Leading the Way? State Employers’ Engagement with a Disability Employment Policy

Keywords: Employment, Wages, Unemployment & Rehabilitation, Gender, Ethnicity, Age and Diversity


In the literature on labor market integration, there is growing recognition of the importance of employers. This article aims to contribute to this stream of research by investigating state employers’ engagement with a soft employment quota launched alongside a wider initiative in Norway, named the Inclusion Dugnad. An initial document analysis showed that only 3.1% of state employers fulfill the quota at the early stage. Analysis of 10 state employer interviews revealed that they appeared to be mostly passive and, to some degree, dismissive of the Inclusion Dugnad. They relied on passive measures where disabled job seekers are expected to actively seek out the employer and not the other way around. The main obstacles to achieving employer engagement seemed to be the apparent lack of disabled applicants and the reported conflict between the goals of the Inclusion Dugnad and the cost-cutting and productivity standards governing the state employer sector.

Author Biography

Kaja Larsen Østerud, Oslo Metropolitan University

PhD candidate, Norwegian Social Research – NOVA


Aksnes, S. Y. (2019) Engaging employers in vocational rehabilitation: understanding the new significance of knowledge brokers, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 50 (1): 73-84. https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-180989.

Alvesson, M. (2001) Knowledge work: ambiguity, image and identity, Human Relations 54 (7): 863-886. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726701547004. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726701547004.

Baert, S. (2018) Hiring discrimination: an overview of (almost) all correspondence experiments since 2005. In Audit Studies: Behind the Scenes with Theory, Method, and Nuance, edited by S. Michael Gaddis, 63-77. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Boston, J. (2011) Basic NPM ideas and their development. In The Ashgate Research Companion to New Public Management, edited by Tom Christensen and Per Lægreid, 17-32. London: Routledge.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2): 77-101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.

Bredgaard, T. (2018) Employers and active labour market policies: typologies and evidence, Social Policy and Society 17 (3): 365-377. https://doi.org/10.1017/S147474641700015x.

Bredgaard, T., & Halkjær, J. L. (2016) Employers and the implementation of active labor market policies, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 6 (1): 47-59. https://doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v6i1.4909.

Bredgaard, T., & Thomsen, T. L. (2018) Integration of refugees on the Danish labor market, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 8: 7-26. https://doi.org/10.18291/NJWLS.V8IS4.111161.

Campbell, F. K. (2008) Exploring internalized ableism using critical race theory, Disability & Society 23 (2): 151-162. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687590701841190.

Foster, D., & Wass, V. (2013) Disability in the labour market: an exploration of concepts of the ideal worker and organisational fit that disadvantage employees with impairments, Sociology 47 (4): 705-721. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038512454245.

Frøyland, K., Andreassen, T. A., & Innvær, S. (2018) Contrasting supply-side, demand-side and combined approaches to labour market integration, Journal of Social Policy 48 (2): 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279418000491.

Frøyland, K., Schafft, A., & Spjelkavik, Ø. (2019) Tackling increasing marginalization: Can support-side approaches contribute to work inclusion? In Work and Wellbeing in the Nordic Countries. Critical Perspectives on the World's Best Working Lives., edited by Helge Hvid and Eivind Falkum, 194-216. Oxon: Routledge.

Geiger, B. B., Van Der Wel, K. A., & Tøge, A. G. (2017) Success and failure in narrowing the disability employment gap: comparing levels and trends across Europe 2002–2014, BMC Public Health 17 (1): 928 .

Greve, C., Lægreid, P., & Rykkja, L. H. (2016) Introduction: the Nordic model in transition. In Nordic Administrative Reforms: Lessons for Public Management, edited by Carsten Greve, Per Lægreid and Lise H. Rykkja, 1-21. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Grewal, I., Joy, S., Lewis, J., Swales, K., & Woodfield, K. (2003). ‘Disabled for life?’ Attitudes Towards, and Experiences of, Disability in Britain, Department for Work and Pensions.

Halvorsen, R., Hvinden, B., & Schoyen, M. A. (2015) The Nordic welfare model in the twenty-first century: the bumble-bee still flies! Social Policy and Society 15 (01): 57-73. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1474746415000135.

Hobbins, J. (2016) Young long-term unemployed and the individualization of responsibility, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 6 (2): 43-59. https://doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v6i2.4971. https://tidsskrift.dk/njwls/article/view/26668.

Hvinden, B. (2004) Nordic disability policies in a changing Europe: is there still a distinct Nordic model? Social Policy and Administration 38 (3): 170-189.

Ingebrigtsen, B. A., & Moe, A. (2015). Evaluering av NAV Arbeidslivssenters bidrag til måloppnåelse innen delmål 2 og 3 i IA- avtalen [Evaluation of NAV Work Life Centres Contribution to Inclusive Worklife], NTNU Samfunnsforskning (Trondheim, Norway).

Ingold, J. O., & Stuart, M. (2015) The demand-side of active labour market policies: a regional study of employer engagement in the work programme, Journal of Social Policy 44 (3): 443-462. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279414000890.

Jammaers, E., Zanoni, P., & Hardonk, S. (2016) Constructing positive identities in ableist workplaces: disabled employees’ discursive practices engaging with the discourse of lower productivity, Human Relations 69 (6): 1365-1386. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726715612901.

Kaye, H. (2009) Stuck at the bottom rung: occupational characteristics of workers with disabilities, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 19 (2): 115-128. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-009-9175-2.

Kluve, J. (2010) The effectiveness of European active labor market programs, Labour Economics 17 (6): 904-918. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2010.02.004.

Kuznetsova, Y., & Yalcin, B. (2017) Inclusion of persons with disabilities in mainstream employment: is it really all about the money? A case study of four large companies in Norway and Sweden, Disability & Society 32 (2): 233-253. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1281794.

Martin, C. J. (2004) Reinventing welfare regimes: employers and the implementation of active social policy, World Politics 57 (1): 39-69. https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.2005.0012

Martin, C. J. (2005) Corporatism from the firm perspective: employers and social policy in Denmark and Britain, British Journal of Political Science 35 (1): 127-148. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123405000062.

Midtbøen, A. H. (2015) The context of employment discrimination: interpreting the findings of a field experiment, British Journal of Sociology 66 (1): 193-214. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12098.

Mik-Meyer, N. (2017) Disability, sameness, and equality: able-bodied managers and employees discussing diversity in a Scandinavian context, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 19 (2): 129-139. https://doi.org/10.1080/15017419.2016.1224201.

Ministry of Finance. (2019). "Prop. 1 S Gul bok (2018–2019) [State Bugdet Expenditures 2018-2019]." https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/prop.-1-s-gul-bok-20182019/id2613810/sec8.

Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. (2014). Letter of Intent Regarding a more inclusive working life 4 March 2014 - 31 December 2018 (the IA Agreement). https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/departementene/asd/dokumenter/2016/ia_agreement_-2014_18.pdf.

Ministry of Local Governement and Modernization. (2018). "Staten skal gå foran i inkluderingsdugnaden [The state shall lead in the inclusion dugnad]." Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/staten-skal-ga-foran-i-inkluderingsdugnaden/id2604917/.

NAV. (2017). Målene om et mer inkluderende arbeidsliv - status og utviklingstrekk [The goals of a more inclusive working life - status and developments]. https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/f78f73f646b74b2882254d59c50c7bd3/ia-rapport_2017_uuweb.pdf.

Nelson, M. (2012) Revisiting the role of business in welfare state politics: Neocorporatist versus firm-level organization and their divergent influence on employer support for social policies, Comparative European Politics 11 (1): 22. https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2012.16.

OECD. (2010) Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries, Paris: OECD Publishing.

OECD. (2019). "OECD Productivity Statistics: GDP per capita and productivity growth." https://data.oecd.org/lprdty/gdp-per-hour-worked.htm#indicator-chart.

Orton, M., Green, A., Atfield, G., & Barnes, S.-A. (2019) Employer participation in active labour market policy: from reactive gatekeepers to proactive strategic partners, Journal of Social Policy 48 (3): 511-528. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279418000600.

Osman, A., & Thunborg, C. (2019) The challenge of recruiting underrepresented groups – exploring organizational recruitment practices in Sweden, Nordic Journal Of Working Life Studies 9 (1): 3-18. https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.v9i1.113085.

Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2000) Beyond 'employability', Cambridge Journal of Economics 24 (6): 729. https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/24.6.729.

Roulstone, A. (2012) Disabled people, work and employment: a global perspective. In Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies, edited by Nick Watson, Alan Roulstone and Carol Thomas, 211-224, London: Routledge.

Salognon, M. (2007) Reorienting companies' hiring behaviour: an innovative `back-to-work' method in France, Work, Employment & Society 21 (4): 713-730. https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017007082878.

Shakespeare, T. (2014) Disability Rights and Wrongs Revisited, 2nd ed. ed. London: Routledge.

Simms, M. (2017) Understanding employer engagement in youth labour market policy in the UK, Human Resource Management Journal 27 (4): 548-564. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12155. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12155.

Statistics Norway. (2018). "SSB Analyse 2018/21: Funksjonshemmede på arbeidsmarkedet. Potensial for flere funksjonshemmede i arbeid [Disabled people in the labor market. The potential for increasing labor market participation]." https://www.ssb.no/arbeid-og-lonn/artikler-og-publikasjoner/potensial-for-flere-funksjonshemmede-i-arbeid.

Statistics Norway. (2019). Disabled people, Labour force survey, 2nd quarter 2019. https://www.ssb.no/en/arbeid-og-lonn/statistikker/akutu.

Strindlund, L., Abrandt-Dahlgren, M., & Ståhl, C. (2018) Employers' views on disability, employability, and labor market inclusion: a phenomenographic study, Disability and Rehabilitation 41 (24): 2910-2917. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2018.1481150.

Tøssebro, J. (2013) Two decades of disability research in Norway – 1990–2010, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 15 (1): 71-89. https://doi.org/10.1080/15017419.2013.781960.

Van Berkel, R., Ingold, J., Mcgurk, P., Boselie, P., & Bredgaard, T. (2017) Editorial introduction: an introduction to employer engagement in the field of HRM. Blending social policy and HRM research in promoting vulnerable groups' labour market participation, Human Resource Management Journal 27 (4): 503-513. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12169.

Van Der Aa, P., & Van Berkel, R. (2014) Innovating job activation by involving employers, International Social Security Review 67 (2): 11-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/issr.12036. http:https://doi.org/10.1111/issr.12036.

How to Cite
Østerud, K. (2020). Leading the Way? State Employers’ Engagement with a Disability Employment Policy. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.122196