Norwegian PM warns migrants: Learn the language or lose benefits

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25 February 2019

Starting in 2020, immigrants to Norway must display a sufficient command of the Norwegian language in order to be entitled to social assistance. At present, immigrants are heavily over-represented in the list of welfare recipients, ONA reports citing Sputniknews.

Norway's Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg has announced stricter requirements for eligibility for social assistance, the newspaper Nettavisen reported.

In 2017, the Norwegian state paid out NOK 6.6 billion ($770 million) in social assistance, with half of the recipients being immigrants. Of them, 86 percent were immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.

"Immigrants are over-represented in social assistance. Often, their command of the Norwegian language is too poor to get by in the workplace", Solberg told Nettavisen, arguing that failing to teach the Norwegian language is an "old sin".

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Solberg stressed that today an "activity requirement" is in place to incentivise people under the age of 30 to seek employment. According to her, the "language requirement" serves a similar goal. Solberg also warned of the detrimental effects of inaction.

"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", Solberg stressed. According to her, mastering Norwegian is a crucial way of getting back on track to enter the labour force.

Solberg stressed that the demands on people to participate in learning Norwegian will be implemented some time in 2020. At the same time, she stressed that the authorities will provide assistance with child rearing and other problems that may deter people from mastering the language.

"One must work on integration from day one. Teaching Norwegian is actually the top priority", Solberg said, stressing that Norway has placed higher demands on new arrivals in the past 15 years, while also providing a better offer.

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