Minimum wage in Norway? What you need to know

TransferWise
18.07.18
7 minute read

Norway is a fantastic destination if you’re an expat looking to live and work abroad somewhere with friendly people, an interesting heritage, and awesome nature. Maybe you’re thinking of heading there for part of a working gap year, or you want to settle permanently to give your career a boost.

Life in Norway is notoriously expensive. But in general, salaries are on the high side, too - especially in niche jobs and in the oil and gas sectors. Whatever you’re thinking of doing for money while you’re there, it’s important to understand the likely wage you can earn - and of course how that balances with the cost of living.

This guide tells you all you need to know about how minimum wage levels are set in Norway, how they compare to the costs of living there and minimum wages elsewhere in the world.

What’s the minimum wage in Norway?

Technically there is no minimum wage in Norway. However, there are collective agreements across some sectors which are legally enforced - which means that in effect, there are minimum wages in some, low-income industries and jobs. This approach offers a degree of protection for workers, to make sure that they’re paid fairly for the work they do.

Not all sectors are covered, but these industries do have a collective agreement on minimum wage:

  • Construction
  • Agriculture and horticulture
  • Cleaning
  • Fish processing
  • Electricians
  • Freight transport by road
  • Passenger transport by tour bus
  • Hotel Restaurant and Catering

If you don’t work in one of these sectors, then there is no minimum wage set out in law. You have to agree to the salary you’ll earn directly with your employer.

The minimum wage set varies according to the sector and the type of role. There are also different provisions for shift work, unsociable hours, and so on. Here’s a rundown of the basic minimums:

IndustryMinimum hourly wage
ConstructionConstruction site workers
  • Workers under 18 years of age: NOK 119.30
  • Skilled workers: NOK 197.90
  • Unskilled workers - no experience of construction work: NOK 177.80
  • Unskilled workers with at least one year’s experience of construction work: NOK 185.50
Maritime construction
  • Skilled workers: NOK 169.94
  • Semi-skilled workers: NOK 162.22
  • Unskilled workers: NOK 154.59
Agriculture and horticultureSeasonal workers:
  • Under 18: NOK 95.15
  • Over 18 - employed for the first 12 weeks: NOK 115.15
  • Over 18 - employed 12 to 24 weeks: NOK 120.65
Permanent workers:
  • Under 18: NOK 104.65
  • Unskilled workers: NOK 135.05
  • Supplement for skilled workers: NOK 11.00
Cleaning
  • Under 18: NOK 129.59.
  • Over 18: NOK 177.63.
Fish processing
  • Skilled workers: NOK 187.20
  • Production workers: NOK 176.70
  • Under 18: 80% of the relevant wage rate for the first 12 weeks of employment, followed by relevant minimum
Electricians
  • Skilled workers: NOK 210.40
  • Unskilled workers: NOK 183.06
Freight transport by road
  • Road transport over 3.5 Tonnes: NOK 167.65
Passenger transport by tour bus
  • Tour bus drivers: NOK 154.57
Hotel, Restaurant and Catering
  • Workers over 20 and workers over 18 with a min. of 4 months experience:157.18
  • Young workers: 16 years old: NOK 102.18 17 years old: NOK 111.68 18 years old: NOK 125.94

Who determines minimum wages?

The minimum wages are set by collective agreement. This is a process by which trade unions and company representatives negotiate and come to agreements which are then applied to the whole workforce. Collective agreements cover lots of aspects of working life in Norway, with some 70% of workers having aspects of their terms and conditions set by collective agreement.

Collective agreements can be done on a broad, industry level, and by individual companies. In the case of the minimum wage agreements, these are made by the industry, and then become legally binding. That means that all of the companies operating in the sector must abide by these rules.

Does the minimum wage differ by age in Norway?

This is set on an industry level, as described in the table above. In some industries, there is a different wage offered to younger workers under the age of 18 - at least for the first few weeks of work.

What’s the living wage in Norway? How much can you really get by on?

When you’re working out the practicalities of living in Norway, it's important to take into consideration the cost of living in Norway. The price of rent and regular daily costs can vary largely depending on location. Often you’ll find that the places with the best salaries on offer also come with the highest price tags - Oslo, for example, has been rated the world’s most expensive place to live on several scales.

That said, even the lowest paid job in Norway will net you more than double the federal minimum wage in America. Play your cards right and you could earn significantly more than that - and the good news is that in general, people in Norway rate their quality of life highly, according to the OECD.

Exactly what quality of life you can afford will depend a lot on what you like to do, and the place you choose to live. City life is more costly than living somewhere more rural for example - and although there are plenty of expensive cultural activities on offer, there are also lots of ways to keep busy entirely for free, like getting out into nature.

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Compared to other countries, is the minimum wage in Norway good?

Across the globe, different countries take different approaches to minimum wages. Many countries have minimum levels set in law, regardless of the job or sector you’re working in.

So how does the minimum wage level in Norway look when set against the minimum in other countries across the world? For a permanent employee aged over 18, the lowest minimum wage set by collective agreement is NOK119 an hour, for unskilled construction workers. Here’s how other countries compare:

CountryUSAUKGermanyFranceSpainAustralia
Minimum RateVaries by state - from about NOK60 to NOK103NOK82NOK86NOK95NOK46NOK115

Of course, this is only a small sample. Other countries apply their own rules on minimum wages. For example, Singapore has minimum wages set by the government, but only across some low-income sectors, and applicable to Singapore nationals and permanent residents only. In other countries, there is no minimum wage at all, leaving employers and employees to negotiate wage levels on an individual basis.

Moving abroad for work is a big deal - and because life in Norway can be costly, it’s especially important to make sure you can balance the cost of living and the salary you’ll likely be able to achieve. Wherever you live, you’ll want to cut out unnecessary - and unfair - costs, such as excessive fees for your day to day banking. Then you’ll have more in your pocket to make the most of life in Norway.

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