The labour market in 2030

More highly educated women


An equal number of women and men with a higher education were in gainful employment in Norway in 2001. However, the trend is heading towards a clear female dominance. Projections indicate that the number of women with a higher education will increase by more than 200 000 by 2030, and may reach as many as half a million. With regard to men, the growth represents just slightly more than 50 000 persons. Read more on the development of the Norwegian education sector.

In the last 50 years, the education sector has been the subject of a series of sweeping reforms and strong growth. During this time, Norway was transformed from an educationally poor to an educationally rich nation. The transition from 7-year to 9-year compulsory schooling, which was carried out by the individual municipalities, began in 1960 and was completed before 1975. In connection with this, the old secondary education system was replaced by the current secondary education system. In 1970, extensive changes were made in higher education with the establishment of a university college system as a supplement to the universities. This reform was in response to the strong growth in the influx to higher education.

Students. 1980-2001

One million pupils and students

The total number of pupils and students in 1955 was around 550 000, exceeded 800 000 in 1975 and reached one million in 2000. The growth in higher education started around 1960. The university student figures had quadrupled by 1975, and most of the subsequent growth was in the university colleges. Around 1988-1989, when most predictions, concerns and indications pointed towards stagnation in higher education, we saw a dramatic increase in the influx. It is no coincidence that this took place at the same time as a negative development in the economy and a substantial increase in unemployment. Growth in the student figures that were registered after the first half of the 1990s made the figures from the previous few years seem almost comical. The figure from the Hernes Committee of 105 000 for 1995 was surpassed as early as 1988, the same year that the committee presented its findings. By 1995, student numbers had reached 176 000, and despite a certain fall in growth, the figure in 2000 surpassed 190 000 at Norwegian education institutions. Additionally, the number of students abroad doubled from 7 000 in 1990 to 14 000 in 2000.

There was relatively even growth in the total student figure for the entire period since 1980, but the distribution of growth between universities and university colleges varied considerably. Until the end of the 1980s, the student figure for universities had remained fairly stable, maintaining a level of around 40 000 ever since the mid 1970s. When the dramatic increase in applications for higher education began in 1988, it was the universities that had the greatest flexibility to accept more students, and most of the courses did not have strict entrance restrictions. By applying a teaching method that was characterised by lectures and a large degree of self-study, the universities were able to provide an offer to the rapidly increasing student numbers. For instance, this applied to studies where the capacity was not too limited by laboratory places or other technical equipment. Thus, the universities student figures grew the fastest between 1988 and the mid 1990s, and subsequently flattened out again.

Students, by sex. 1980-2001

More female students

Traditionally there has been a considerable predominance of male students in higher education, but in line with the growth that began around 1960, women were gradually being represented to a greater extent. At the start of 1980, men were still in the majority. Women accounted for 47.5 per cent of students but in 1986 there were almost as many women as men in higher education. In the period from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s the number of male students had almost completely stabilised, and the entire growth was accountable to women. In the period of strong growth from 1988 to the mid 1990s, the number of male students also rose, but the number of women rose much more. Since 1994, growth in the number of male students had again stabilised (there was an increase again between 2000 and 2001), and once again it was the women who accounted for the growth. Thus, in 2001, the proportion of female students had reached almost 60 per cent. Over a period of just 20 years this is a dramatic development.

Fewer with only compulsory education

The substantial increase in the student figures from 1988 to the mid 1990s has gradually led to significant growth in the availability of manpower with higher education. Between 1993 and 2001 alone, the workforce with a short higher education (up to 4 years) increased from around 430 000 to 500 000 persons. Growth in the workforce with a long higher education was 32 per cent in the same period, and totalled 134 000 persons. The increase in the study trend since the end of the 1980s has been stronger for women than men. This is also starting to be reflected in the workforce, with a distinctly higher growth among women at this level of education. As the number of those taking upper secondary and higher education increases, and the older generation with relatively low levels of education retires, the proportion of the workforce with only compulsory education is declining. Between 1993 and 2001, the figure fell by 130 000. The number of persons in the workforce with upper secondary education increased only moderately in the period, but accounted for more than 1.3 million persons in 2001.

Development of the workforce, by higher education and sex. 1993-2030

Development of the workforce, by education level. 1993-2030

Younger generation - higher education

Projections of the population and workforce according to education, carried out using Statistics Norways demographic micro simulation model MOSART, indicate a continued increase in the number of persons with higher education. It is estimated that between 2001 and 2030 the number of persons in the workforce with a short higher education will increase by more than 190 000 persons or almost 40 per cent, given the assumptions specified. The number of persons with a long higher education is expected to increase by almost 50 per cent in the same period. This accounts for approximately 64 000 persons. By applying the assumption of a roughly constant population and constant education trends, growth in the number of persons with higher education will diminish with time. The increase after 2030 is therefore estimated to be relatively modest. The number of persons with only compulsory education will continue to fall as the older generation with a relatively low education level is replaced by the younger generation with a relatively high education level. Between 2001 and 2030, the decline with the assumptions specified is estimated to be 141 000 persons. This represents a reduction of almost 50 per cent, and the figure is expected to stabilise around the 160 000 mark since still not everyone is taking upper secondary education. For persons with upper secondary level education, only a modest growth is anticipated in the workforce between 2001 and 2030.

Female dominance

The trend of the strong increase in the workforce with higher education being especially strong among women is also continuing. Measured in number of persons, this particularly applies to women with short higher education where growth of almost 150 000 is estimated for the period 2001 to 2030. It is estimated that the number of women in the workforce with this level of education will be higher than 420 000 by 2030, compared to less than 230 000 for men. Projections further estimate that the number of women with education at a higher grade in the workforce will more than double by 2030, and may reach around 100 000. This corresponds to the number of men in the workforce with the same education. For men, growth at this level represents a mere 10 000 persons from 2001 to 2030, and the level will stabilise around 2010. From equal numbers of women and men with higher education in the workforce in 2001, the development will therefore head towards a clear female dominance.