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Social security: Unlawful restrictions on unemployment benefits for migrant workers in Iceland and Norway



Iceland and Norway have to change their legislation concerning conditions for unemployment benefits for migrant workers who only worked for a short period of time in the respective labour markets. This is the conclusion of two reasoned opinions delivered by the EFTA Surveillance Authority to Iceland and Norway today.

Basically, under the EEA Agreement no specific duration of work in Iceland and Norway can be required to take into account insurance periods from other EEA States.[1] However, the Norwegian legislation requires migrants to have worked full time during 8 out of the last 12 weeks in Norway before becoming unemployed. Iceland has a similar rule, requiring the migrant to have been working the full last month in Iceland before becoming unemployed. The consequence would be that a migrant who becomes involuntarily unemployed during these periods would not receive any unemployment benefits from any EEA State. 

Iceland and Norway have argued that the rules are intended to fight social fraud. But according to EEA law, fraud must be tackled on a case by case basis. A general rule that deprives many migrants from justified benefits is disproportionate.

Moreover, the Norwegian legislation requires that the work has to be commenced within 12 weeks after the arrival in Norway in order to take into account periods of insurance or work from other EEA States. However, no such rules apply in cases on Norwegian national level when work is interrupted, which is therefore discriminating other EEA nationals.

The delivery of these reasoned opinions, a final warning, is the second stage in infringement proceedings. The Authority may bring the matters before the EFTA Court if Iceland and Norway fails to take the measures necessary to comply with the reasoned opinions within two months.


For further information, please contact:


Mr.Xavier Lewis
Director, Legal & Executive Affairs Directorate

tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 30


Mr. Bernhard Zaglmayer
Senior Officer, Internal Market Affairs Directorate
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 85


[1] See Council Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 of 14 June 1971 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, to self employed persons and to members of their families moving within the Community, as updated.

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