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Minister Hanssen at Employment and Social affairs Council meeting

The Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, Bjarne Håkon Hanssen, participated at the informal Employment and Social affairs Council meeting in Villach, Austria, 19-21 January 2006. The theme of the meeting was how Europe could encourage a better labour market through balancing the need for more flexibility for the trade and industry as well as taking care of the employees rights and security, so-called “flexicurity”.

10/02/2006 :: In his speech Hanssen emphasized that Norway have two main challenges. The importance of creating a more inclusive labour market and to reduce the high number of people on sickness and disability benefits. “The Norwegian focus is on adaptability to change, an active labour market policy and a high degree of income security”, the Minister said.

The minister stressed the point that to reduce employees rights are not the right way to increase the flexibility in the labour market. “I realise that companies need flexibility. Today, about 10 per cent of the Norwegian workers are on short term contracts. Different contractual relationships are needed (…). However, liberal rules on temporary work can contribute to a dual labour market.  Permanent contracts should therefore remain the general rule”, the Minister stated in his speech.

The minister also said that some of the best combinations of flexibility and security should be made at the work-place and that the best results are achieved in co-operation with the social partners and through social dialogue.

The Norwegian Minister also told his European colleagues that the Norwegian welfare model rests on a high participation rate and strong incentives to work. A total reorganisation of the Norwegian labour market and welfare services will take place in the summer of 2006 when the Public Employment Services, the National Insurance Services and the municipal social welfare service will be merged. “Our hope – our vision – is that this new organisation will give us more people in employment and less on benefits. And that we will achieve a really well balanced form of flexicurity”, Minister Hanssen stated.

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Photo: Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion