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Norway

Executive Summary

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 September 2017 to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government investigated officials who committed violations.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers generally met international standards, and there were no major concerns regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.

Administration: Procedures are in place to report abuse or mistreatment of prisoners or other detainees. Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits, including unannounced visits, by independent human rights observers.

Improvements: In response to concerns raised in 2016 and 2017 by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Amnesty International Norway and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) as well as the parliamentary civilian ombudsman, the government remodeled the Trandum detention center, where rejected asylum applicants are held before deportation. The facility was upgraded to include single rooms with separate bathrooms. Because Trandum is not a criminal detention facility, internal security practices were relaxed, and guards no longer wear uniforms. The government also established a separate facility in Hurdal, north of Oslo, that is better equipped than Trandum to accommodate families with young children whose asylum applications were rejected.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and 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. According to the government ombudsman for equality and discrimination (LDO), hate speech on the internet against ethnic minorities; religious groups; women; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons continued to be a problem.

Press and Media Freedom: 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.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 97 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom 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 www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons in other countries, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

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. The government made permanent the majority of the temporary restrictions implemented in 2015 and 2016. NGOs continued to criticize the government for rejecting a high percentage of the asylum claims from Afghans. As of June authorities deported 321 persons who had arrived in the country as asylum seekers, of whom 124 were Afghans.

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 UNHCR. The government’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) had several programs to settle refugees permanently in the country. According to the UDI, as of July the country accepted 1,326 refugees for resettlement.

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 weak or 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 out of the previous 10 years, completion of language training, and successful completion of a Norwegian language test and a course on Norwegian society.

On January 18, the government transferred responsibility for integrating immigrants from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to the Ministry of Education and Research.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary humanitarian protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and provided it to 49 individuals through the end of August. The permits for temporary protection may be renewed and can become permanent. The government also provided temporary protection to six unaccompanied minors, who were granted residence permits in the country until the age of 18.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNCHR, 3,282 stateless persons lived in the country at the end of 2017; they were not counted as refugees. According to the UDI, at the end of August, an additional 164 stateless asylum seekers lived in reception centers, a decrease of 53 percent from the same period in 2017. Of these, 31 persons had permission to stay, and 15 were under orders to leave the country. The remainder continued the asylum application process.

The government effectively implemented laws and policies to provide stateless persons the opportunity to gain nationality on a nondiscriminatory basis.

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.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the parliamentary elections held in September 2017 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

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 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.

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 age 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 (see section 6, Children). 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 2017 women earned on average 13.3-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.

Equally qualified immigrants sometimes had more difficulty finding employment than nonimmigrants. As of August the unemployment rate among immigrants was 5.3 percent, compared with 3.9 percent among nonimmigrants, according to Statistics Norway. African immigrants had the highest unemployment rate at 9.4 percent, followed by Asians at 6 percent, immigrants from eastern EU countries at 5.7 percent, and South and Central Americans at 5.4 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 for the relative poverty limit, which in 2016 was 298,560 kroner ($36,000) per year. In 2016, the most recent year for which data were available, 11.6 percent of the total 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.

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