The Norwegian government wants to tighten rules on social welfare payments to immigrants, the Scandinavian country's finance minister said.
Newcomers to Norway must show a "willingness" to learn the country's language — or forfeit some state benefits, Finance Minister Siv Jensen, the leader of the right-wing Progress Party, told the daily newspaper Verdens Gang.
Jensen claimed that too many people were living in Norway without being able to speak Norwegian and thus be part of Norwegian society, which she called a "bad management of human resources."
Jensen voiced particular concern regarding female immigrants that failed to have learned Norwegian.
"Far too many minority women cannot speak Norwegian, which means they are unable to follow how their children are doing at school and elsewhere," Jensen stressed.
According to a proposal presented by Siv Jensen and Integration Minister Tore Sanner, the support will not depend on how much you have studied the Norwegian language, but how well you actually speak it.
"This is a demand to immigrants that they must learn Norwegian and they should show a genuine willingness to do it. Just giving up and living on state welfare support won't do," Jensen said.
A 2017 report by the Norwegian Welfare and Labor Administration (NAV) indicated that half of the 67,000 social assistance recipients were immigrants and many of them lived in poverty.
At present, immigrants to Norway receive 600 hours of classes on Norway's language and culture. The classes will continue, but an assessment mechanism of whether participants have reached a satisfactory level of proficiency will be introduced.
"If you leave the introductory course and go back home and don't do work because your Norwegian is not good enough — that's when we want to make demands," Minister for Integration Jan Tore Sanner explained.
According to Sanner, the government is still undecided on how the language tests would be implemented, yet stressed that mastering Norwegian is one of the most important tools for getting a job.