Funka’s Torbjørn Helland Solhaug passes judgement on the Norwegian Prime Minister

Roughly four years ago, I gave you some challenges, Erna. I’m not sure whether you read them although I sent them to you. But now I thought at least it was time to check how it went.

Streamlining

Public spending must be sensible, and it is important to limit spending where it is natural. I challenged you to make a central tendering agency, responsible for checking that all basic information about companies that offer bids in public procurement processes is complete, up-to-date and approved.

The idea was to replace the resource usage that each public sector has to offer to check something that someone else checked half an hour ago, because the same company has delivered 20 offers this week, with the same HSE statement, the same financial report and so on. At the same time, it will save the private businesses much work, as they can send the documentation a few times a year instead of at each occurance. I have unfortunately not yet seen such an agency.

One thing that has improved is that the offers can now be delivered exclusively digitally. This is a significant saving for both suppliers and public companies. But although the reform of municipalities leads to fewer municipalities, it still seems difficult to reuse good ICT solutions across municipalities, because each municipality is counted as one delivery, which the supplier can fully invoice.

Education

Our children are entitled to education in the most equal terms. With the new The Act on Equality and Prohibition of Discrimination, that was approved before the summer, the children are put on more equal terms, so we are on the right track. But on the one hand, it's so fresh that we do not quite see the real result yet, and the legislators ended up retreating somewhat from where they were in the draft, regarding to put concrete demands on digital solutions in schools and education.

The Act on Equality and Prohibition of Discrimination, (in Norwegian) opens in a new window

Social Economy

Wage subsidies are an important tool for making it economically feasible for both the employer and the employee, and also to get employees working in those cases where the employee has permanent and substantially reduced working capacity. If the options are disability insurance, unemployment benefit or other benefits, it is definitely preferable to get as many as possible to work to create value and pay taxes. In most cases, the cost of wage subsidies to get a person at work will be lower than the corresponding expenses for social benefits, and thus it is a win-win situation.

Lately, you can notice an improvement, because the possibilities for permanent wage subsidies are strengthened, although there is still a test scheme.

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) in a new era - for work and activity, (in Norwegian) opens in a new window

Working life

By 2016, the employment rate among the population of working age was lower than ever since 2005, just by almost 1 percentage point. At the same time, the employment rate among persons with functional variability was somewhat higher than what it has been since 2009, but also only by less than one percentage point. And the latter is still almost 30 percentage points lower than for the population as a whole.

We can not call this a significant change unfortunately. Also, some of the reasons are that many jobs lack universal design in the digital work environment, something we documented in our survey on Digital Barriers for Employment, conducted in 2016.

Funka’s investigation on Digital Barriers for Employment

Experiences

Audience with function variation has often experienced that they cannot experience the concert, theatrical or similar with friends, but rather with other people with functional variations.

Here I have to admit that I know too little about the current situation, but I have an anecdote to come along anyway. I was at the Øyafestival in August, and saw a few people that drove around with electric wheelchairs apparently without being directed to specific places. And the platforms intended to provide a view for the audience that go a bit lower than the average, did not seem to be reserved for wheelchair users. So maybe an improvement is on its way.

The Big Challenge

Finally, I challenged Erna Solberg as prime minister to retain the goal of a universally designed Norway in 2025.

Unfortunately, she did not manage to.

Although some important advances have been made, as described above, the deadline has been removed from the goal, and then it becomes significantly less valuable. Without a deadline, most of the pressure disappears to work on legislation - most people and organizations work best when they have a concrete time to work towards.

Summaries: I want to give a grade 3 for handling the specific challenges from 2013. Can Erna’s next government do better?

Torbjørn Helland Solhaug