Scepticism was great on the left, but now the government has asked the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) if it will allow Norway to cut security benefits.
Specifically, the Ministry for Children and Equality wish to know whether it is permitted (under the EEA agreement) to adjust the purchasing power of the child allowance and cash benefits.
Such a move would entail a sharp cut to the benefits of employment immigrants from EEA countries who work in Norway, but have children in their home country.
‘’Cash transfers to families with children are based on Norwegian cost levels. In many countries within the EU and EEA area, the cost level is significantly lower than in Norway. If the child lives in a country with a lower cost level, it is reasonable that these welfare benefits be adjusted,” said Linda Helleland of Høyre (H), Minister for Children and Equality.
The government have wanted this for a long time
The government has been working on this issue since it took over in 2013, but in the EU, resistance was high among Eastern member states. Also from the EU Commission, the signals had so far been negative.
“This is not possible with current regulations, and the EU Commission has no intention of changing this,” said EU Commissioner, Marianne Thyssen to VG newspaper in February last year.
She showed that less than 1% of all child benefit paid in the EU goes to children living in countries other than those the parents work in.
“The economic savings of regulating child allowance would be small compared to what it would cost to manage such a scheme,” she said.
Scepticism on the left
Arbeiderpartiet (Ap) has previously endorsed the idea of adjusting cash benefits sent out of the country. There has been far more scepticism in the left wing of the party.
“These are marginal sums, few people are concerned or gain,” said Venstre’s Sveinung Rotevatn to Aftenposten newspaper last summer.
Rotevatn, who is now Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, added that he could also support a migration policy that would make people come to Norway and work, something he felt very positive about.
“Most of the social security benefits are paid to Norwegian citizens with old-age pensions, and disability pensions living on the Spanish coast,” said Rotevatn.
But old-age or disability pension that goes to Norwegians abroad is not under question for cuts.
The letter sent by the government on Wednesday to ESA in Brussels has been announced for a year. The proposal to do this was included in the parliamentary
report on export of welfare benefits presented last year.
Parliament considered this announcement on the 1st of March this year, and unanimously agreed to the government’s proposal to contact ESA to clarify what opportunities exist.
‘’The calculations show that it is important to introduce purchasing power adjustment in order to maintain the legitimacy of the scheme. We want to be a driving force in this matter and not just wait for the EU. We have therefore sent letters to the ESA where we ask them to assess whether it is permissible to adjust these benefits’’, said Helleland.
The Labor and Welfare Directorate estimates that child welfare and cash support in 2015 amounted to 15.8% of an average annual income in Norway. For Poland, the figure is 95.8% and in Lithuania, 122.3% of an average annual income.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today