Ten years of working life research evaluated

Over the course of nearly ten years, and at a price tag of over NOK 200 million, researchers have been studying Norwegian working life. What have been the results?

At the request of the Research Council, three Nordic professors have evaluated the results of the Program on Working Life Research (ARBEIDSLIV), whose activities were consolidated under the Research Program on Welfare, Working Life and Migration (VAM) last year.

The purpose of the ARBEIDSLIV program has been to generate new knowledge on important development trends in working life with particular emphasis on the most important conditions and processes that affect the participation, empowerment, presence and absence of the individual in working life.

Positive conclusions overall

Professor Helge Hvid of Roskilde University in Denmark presented the group’s report at the concluding conference for the ARBEIDSLIV program in January.

The report’s main conclusion is that the program has funded highly relevant research which has produced a great deal of valuable insight into an extensive and complex area. Only the highest quality applications came out on top in the competition for funding, as just 41 of almost 200 project proposals were selected.

High-quality databases

In a scientific context, the group puts special focus on the efforts of economists at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) and the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research at the University of Oslo (UiO), who have linked company data and personal data in a way that makes Norwegian research unique in this area.

The three professors would like to have seen more projects in the program’s portfolio that focused on various roles of employees in working life as well as more research on finding explanations for leaders’ behavior and actions.

Universities poorly represented

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) in Oslo, the Department of Economics at NHH in Bergen and the Frisch Centre at UiO were the big winners in the competition for funding. Altogether these three institutions were awarded over half of the total allocations available.

At the other end of the scale are the universities, which were poorly represented among the grant applicants. The evaluation group views this as an indication that research on working life in general does not have a firm foothold at Norwegian universities.

Too little interdisciplinary research

The ARBEIDSLIV program stipulated from the outset that it sought projects of an interdisciplinary nature. The report concludes, however, that this was not achieved. The three professors also would like to have seen more projects that combined quantitative and qualitative methods.

From research to practice

The evaluation report also contains a thematic review of all the program’s projects and a more in-depth description of the results from 12 of these.

“The group has presented a very interesting report which gives the contours of the traditions underlying research on working life today. The research activity has left a clear mark on Norwegian working life and at the same time has brought international attention to Norwegian social research,” says Dr Hallén.

Challenges await

“Norway can boast of a high level of participation in working life, which is unique in a global context. But many challenges nonetheless remain. Many people who can and want to work still find themselves outside the labor market. Extensive research is still needed in this area if we are to meet the challenges facing Norwegian working life in the future,” says Dr Hallén.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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