Input from the MiRA- Resource Centre to CEDAW, on Norway’s 7th periodic report 13. February 2012:
Minority women and work life!
1. We strive most of our lives to have a decent job and a place to live. One of the main causes of migration has been to search for a better livelihood, a secure and decent work and improved living conditions for the family as well as for oneself. The black, migrant and refugee women share this dream with all other women.
2. However, the shadow report from the civil society in Norway shows that 43% of the female labor force is working part-time, many involuntarily and many of those women are not even permanently employed. A large number of these part-time temporary workers are women with minority background. The latest statistics from the Norwegian statistics Central bureau shows that there is 2.2% unemployment in general Norwegian public, in other words majority of the population is gainfully employed. The reality is however different for ethnic minorities and particularly women. The unemployment among minority women is 7.6% which is an increase of .1% from last year. The statistics also shows that while the employment among ethnic minority men has been reduced slightly, it has increased for minority women. The Muslim women who choose to wear a headscarf are denied access to many jobs such as in the police or the courts.
3. In January 2012, the Norwegian Institute for social research documented that if you have a non-Norwegian name, there are 25% less chances that you will be called for a job interview. We experience that many young women with minority backgrounds have been sending over hundreds of work applications without getting any response from the employer. Some of them decided to change their last name and the results were different. Some of them even got the jobs. We the NGOs working with the intersectional discrimination in the labor market i.e. discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or religion have known this fact since the 70s. We are glad that it is documented now and hoping for the concrete measures taken by the Norwegian government to combat intersectional discrimination in the labor market.
4. In its response to the list of issues and questions with regard to the consideration of the eighth periodic reports to the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, the Norwegian government has responded in article 19 that it has established various programs such as the “introduction programs” which gives newly arrived immigrants who are refugees but are granted residence permit on humanitarian grounds, the basic skills in Norwegian language and insights to the Norwegian culture, “The qualification program for vulnerable groups” , “ The second chance program”, and “The program for basic competence in working life” . The government however fails to document if these programs have led to the gainful employment of minority women in the mainstream labor market. Under “the introduction programs” the government has provided a statistics that shows that 48% of the women who completed the program in 2008 were employed or undergoing education in Norway in November 2009. We have tried to verify this statistics but have been unable to do so. What we have discovered is that after these introductory programs, the women are sent to various workplaces to get the basic competence in working life while receiving the minimum social welfare allowance. Various workplaces take immigrant women for 3 to 6 months for work training. The purpose of this training is that after the end of the training period the women would be given a job. The statistics however shows that after end of the training period the employer does not hire the women. The women go back to their social welfare office to be placed into a new a new workplace for a new training program and it goes on over a period of several years. During this period the women are not shown in the unemployment statistics. In this way the minority women’s labor is exploited as a cheap reserve because they work full time but are not paid their wages like any other worker but they are given the minimum social welfare allowance.
“I have been applying for many jobs for several years. I have even applied for cleaning and washing jobs, in the hotels and hospitals and many other places without any luck. I want to be independent; I want to have my own money in my pocket. If you have money you have the freedom to buy what you want and not always ask your husband” (a minority woman).
5. The minority women who are working full-time, part-time or temporarily, experience other kind of discrimination. They are often overlooked by the employer in regards to promotions, better wages, or getting full-time permanent employment. The racist/sexist discrimination results in many women continuing involuntarily low paid temporary jobs while the employer usually higher the ethnic Norwegian worker for a permanent or full-time job.
6. In its response to the committee, the Norwegian government has only documented various programs but has not documented the results of these programs in the real working life. We urge the committee therefore to ask the Norwegian government, to provide the statistics about how these programs are working and how many of the women are gainfully employed after going through the introduction program, the qualification programs for vulnerable groups, the second chance programs and the program for basic competence and working life, in its next periodic report.
7. The gender stereotypes about minority women prevail in the Norwegian society. It is usually assumed that minority women want to stay home rather than work. Many young women with the ethnic minority backgrounds have reported that the school counselors usually advise them to take up subjects who give them job access to care and service sector rather than taking up challenging educational vocations. However the statistics shows that the young women with minority backgrounds are breaking the stereotypes and a large number of them are going into professions such as medicine, law and other prestigious academic disciplines. There is a need for structural changes to gender mainstream ethnic minority women within the Norwegian labor market.