Resolution CM/ResCSS(2009)13
on the application of the European Code of Social Security and its Protocol by Norway
(Period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008)

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 June 2009
at the 1060th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers,

In the exercise of the functions conferred upon it by Article 75 of the European Code of Social Security (hereinafter referred to as the “Code”), as modified by the provisions of its Protocol (hereinafter referred to as the “Protocol”), and with a view to supervising the application of these two instruments by the Contracting Parties;

Whereas the Code and the Protocol, opened for signature on 16 April 1964, entered into force on 17 March 1968 and since that date have been binding on Norway, which ratified them on 25 March 1966;

Whereas, when ratifying the Code and the Protocol, the Government of Norway stated that it accepted, in addition to the parts which must be applied by every Contracting Party (Parts I, XI, XII, XIII and XIV), the following parts of the Code, as modified by the Protocol:

– Part II on “medical care”,
– Part III on “sickness benefit”,
– Part IV on “unemployment benefit”,
– Part V on “old-age benefit”,
– Part VI on “employment injury benefit”,
– Part VII on “family benefit”,
– Part IX on “invalidity benefit”,
– Part X on “survivors’ benefit”;

Whereas, in pursuance of paragraph 1 of Article 74 of the Code, as modified by the Protocol, the Government of Norway submitted its 41st annual report on the application of the Code, as modified by the Protocol, for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008;

Whereas, in accordance with paragraph 4 of Article 74, that report was examined by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, at its 79th meeting in November and December 2008,

Notes:

I. concerning Part IV (Unemployment benefit) of the Code, Article 20 (in conjunction with Article 68.h):

    a. in the previous resolutions, the government has been urged to review the guidelines of the Directorate of Labour and Welfare so as to ensure that unemployed persons are not sanctioned for refusing unsuitable job offers at least during the initial period of three months (13 weeks) provided for in Article 24 of the Code. The Committee of Ministers wishes to thank the government for having closely looked into the question and notes from its reply the following important elements calling for further action.

    The government emphasises that during the first three months of unemployment, the jobseeker has the primary responsibility of finding a job, and will therefore determine which jobs are suitable. However, as time passes, the jobseeker must be ready to adjust his or her demands and ambitions, and expand the job search. On the basis of the jobseeker’s CV and the labour market, the job request will be evaluated every third month. This evaluation can result in an agreement between the jobseeker and the LWS to expand the job search. The Committee of Ministers understands from these explanations that, in practice, the suitability of jobs searched for and offered is assessed for every new period of three months with a view to expanding the acceptable types of jobs by relinquishing certain criteria of suitability. It understands also that under this arrangement special rules apply for the initial period of unemployment of three months when the decision on the suitability of available jobs is largely left at the discretion of the jobseeker himself. This practice may be compared to the provisions regarding the “permitted period” in the United Kingdom, where during the first three months (13 weeks) of unemployment jobseekers may restrict their availability for employment only to jobs in their “usual occupation” (regulation 16 of the Jobseekers’ Allowance Regulations, 1996). These provisions were deemed by the Committee of Ministers in 2002 to be compatible with the requirements of the Code;

    b. as regards sanctions imposed on unemployed persons, the government reports that in 2007, fewer than 200 jobseekers had their benefits stopped during the first three months of unemployment because of refusal to accept offered work, refusal to accept work in another part of the country or refusal to accept part-time work;

    c. in this connection, the Committee of Ministers further notes the assurances of the government that the unemployed will normally not get offered jobs from the Labour and Welfare Service (LWS), unless it is a job that corresponds to their education and qualifications. The LWS will initially take the time to identify the jobseekers’ qualifications, working experience and job requests. The goal of this is to help the unemployed to find suitable employment. When considering whether the work is suitable, the LWS should – according to the Directorate of Labour and Welfare’s guidelines, section A, Article 4.18 – also consider:

    – how long the jobseeker has been unemployed;
    – the probability of getting a job which corresponds to the jobseeker’s qualifications;
    – whether the offered job can give valuable working experience;
    – whether the remuneration offered for the job involves an unreasonable reduction of income compared to what the person is receiving by way of unemployment benefits;

II. concerning the financial crisis, that European social security systems are set to pass through the worst financial and possibly economic crisis since the systems were first created. Many national indicators are giving the convergent message that the impact of the crisis may be severe, global in its scope and pose a real threat to the financial viability and sustainable development of social security systems. The Committee of Ministers recalls that, to enable member states to discharge their general responsibility for the financial viability of social security, Article 70.3 of the European Code of Social Security places each state under the obligation to “take all measures required for this purpose”. The Committee of Ministers trusts that the measures adopted or envisaged by governments will be commensurate with the gravity of the financial situation and the primary responsibility of the state to ensure the viability and sustainable development of social security.

In this connection, the Committee of Ministers wishes to emphasise that the system of regular reporting and supervision of the application of the Code could serve as an additional channel of first-hand information on the legal and regulatory measures taken by member states to combat the crisis;

Finds that the law and practice in Norway continue to give full effect to all parts of the Code and the Protocol which have been accepted, subject to disallowing the application of sanctions for refusing unsuitable job offers during the initial period of unemployment;

Decides to invite the Government of Norway:

I. concerning Part IV (Unemployment benefit) of the Code, Article 20 (in conjunction with Article 68.h):

    a. to draw on the experience of the United Kingdom and to consider how the existing practice of giving unemployed persons primary responsibility for their job search during the initial three months (13 weeks) of unemployment, and therefore a certain degree of discretion in the selection of job offers, could best be reflected in the guidelines of the Directorate of Labour and Welfare, particularly as regards its section G.4.1, which forbids jobseekers from making reservations as to the type of employment they will agree to and requires them to accept work even in occupations for which they are not trained or in which they have no previous experience;

    b. to verify in all cases that jobseekers were not sanctioned for having refused to take up jobs that were unsuitable in view of their acquired professional status. It therefore invites the government, if necessary, to follow the example of Denmark where, in order to assess the extent to which the unemployed refuse job offers as being “suitable”, the National Directorate of Labour, which deals with complaints and supervision in relation to the Unemployment Insurance Act, examined, in 2005, on a case-by-case basis all instances (352 files) of sanctions for refusal to take up a job offer. The Committee of Ministers considers that the results of this verification could help the government to decide whether or not the guidelines of the Directorate of Labour and Welfare need to be changed in order to ensure that the discretionary power to sanction the behaviour of the unemployed in the current labour market situation is being applied, with all due respect for their acquired professional and social status and within the limits prescribed by Article 68 of the Code;

    c. to explain how the criterion which permits offering jobs remunerated at a level below that of the unemployment benefit could be retained in the guidelines of the Directorate of Labour and Welfare after the abolition on 1 January 2006 of the legal provisions which previously made it possible to compel unemployed persons to accept jobs offering less income than the unemployment benefit;

II. concerning the financial crisis, and with a view to helping the Council of Europe bodies to forge a concerted response to the crisis, to furnish, under Part V of the report form which requests a general appreciation of the difficulties encountered in the application of the Code in practice, detailed information on the impact of the current financial and economic crisis on national social security systems and the measures taken or planned with a view to maintaining their financial viability and reinforcing social protection for the most vulnerable groups of the population.


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