Every second jobseeker has been with Nav for over a year. For Janne Hansen (48), the longing for work was so great that she asked to work for free.
– I went to a Christmas table with my colleagues, but I should never have done that. It just made the miss bigger.
Danish Janne Hansen has not worked in the duty-free shop at Gardermoen since she was laid off in March 2020.
Now she mostly goes home.
– This week I have cried almost every day. The feeling of not belonging anywhere is not good, she says.
E24 visits her at her home on Bjørkelangen in Aurskog-Høland municipality the week before Christmas. Here the tree is decorated and the elves are found.
Christmas itself is celebrated with in-laws in Denmark. While the children waited anxiously to see if they would get hard or soft packages, Janne Hansen had one simple but at the same time complicated Christmas wish: A job.
In the last year, the 48-year-old has sent dozens of applications to what she describes as all sorts of jobs. Most have never given a response.
– You get a feeling of having no value for society, she says.
Asked to work for free
Like everyone else, Janne Hansen thought in March 2020 that she would be back to work full time after a few months. But the pandemic lasted and lasted, and so did unemployment.
– After a short time, I was depressed by the isolation, so I contacted an acquaintance who ran a grocery store. I could work for free one day, I just had to get out.
She got a job as a call substitute, but in the new year the shop was closed. Then followed a few months of full-time work in another store.
Recently, Janne Hansen has only had a position as a substitute at Europris, one hour from home.
– It usually gives me a couple of shifts a week. But I’m desperate for something more.
1 of 3Fredrik Solstad
Half have been with Nav for over a year
Janne Hansen is far from alone in being affected by the corona crisis for a long time.
Of all those who were laid off in the first round of the pandemic, approximately 11,500 people have been jobseekers continuously since, according to figures that E24 has received from Nav.
Being a jobseeker means that you are registered with Nav as either completely unemployed, partially unemployed, or on measures.
At the end of November, about 114,500 jobseekers had been registered with Nav.
56,300 of them have been registered for over a year. This corresponds to 49 percent of the total.
– As a proportion of jobseekers, this is clearly highest in the 2000s, says Nav chief Hans Christian Holte.
The second highest month before the pandemic was in the wake of the IT bubble in the 2000s, when the proportion who had been jobseekers for a year or more was 39 percent.
Following the financial crisis in 2008, the share reached a peak of 33 per cent, while the oil crisis from 2014 led to a share of 35 per cent. Both peaks came about three years after the crises.
– On a general basis, it can be said that the proportion of long-term jobseekers often reaches its peak a few years after a crisis, when the labor market is improving. Then the influx of new jobseekers is low, and a larger proportion of those with a shorter duration have returned to work, says Holte.
He says that Nav expects the share to fall in the future, as new redundancies lead to new jobseekers.
– Just do the same thing from day to day
People with a background in tourism and transport, service occupations, as well as shop and sales work are overrepresented among long-term job seekers.
The hotel industry is among the hardest hit by the corona crisis. The Nordic region’s largest hotel chain Scandic, for example, has downsized by a total of 1,000 man-years through two rounds.
Silje Skotnes, who has worked as a breakfast waiter at the Scandic hotel in Bergen for 20 years, was among those who lost their job this year.
With the exception of a short period this summer, she has not been at work since March last year.
– In the beginning it was fine, since I got very pregnant, but now I’m bored. I just do the same thing from day to day – it’s babysitting, laundry, cleaning and so on. I’m not used to going home as a full time housewife.
The 39-year-old says that she experiences “down periods”, where life just feels “banned”.
– You kind of have nothing to look forward to. At one point, I considered painting the entire house wall purple just to have something to do.
Delete with bills
When you are laid off, Nav pays in excess of 60 percent of the salary you have.
For Silje Skotnes, it was a difficult cut.
– The economy has not been very good. I have been in arrears with the bills and received debt collection claims, she says.
During the notice period, however, she received full pay again, and her personal finances were recovered. But now she has received the latest payment from Scandic. Monday before Christmas, she started a job search course at Nav.
– Fortunately, my husband is in full time work, so we will probably be able to get it going. But when you get 7,000 kroner from Nav and 6,000 of them go to kindergarten, there is not much left.
Silje Skotnes says she has sent out around 20 job applications, but has not heard back from anyone.
– I have applied for everything, from cleaning help to waiter. I prefer to work with what I am educated in, in the service industry, but right now I take any job.
Higher threshold after long-term unemployment
The many long-term unemployed are something that worries Nav director Hans Christian Holte.
– We know that the long-term unemployed have a higher threshold for getting back into working life. It may be that they are perceived as less attractive than those who have recent work experience, and then they may become less and less active in the application process themselves, he says.
Before omikron became a word people use in everyday speech, the extended redundancy scheme was to expire at New Year. Now it has been extended again, initially by one month.
On the day the scheme is unpacked, a number of people will probably become ordinary unemployed, Nav believes. The big difference between that and being laid off is that you no longer have any ties to the employer. The position you had in the back of your hand will be gone.
– Therefore, one should seek an open and honest dialogue with the employer about how likely it is that the need is there on the other side of the pandemic. And based on that, adjust how actively you apply elsewhere, says Holte.
The Nav director points out that there is actually a record high demand in the labor market.
– Even though it feels heavy, the message is that there are many vacancies now. My advice to job seekers is that you are open to looking outside where you have traditionally worked, both industry-wise and geographically. And then consider using the free time you now have for competence replenishment.
May make employers skeptical
The research leaves no doubt that long-term unemployment is negative, both for society and for the individual, points out Anna Sandvig Brander in Norges Bank’s monetary policy department.
In a bloggpost she refers to research that shows that permanent unemployment can lead to a weakening of skills, which in turn can make employers skeptical about hiring them.
“Overall, this can contribute to the possibility of the unemployed returning to work diminishing over time. At the same time, the probability of dropping out of the workforce increases. It is costly both for the individual and for society “, she sums up.
But it is not a given that this will apply now, Sandvig Brander points out. For today’s “corona leave” is not withdrawn from the labor market in the same way as with ordinary staffing.
Fear 15,000 will never return
Nevertheless, there is a danger that many of today’s jobseekers will never return to work, according to senior researcher Simen Markussen at the Frisch Center.
He has drawn parallels between the closure of society and the bankruptcy of a large company.
Previous studies of such bankruptcies indicate that approximately 10 percent of all employees do not return to work. Very many ended up on disability benefits, or just retired from working life.
In March, the unemployment rate was around 150,000. Then Markussen stated that 15,000 corona victims might will never get to work again.
– I have no better estimate now, but this is just a guess, he says.
Markussen believes that it is the long-term unemployed who should be our biggest concern about the pandemic, in addition to those who were unemployed even before the crisis.
– Firstly, it is expensive for society. Nav calculated exactly that 22 months of pandemic has cost us NOK 67 billion in extra payments. In addition, there are future expenses in the event that someone drops out of working life for good. It completely overshadows all other corona costs.
Prolonged unemployment also places a great strain on the individual’s mental health, says Markussen.
– The professional literature points out how it is easy to get down by going free for a long time. One can quickly lose heart and develop depression and other things.
Exercise up to six days a week
Janne Hansen at Bjørkelangen recognizes herself in this.
– It is very depressing not to get a job, she says.
To keep her spirits up, she uses exercise.
For a long time she walked six kilometers every morning before breakfast. She does not do that now that the cold has hit, but she trains a lot of strength.
– I have been doing strength training for a long time, but even more often now. Preferably four to six times a week. The sessions last at least an hour and a half, and now it also happens that I stretch them to three hours.
Janne Hansen says that exercise is absolutely essential for her mental health.
– For me it is alpha and omega. It’s a great way to get rid of frustration, she says.
Permitted until May
At one point, the 48-year-old believes she will be able to return to the airport.
When uncertainty raged the most, she took unpaid leave until May next year. She feared that if she did not do so, she might be fired.
What the world will look like in the spring is still uncertain. But when Travel Retail Norway will hire people again sometime in the future, Janne Hansen will be able to boast five years of experience.
– I am really looking forward to coming back to full time work, she says.