National Policy BriefNorway
This post briefly presents the Norwegian system for public support for unemployed who wants to be entrepreneurs and the most important findings and recommendations from the SIATE Conference held in Sandefjord, Norway on March 9th, 2023
This policy brief focusses on the insights gained during the Norwegian international conferences held in Sandefjord on March 9th 2023 under the umbrella of the EU Erasmus+ KA3 project SIATE (https://www.siate.eu/)
The SIATE conference in Sandefjord, Norway presented 14 national stakeholders representing both public and private sector. The conference was divided into two themes. The first theme “Policies and programs promoting inclusion through entrepreneurship” was focusing on official Norwegian support programs for unemployed who wants to start their own business while retaining public benefits and different methodologies in the work with support for entrepreneurial training. The second theme “Different models for promoting social inclusion” presented best practise and valuable experience from different stakeholders working with entrepreneurial training for different target groups – such as migrants, students, women, people with disabilities and elderly people. The Norwegian conference engaged 120 individual participants from 10 different European countries.
The unemployment rate in Norway is stable and relatively low. In April 2023, the unemployment rate was 2.2 % according to Statistics Norway.
Unemployed and those who were temporarily laid-off for a specific period, are entitled to receive an unemployment benefit from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV).
The length of receiving the unemployment benefit varies from 52 weeks (for gross annual earners below NOK 222.954 (EUR 18.817) or 104 weeks if the gross salary in the last year was higher. NAV takes into consideration an average for the past three years if that gives a higher salary. The unemployment benefit is rather generous and constitutes 62 % of persons previous gross salary – cap on gross annual salary of NOK 668.862 (EUR 56.451). 
Income exceeding this amount is not included when the 62 % unemployment benefit is calculated.
To receive unemployment benefit the unemployed must be an “active job seeker”, meaning that they are not allowed to work (even without pay) or be in education. The active job seekers should also at any time be able to respond to any job and/or occupational training scheme offered by NAV.
Group and individual entrepreneurship training for the unemployed
Both group and individual entrepreneurship training programmes have been available for unemployed in Norway for many years.
In the past the focus was on more traditional group-based entrepreneurship training for the unemployed. The group entrepreneurship training has been conducted as labour market courses (AMO-courses). These were short occupational courses – often 8 to 12 weeks – arranged by NAV but often in cooperation with private providers. The courses often combined practical tasks with theoretical learning, and often involved some form of traineeship in an ordinary business or organization as a part of preparation to set up own business by the participants.
For the last three years there has been an overall focus on entrepreneurship training for individuals. The main reason for this is a general reduction of funding for labour market measures due to low unemployment rate, but also a growing demand for more flexibility and individual follow-up of the entrepreneurship training.
Unemployment benefit during the establishment of business
In Norway, people who already receive unemployment benefit are entitled to continue to receive them while setting up their own business. This programme is called “Unemployment benefit during the establishment of your own business” (in Norwegian: Dagpenger når du etablerer egen virksomhet).
To be granted access to the programme the unemployed must submit a separate application to NAV, and fulfil the following conditions:
- The person must already have been granted unemployment benefit.
- The establishment of a new business must lead to self-sufficiency.
- The business must be new.
- The person must either own more than half of the business alone, or together with one or more other beneficiaries.
- The business must be established and run in Norway.
- The business must be registered in the necessary public registers during the establishment period.
As part of an application for the entrepreneurship programme, the unemployed must prepare a standardised business plan in co-operation with a public or private consulting agency approved by NAV.
The business plan is digitalized and contains an assessment of the applicant’s competences, the feasibility of the business idea, estimated investment needs and an assessment whether the project will allow the applicant to economically support themselves through the project and after 12 months.
The applications – including the business plan – are evaluated by NAV in the municipality where the applicant lives. This is considered as an important feature of the support because the feasibility of the business idea is linked to the conditions on the local labour market and demand for new business.
In 2016, the participation in the programme was prolonged from 9 to 12 months. This was considered as great success, contributing to almost double increase in the number of participants: from approximately 1.500 participants per year to 3.000.
Over the last year changes were introduced to increase the flexibility of programme. In the past the first 8 months of the programme were strictly defined as a development phase and the last 4 months as a start-up phase. The participants were not expected to make commercial sales during the first phase, only after the beginning of the start-up phase. From January 2019, the unemployed person can decide for themselves how long the development phase should last and when they can start earning money.
The unemployed can receive unemployment benefit during the establishment of a new business for a period up to 12 months. Once they are granted access to the programme, they are free to follow-up their business idea for the whole period. But, if they are not entitled to receive unemployment benefit for 12 months, the participation in the entrepreneurship programme does not prolong the duration of unemployment benefit.
An important feature is that the participants are allowed to have income from their business while receiving unemployment benefit without reduction of the benefit.
The follow up of the participants in the entrepreneurship programme takes place locally in a form of one-to-one guidance. The participants meet with their consultants approximately every 2 months during the 12-month period. Local NAV is responsible to provide guidance. The task is often performed by a NAV job specialist or delegated to other public or private business consulting companies.
The number of participants in the programme is stable, with an average of 3.000 participants per year in last three years.
In general, more men than women in Norway choose to run their own business. This is also reflected in the number of men (65 %) represented in the programme. The government has taken actions to increase the number of women entrepreneurs. For example, many state loans and support schemes for business have been prioritizing companies with women managers or owners.
Many women are concerned that the rights to sickness pay, and childcare are weaker for self-employed than for ordinary employees. The government has therefore taken measures that increase from 2019 the coverage of sickness for self-employed workers and reduce the cost of own sickness insurance. Low unemployment and high wages are important explanatory factors why not more women choose entrepreneurship. When one loses a job, the likelihood of establishing own business increases dramatically and the impact is strongest for women.
The programme is seldom used for people below the age of 30. Typical participants are unemployed between 35-55 years of age with practical experience from working life.
There are no valid statistics regarding the success rate after finishing the programme but according to NAV observations a minimum of 80 % of the participants are not receiving unemployment benefits after the end of the programme. However, there are no valid statistics showing if they are working in their own business or are employed elsewhere.
Some of the main findings from the conference in Norway can be summarized as the following:
- As the number of individuals that starts on entrepreneurial training is growing it is important to structure and support the individuals in establishing their business through different online platforms. In the conference we presented examples of different digital entrepreneurship support program that also offers online incubation programmes. (Entreprenerdy AS / Sirius ACT)
- In the Norwegian examples, the lack of an entrepreneurial group-effect is often mentioned as a challenge. The participants working independently on their own business ideas often lack an operational network. To help to overcome this challenge NAV often links the unemployed entrepreneurs with local entrepreneurship environments or local business associations where they can share a workspace and develop their ideas. In the conference this was presented with local examples from Sandefjord and Larvik. (Colab / Gründeriet).
- Since the unemployment rate in Norway is low, and the demand for work force are increasing, the conference also put the search light on the elderly population as an entrepreneurial resource. In the conference we were presented examples a different approach to reduce ageism in entrepreneurship and how to foster a more positive view on getting older. (Visdomsprenørene AS.)
- What does it take to succeed with social entrepreneurship? According to studies made by the University of South-East Norway social entrepreneurs often focus on the project’s purpose rather than its profitability while sustainable entrepreneurship focuses on managing sustainability without ignoring profitability. According to the university the seven most important aera for entrepreneurs can be summarized as; Adaption to existing legal, cultural, and political framework – Targeting a given social purpose in a local context – Innovation – Affecting an identified and actual gap in the (local) society – The importance of a vital network – Cocreation: Participation from the people involved. (SESAM – Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Collaborative Social Innovation.)
- Migrants in Norway are one of the largest groups involved in entrepreneurial projects. But they also very often fail with their entrepreneurial startups. Some of the key problems can be summarized as; they often start the wrong company form, they lack a co-founder, they have no network in the business world and struggle with sales and they start without an accountant and spend time on the wrong things. To foster successful migrant founders, we need to find the people who have the biggest chance to succeed. Through the conference we were presented different programs and project that presented inclusion of migrants through different entrepreneurial programs. Some of the key findings that came up was the importance of making a pitch-deck that opens doors to funding, let the migrants meet successful role models, learn about accounting and taxation, get help with starting the company, connect with the right people and join a dynamic support-group or entrepreneurial hubs. (Startup Migrants / Vintage Baby).
- Under the presentation of different models for promoting social inclusion through entrepreneurship we were also presented a model of sport as a tool for human growth and social inclusion. This example was from the local soccer team Sandefjord Fotball which plays in the Norwegian Premier League. For this target group have implemented low-threshold service for substance abusers/former abusers (mental health challenges) who now are part of an organized football team. The training includes a variety of social training and support adapted through player / coach conversations, NAV assistance, responsibility groups, financial assistance, work preparatory training and food supply. (Sandefjord Fotball.)
Here some suggestions and recommendations from the panel discussions and the general feedback from the participants during the SIATE conference in Sandefjord, Norway:
- Ensure that the entrepreneurs are not left alone: In many of the Norwegian examples, the lack of entrepreneurial group-effect is often mentioned as a challenge. The entrepreneurs working independently on their own business ideas often lack an operational network. To help to overcome this challenge it is important to link the unemployed entrepreneurs with local entrepreneurship environments (entrepreneurial hubs) or local business associations where they can share a workspace and develop their ideas together with others.
- Foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem: As a prolonging of the fact that the entrepreneurs work better in a system with other entrepreneurs, it is important to develop a supportive ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship. This includes creating co-working spaces, incubators, and innovation hubs where entrepreneurs can access shared resources, infrastructure, and business support services. Also to foster stronger collaboration between entrepreneurs, investors, academic institutions, and industry experts to promote knowledge sharing, idea generation, and business growth.
- Offer financial support and incentives: To many entrepreneurs use too much time searching and applying for public grants. It is important to establish funding mechanisms such as grants, loans, and microfinance programs specifically tailored for unemployed individuals who want to start their own businesses. Also, to provide financial incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, or reduced regulatory burdens to encourage entrepreneurship and alleviate financial barriers.
- Motivate more women to participate in the entrepreneurship programs: As the situation is today approximately 33% of new entrepreneurs in Norway are women. Policy makers should foster the networking of associations and encourage co-operation and partnerships among national and international networks and thus facilitate entrepreneurial endeavours by women. Peer to peer platforms help women entrepreneurs realize the potential they harbour within themselves. In the examples from the two entrepreneurial hubs in the conference (Gründeriet and Colab) the percentage of female entrepreneurs was 44 -48%
- Establish programs and systems that embrace creativity: There is a lot of recourses out there that are not recognized. It is important to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Embrace creativity by exploring new perspectives, challenging assumptions, and considering unconventional solutions. Encourage entrepreneurs to generate as many ideas as possible without judgment initially.
- Promote entrepreneurship through marketing and awareness campaigns: Launch marketing campaigns to raise awareness about the benefits and opportunities of entrepreneurship. Highlight success stories of entrepreneurs who started their ventures while unemployed. Disseminate information about available resources, programs, and support services to ensure unemployed individuals are aware of the opportunities and options available to them.
- Work in a structured way: It is a challenge that different stakeholders working with entrepreneurs do not work structured enough. There is to much silo mentality where different stakeholders take care of different aspects of the process, guidance, financing, networking etc. By supporting longer programs for entrepreneurs, it is also easier to structure the work in a more holistic and efficient way.
- Results from group work 1: Summarize your top three take aways from today’s speakers?
- Both public and private finding are necessary.
- Social entrepreneurs need to be able to make profit to attract investments for growth.
- Old people have potential. Important to use elders as mentors in schools and entrepreneurial training.
- Entrepreneurships need to be structured. We are working to fragmented.
- Important for entrepreneurs to be part of a group. Very interesting to learn about the co-working and echo systems represented by Gründeriet and Colab.
- Change of narrative / growth mindset.
- We should dare to ignore the talk about differences between impact, social, green, and just ordinary entrepreneurship.
- People need to work on their personal growth and find their passion so they can earn and create value.
- Entrepreneurship can be learned, need time, and depends on local capacity for action and mobilization.
- Importance of quality mentoring in the start-up phase.
- Significant continuing issues around meaningful inclusion for excluded groups.
- Importance of gender equity in designing entrepreneurship.
- Diversity and variation between follow-up methods – both digital and face-to-face
- We have very good formal support programs for entrepreneurs in Norway.
- More focus on financing
- Results from group work 2: What improvements could / should be made to improve social inclusion for low skilled adults in Norway?
- Working together – not in silos.
- Include migrant entrepreneurs in start-up programs.
- Combine entrepreneurship with basic skills and formal competence.
- Firstly, define the target groups and secondly better interconnection between key actors and target groups.
- The importance of entrepreneurial hubs like Gründeriet and Colab.
- More entrepreneurial training in schools.
- More knowledge about entrepreneurship among consultants in NAV and continue to develop the schemes provided for entrepreneurs by NAV.
- Systematic training on human rights and diversity management. Focus on anti-racism education. Comprehensive programs on universal design and equitable access.
- Give easier access to networks and mentors. Available mentor programs and networks for low scale start-ups.
- Working with 21st century skills in general skills education.
- Develop the cooperation between companies and low skilled adults with entrepreneurial ideas.
- Keep it simple to learn entrepreneurship, use digital solutions and work in groups.
- Creating a model of belonging and value regardless of personal challenges with a model of co-design / creation of solutions / intervention.
- Give entrepreneurs visibility!
- Low threshold offer for idea development and information. Extend the period of 12 months for support from NAV.
We wish to thank all the experts and institutions who made significant contributions to the Norwegian SIATE conference namely:
Camilla Bilstad Johannessen
Social entrepreneur in Vintage Baby.
“The path to work for minority women.”
E- mail: email@example.com
Yngve Andre Dahle
Managing partner and Founder at Entreprenerdy, Associate professor II at USN and Research Fellow at Fraunhofer – SESAM Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at the University of South-Eastern Norway
“What does it take to succeed with social entrepreneurship?”.
E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bjørn Z. Ekelund
Psychologist and founder of Visdomsprenørene AS
“The innovative capability of the elderly in the Larvik community.”
E- mail: email@example.com
Co-founder GET Academy
“How a social enterprise can establish a business model where software companies invest in students’ way back to education and work.”
Elin Bjørnsdatter Ivarson
Senior Advisor Innovation and Project Development, NAV
“The Norwegian system for support for entrepreneurship for jobseekers. Best practice and cooperation with various social actors.”
Ole Thomas Talset
Head of Marketing & Inclusion, NAV
“The Norwegian system for support for entrepreneurship for jobseekers. Best practice and cooperation with various social actors.”
“Colab – a place where ideas are developed, entrepreneurs grow, and contacts are made.”
Benedicte Eian Iversen
“Gründeriet – a place where ideas are developed, entrepreneurs grow, and contacts are made.”
CEO, Vink AS
“Vink – a place where ideas are developed, entrepreneurs grow, and contacts are made.”
“Babysensor – a place where ideas are developed, entrepreneurs grow, and contacts are made.”
Fredrik Reff Sydnes
Senior Partner Sirius ACT
“How a successful Entrepreneurship Program contributes to inclusion for people outside the labour market.”
Erlend Bang Abelsen
Co-founder and partner at Entreprenerdy AS
“An example of a digital entrepreneurship support program.”
Co-Founder and CEO of Startup Migrants
“Inclusion through entrepreneurial programs.”
Head Coach Sandefjord Street Football
“Magical moments with Sandefjord street football. Sports as social inclusion.”
Information about the project
|Project name||Social Inclusion of Adults through Entrepreneurship: SIATE|
|Coordinator||VUC Storstrøm, Denmark|
VUC Fyn (Denmark),
Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg (Germany),
Archivio della Memoria (AdM) (Italy) and
Universal Learning Systems (ULS) (Ireland).
|For more information||
Pernille Skov Sørensen
|Further reading||European Network for Entrepreneurship in Adult Education (ENTNET)|
 Exchange rate 1,0 NOK = 0,085 EUR