 million) in social assistance, with half of the recipients being immigrants. Of them, 86 percent were immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.
Solberg stressed that today an “activity requirement” is in place to incentivise people under the age of 30 to seek employment. According to her, the “language requirement” serves a similar goal. Solberg also warned of the detrimental effects of inaction.
“You must remember the mechanism that get triggered when you spend a long time on social assistance. You lose confidence and inspiration to do something about your life”, Solberg stressed. According to her, mastering Norwegian is a crucial way of getting back on track to enter the labour force.
Solberg stressed that the demands on people to participate in learning Norwegian will be implemented some time in 2020. At the same time, she stressed that the authorities will provide assistance with child rearing and other problems that may deter people from mastering the language.
However, the step announced Norway’s centre-right government was met with criticism from the opposition. Socialist Left Party immigration spokesman Karin Andersen called this measure “embarrassing” for a government “that cuts the Norwegian classes” and “reduces women’s social assistance”. Andersen ventured that Solberg was “wagging her finger” at the most disadvantaged and using threats rather than providing opportunities. According to her, offering high-quality courses in Norwegian would be a preferred way to go.
The Socialist Left politician blasted Norway’s current introduction scheme for refugees as “poor” and called the government responsible.
“Social assistance is emergency aid. They can’t deprive people who don’t have money of food help. Does [Solberg] believe that those who cannot speak Norwegian and are old and sick should rather starve?” Andersen asked rhetorically, suggesting that Solberg’s government has crossed “yet another limits of rule of law and decency”.