Norwegian version

Norwegian study looks at how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting people’s health and careers

Young woman sits typing at the computer having a small child in her lap

“If there is a bright spot amid these rather grim results,” says Mari Holm Ingelsrud, a researcher at the Norwegian Work Research Institute (AFI) at OsloMet, “it is that people who have been temporarily laid off or experienced a reduction in their income report being more interested in pursuing further education than other employed adults. This is particularly true in the cases of employed adults under 45 and women,” Ingelsrud goes on to say.

Working life in a state of flux

As part of a survey conducted by AFI, 1,200 employed adults in Norway have been asked questions related to their experiences of working life. In total, 3,000 respondents will participate in the 2020 Working Life Barometer, and the results presented herein should accordingly be treated as preliminary.

YS, a confederation of labour unions in Norway, has financed this survey. 

“Fully 70% of employed adults say that their workday has changed substantially in the past few weeks,” Ingelsrud reports.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has, however, affected different groups of employed adults in different ways. 

A crisis whose impact is felt unevenly

The biggest change felt by better-educated and highly-paid employed adults is that most of them are now working from home. Many of them also report an increased workload. 

“Among those who have been temporary laid off, however, a strikingly large proportion say that they are planning to pursue further education if they are permanently laid off,” the OsloMet researcher explains. 

“A majority of these respondents are considering shifting careers completely", Ingelsrud continues, “and not simply acquiring new qualifications to continue working in their current field.” 

Not everyone has an easy time following public health recommendations

“The preliminary results of the survey indicate that it is the less educated and people with lowest socioeconomic status who have the most difficulty following the official recommendations relating to social distancing and the use of public transit,” says Svenn-Erik Mamelund, a pandemic researcher at OsloMet. “Why this is the case is not something the data can tell us.”

Mamelund does have some working theories as to what may be behind this pattern. “It may be because workers of higher socioeconomic status are more able to work from home. Nor is it the case that all workers who cannot work from home, can avoid using public transportation when going to work, at least not in Oslo where the disease is most rampant at this time,” Mamelund explains.

“Some groups with lower socioeconomic status may also have less health literacy and various problems with accessing the advice given by the authorities,” the researcher elaborates, “for example due to language problems, as well as less positive attitudes towards the authorities and the recommendations they are issuing.”

At this stage, the researchers do not detect a discernable difference in the rates of morbidity between less educated adults with lower levels of education and their better educated, higher earning counterparts. What is clear is that multigenerational households and households with more than five people have higher rates of morbidity.

“It is not surprising to us that when people from several generations live together or in larger families with several children that this makes them more likely to be exposed to the illness and in some cases ultimately contract the disease”, says Mamelund.

Social disparities may give rise to social differences in morbidity and mortality 

Although preliminary results did not find evidence of a social gradient in covid-19 morbidity, Mamelund is concerned that if these social disparities in complying with social distancing and travel restrictions continue, it will eventually result in social differences in morbidity and mortality. 

There are also some caveats to the study. First, as the study makes use of cross-sectional data, the authors cannot conclude that there is a causal link between hand-washing and lower levels of infection spread. Secondly, the study authors acknowledge that self-reported covid-19 morbidity could be inflated by symptoms of the common cold, influenza or pollen allergy. 

However, other studies have shown that hand hygiene can reduce influenza transmission. During the last two weeks of March, there was also a sharp drop in influenza activity in Norway that might be associated with the strict measures introduced in Norway 12 March. A drop in influenza transmission also means that the burden on the health care system is reduced, leaving more time for doctors and nurses to care for seriously ill covid-19 patients.

Key findings

The complete results of the survey are currently available only in Norwegian. 

About the research

The Coronavirus Edition of the Working Life Barometer (Arbeidslivsbarometeret)

  • The Norwegian Work Research Institute (AFI) has revealed the results of the first round of surveys conducted as part of the 2020 Working Life Barometer. The results presented above reflect the responses given by 1,177 employed adults. A total of 3,000 working adults in Norway will participate by the end of the survey.
  • Responses were collected between 24 and 31 March using a panel put together by Kantar. 
  • The data was analysed during the first five days of April. The final survey results are subject to change when data collection is completed.
  • The results presented here are preliminary and subject to revision. 


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