If you want to live here and avail of the benefits, at least offer us the courtesy of learning our language and speaking like a Norwegian.
That in a nutshell was Norway’s message to migrants who are enjoying the country’s generous benefits in social assistance.
Beginning 2020, Norway will implement stricter measures for welfare eligibility of migrants. Oslo Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced that migrants will be required to be proficient in Norwegian language in order to be entitled to social benefits:
“Immigrants are over-represented in social assistance. Often, their command of the Norwegian language is too poor to get by in the workplace. One must work on integration from day one. Teaching Norwegian is actually the top priority.”
Solberg pledged to provide assistance with child rearing and other issues that may hinder people from mastering the language. She warned that if migrants do not comply, they will no longer benefit from social assistance:
“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.”
Solberf stressed that learning the language will usher in changes and motivate people to work for a living.
The increasing number of unemployed immigrants has become a strong cause for concern. According to the latest data from Statistics Norway, half of the welfare recipients are migrants.
There are over 130,000 recipients of social benefits in a country of 5.2 million. In 2017, there were over 880,000 people of foreign background in Norway, which makes up about 17 percent of the population.
Earlier this month, Solberg’s party colleague, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Anniken Hauglie believed that the benefit of social assistance has made migrants complacent:
“I am worried that too many immigrants are out of work and are passive welfare recipients. This cannot be good either for the individual or for society.”
The opposition criticized Solberg’s move. Socialist Left Party immigration spokesman Karin Andersen opined that social assistance should be made available to people in need – even if they can’t speak Norwegian:
“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?”
He also implied that Solberg’s government has crossed “yet another limits of rule of law and decency”.