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Why Norway doesn’t have a national minimum wage and how fair pay is ensured

Why Norway doesn't have a national minimum wage and how fair pay is ensured
Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash
Norway doesn’t have a general minimum wage, but that does not mean your employer can get away with paying you whatever they want.

For many internationals, high wages are among the things that make Norway and the other Nordic countries attractive to move to for work. Data from Eurostat shows that the hourly cost of labour in Norway was a substantial €50 in 2019, considerably more than in any EU country.

Last year, Norwegians with fulltime employment earned 48,750 kroner, about €4,750, a month on average, according to Statistics Norway. The bureau has also published a complete list of average wages in Norway by profession.

But while wages in Norway are respectable, people who have recently moved to the country may be surprised to learn that there is no official general minimum wage.

Instead, wages tend to be agreed though negotiations between trade unions and individual employers or employer organisations (tariffavtale). In Norway, a country of about 5 million people, 1.4 million workers were covered by a tariff agreement in 2015, according to data from Statistics Norway.

In addition, the tariff agreement also regulates working hours, overtime, holidays, pensions and rules regarding temporary layoffs.

If you are covered by a tarrif agreement, any point in your work contract that violates the terms of the agreement are considered invalid. This is something called the principle of invariability (ufravikelighet).

So if you’re starting a new job in Norway, it may be worth checking out the possibility of joining a union.

Even if you do not join a union, however, a minimum wage has been implemented in a number of sectors, particularly those with many international and temporary workers.

The aim is to prevent exploitation and social dumping in industries where it may be hard for workers to organise.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet) has compiled a list of the industries with a minimum hourly wage. Below is an overview of the absolute minimum hourly wage for workers over the age of 18. Depending on a range of factors, such as skill level, overtime and working hours, the employer may be legally obligated to pay a higher wage.

Construction 196.50 NOK
The maritime construction industry 162.60 NOK
Agriculture and horticulture 123.15 NOK
Cleaning workers 187.66 NOK
Fish processing enterprises 183.70 NOK
Electricians 189.52 NOK
Fright transport by road 175.95 NOK
Passenger transport by tour bus 158.37 NOK
Hotel, restaurant and catering 134.09 NOK

In addition, the employer may be obligated to pay for lodging and clothes, if necessary.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority ensures compliance with the rules and can impose injunctions and issue fines if they are broken. In case of severe violations, the employer may be reported to the police.


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