Working life is as important for the functioning of society as it is for the welfare and livelihood of the individual. Participation in working life provides an income, and with it economic independence, and many people experience working life as an important arena for self-realisation and self-expression. High employment is important for value creation and the material prosperity of society, and helps to form a secure economic basis for societal development. An objective is that all who can and wish to participate in working life have the opportunity to do so. But although there is high employment in Norway, an increasing number of people find that the entry threshold to working life is too high, or that they are excluded.
Working life has always been a central research theme at the Institute for Social Research. A common thread running through more than 60 years of research is the way in which benefits and disadvantages are distributed through paid work. In recent years the interplay between working life, state-guaranteed income and the education system has become an important topic.
Many of our projects in 2013 were quantitatively oriented, based on registry data and surveys, but we also emphasise breadth of methodological approaches and have conducted several projects using a qualitative interview method and experimental design.
We have researched several different issues in 2013. Common to all of them is their association with the labour market. Some examples show the breadth of the research: We have conducted major studies on participation and the welfare state, in which we have investigated gender differences and the importance of social norms to explain sickness absence, as well as the effect of local demand shock on disability, the association between economic trends and drop-out rate in upper secondary schools, and variation in youth unemployment in the Nordic countries. We have investigated how immigration affects the pay of the native population, and have studied the transition from education to work from the perspective of gender and ethnicity.
We are concerned with institutional regulatory frameworks and have investigated the association between labour market institutions and pay inequalities, and the effect of organisational changes on employees’ job satisfaction.
The outside world confirms in many different ways the relevance of our research on working life. We receive a great deal of attention in public debate, and our results are consistently applied in designing policy and are approved as academic articles in national and international publication channels.
Our field of research is growing, and during the year we have recruited more researchers with complementary expertise in the labour market. This makes it possible to strengthen the institute’s investment in research on the significance of working life for the individual and society in the years to come.