Labour-market integration of Ukrainian refugees in Norway. Preparing for long term stay or fast return? (NIBR)

About the project

Coordinated by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) at OsloMet.

The 4-year project with funding from the Research Council of Norway started up in December 2023.

The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the largest yearly influx of refugees in Norway to date; more than 1% of the population in Norway are now Ukrainian refugees. Refugees from Ukraine have been granted collective protection for up to 3 years, one year at a time, but their future length of stay in Norway is uncertain. In this project we study Ukrainians’ inclusion in the Norwegian labour market under such uncertainty. We look at how different actors deal with the uncertainty: national policy-makers, actors at the local/municipal level, and Ukrainian refugees themselves.

The students are free to choose a relevant theme within this broader framework.

Ideas for MA thesis themes (proposed by potential co/supervisors)

  1. Many of the Ukrainian refugees are women with children (the men in the age group 18-59 are not allowed to leave Ukraine). Challenges of balancing solo responsibility for children with paid work can be studied both from the perspectives of the refugees (how to balance), and the accommodation by municipal services (NAV, schools/kindergartens, introduction programme, etc.)
  2. Health aspects: Our surveys reveal widespread psychic health challenges among the refugees, many of whom have war traumas. How do municipalities offer and organise health services to enable the refugees to cope with and recover from such traumas and to enhance their capacity to participate in the labour market?
  3. For MIS students, a Swedish-Norwegian comparison of some labour-inclusion topic could be a relevant angle (in Sweden for various reasons more refugees are in work, but more often in the low-paid and precarious end of the labour market).
  4. The «hurtigspor Integrering» model is announced to be utilized by the Norwegian government in their efforts with Ukrainian refugees in Norway. What are the features of this model, and how do Norwegian municipalities, as well as Ukrainian refugees, experience it? What are the primary barriers to its implementation, and what opportunities does it present for the various actors involved?
  5. Labour market integration strategies: Legislative changes implemented in Norway since February 2022 have brought about increased flexibility and freedom of choice for Ukrainian refugees. These changes encompass integration programs offering educational measures, employment opportunities, free Norwegian language courses, specialized integration benefits, and assistance with supported housing. In comparison to many other European countries, Norway boasts a comprehensive public infrastructure for receiving and locally integrating Ukrainian refugees, providing relatively generous access to essential services. However, Norwegian authorities have chosen a rapid model for labour market integration for Ukrainian refugees that could lead to multiple structural barriers and individual challenges. How do Ukrainian refugees (primarily women responsible for caring for children without proficient English) experience their labour market integration in Norway? What strategies do they employ to overcome the existing challenges, barriers, and risks at various social levels, including national, regional, and local contexts?
  6. Street-level bureaucrats in NAV and the refugee service are tasked with implementing integration policies. How do they perceive the changes in policies and laws that have taken place after the arrival of the Ukrainians? Goal conflicts or ambiguous rules may leave street level bureaucrats with a large scope of discretion. How do employees in NAV and the refugee service perceive this scope, and which factors shape their use of discretion (e.g.  informal political signals, personal values, previous experience, work pressure, bureaucratic norms such as equal treatment etc)?
  7. Children appear to be important for the social integration of Ukrainian families, but also for migration decisions. It would be interesting to learn more about kindergartens and schools as arenas of integration, and how Ukrainians in Norway factor in children in their thoughts and decisions about coming to Norway, staying, or leaving.
  8.  An additional topic that we need more knowledge about is the school situation for some of the Ukrainian children in Norway. Many Ukrainian children currently attend Norwegian school during the day and online Ukrainian school in the afternoon/evening. We do not know how this “double schooling” situation affects children with regards to e.g. social life, learning and the potential of re-entering school in Ukraine.  
  9.  Several Ukrainians owned their own firm in Ukraine, and some of them are interested in setting up a company in Norway. Creating one’s own workplace is a good alternative to finding job, but research indicates that there may be hurdles in the way for immigrants (and others) who want to establish a firm in Norway. This is a topic that requires further exploration. It could be interesting to talk to Ukrainians who want to start up their own business, but also to discuss the topic with employees in NAV or career counsellors who give advice to Ukrainians about work opportunities.

Data collection

Data from surveys to Ukrainian refugees and to municipal refugee services (such surveys were conducted in 2023 and will be conducted annually – at least the one to the refugees). Can be used both as primary and secondary data source.

Transcripts from interviews with municipal stakeholders (from four case studies to be carried out in four Norwegian municipalities).

Even if the project will have data that can be used by the students, we propose that the students do their data collection, conduct interviews among various municipal services, among Ukrainian refugees themselves, or at workplaces with Ukrainian refugees (employers, trade unions, workers).

The project is particularly relevant for students within Social work and International social welfare and health policy (MIS).

We can accept up to 3 students. Students who are accepted are likely to be offered a study desk (Masterstudentplass) at NIBR together with other Masters students from OsloMet and other universities.

Project group

Aadne Aasland (project leader), NIBR
Vilde Hernes, NIBR
Kristian Rose Tronstad, NIBR
Tone Liodden; NIBR
Oleksandra Deineko, NIBR
Marthe Handå Myhre, NIBR
Mariann Stærkebye Leirvik, NIBR
Blanka Støren Vaczy, SAM

Contact person

Aadne Aasland –

More about the project

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