NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2004

Norway's welfare state enforces few penalties against chronic absenteeism. In fact, most people who take sick leave receive 100 percent of their pay. Few employees get fired, but even if they do, unemployment benefits are very generous.

With fewer incentives to work, Norwegians stay home from their jobs at an alarming rate -- one that is now the highest in all of Europe, says observers.

  • On an average day, about one in four of Norway's workers are absent from work, either because they have called in sick, are undergoing rehabilitation, or are on long-term disability.
  • This rate is especially high among government employees, who account for half the workforce.
  • The average amount of time people were absent from work in Norway in 2002, not including vacations, was 4.8 weeks -- Sweden ranks second in Europe with 4.2 weeks.

All told, Norwegians take off nearly half the calendar year -- about 170 days -- including vacation time, holidays and weekends, but not time off for disability and rehabilitation. Long-term disability leave is up 20 percent since 1990 and is growing at an even faster rate than sick leave.

Source: Lizette Alvarez, "Norway Looks for Ways to Keep Its Workers on the Job", New York Times, July 25, 2004.

For NYT text


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