Politicians are calling for reforms to stop working Poles sending their child cash benefit back home to their families.
“Children must reside in the municipality as a prerequisite for receiving cash benefit (‘kontantstøtte’). We cannot export childcare benefit abroad, just as it isn’t possible to take a kindergarten space with one out of the country either,” said Linda Hofstad Helleland, family policy spokesperson for the Conservative Party, to NRK.
According to state number cruncher Statistics Norway (SSB), 79,500 immigrants came to Norway last year. Whereas 30 percent of these arrived from Eastern Europe, 12,861 of these 29,000 immigrants came from Poland.
Poland is the European country with the largest number of labour migrants since it joined the EU. Approximately 67,300 Poles are now living in Norway following a sevenfold increase in as many years up to 2011. The majority work in the building sector.
Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers also help keep Norway’s economy and living standard buoyant. 387,103 paid tax in 2011, the tax authority reports. Employment amongst job migrants was about 15 percent.
Linda Hofstad Helleland’s comments have angered members of Trondheim’s Polish Association.
Calling it “unfair”, leader Krzysztof Orleaniski claims Poles rights are being trampled on, even though they pay income taxes like everyone else.
Moreover, Norway, as an EEA (European Economic Area) member, is bound to international regulations regarding childcare welfare payments (known as ‘kontantstøtte’) under the principle of what is termed “exportability”.
A Ministry of Children, Welfare, and Social Inclusion document states that, “the right to be paid benefits during the stay or residence in other countries is a key element of all social security coordination [between EEA countries].”
“The Mandate requires the [governmental] panel to ‘…provide an updated description of the rights immigrants and have in relation to universal welfare schemes relating to income due to illness, unemployment, disability, old age, transfers to families with children, etc.’”
Meanwhile, Ms Helleland told The Foreigner the reason behind her suggestion is purely administrative.
“It’s because we want to transfer responsibility for it to the municipalities in the same way as they were put in charge of kindergartens last year. Parents can choose whether they want to send their children to kindergarten or receive childcare benefit.”
Which other nationalities do you feel this should apply to?
“Around 37,000 receive child cash in Norway, and only about 1,300 who live abroad. It’s NRK that has made this into an issue,” she declared.
What measures do you suggest making it practical for children to live in Norway when just one of their parents is residing and working here?
“The other family members can come and look after the children should they satisfy the immigration requirements,” concluded Ms Helleland.
The monthly per-child payment is designed to provide compensation to parents choosing to look after their 1 to 3-year-olds instead of working and sending them to day care full-time – i.e. 33 hours or more per week. The scheme also includes adopted children who have not started school yet.
Current levels are NOK 3,303 per month, can be adjusted according to the number of hours the child spends there, and are payable for up to 23 months.
For EEA citizens, the whole family does not have to live in Norway to qualify for child cash. Those who are employed and eligible for child cash residing in their home country, or on unemployment benefit there, will be assessed, with the possibility of top-up amounts.
Those from an EEA country sent to Norway by their employer cannot get child cash, but an unemployed partner/spouse living in an EEA country without unemployment benefit can, according to the present rules from NAV.
Generally, Norwegian citizens’ children have to live in Norway for the parents to qualify for child cash, though individual exceptions for a stay up to three months abroad can be made.
Norwegians working in Norway, offshore on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, or on a Norwegian-registered ship can get child cash, even if their offspring live in another EEA country.
NAV officials have announced amounts and eligibility will be amended to include just 1 to 2-year-olds from August this year following a legislation change.
Whilst the full amount will rise to NOK 5,000 per month for the youngest child between 13 and 18 months, it will remain unchanged for children aged 19 to 23 months.
A 50 percent allowance will be paid up to a maximum of 19 hours day care per week, otherwise parents will not receive anything.
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