“In Spain they talk about Norway as a ‘paradise,’” 34-year-old Tatiania Espinosa told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), but the reality turned out to be much different. Espinosa is among the thousands of so-called “euro crisis refugees” who have fled 30 percent unemployment rates in Spain to seek a better life in Norway, only to see their dreams shattered.
New figures from state statistics bureau SSB show that the number of people from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain seeking work in Norway has now more than tripled, from 3,398 in 2003 to 14,414 last year. Work migrants from southern European countries hardest hit by Europe’s economic and euro crisis continue to travel to Norway, but the vast majority have a much harder time finding work than, for example, their counterparts from Poland and Sweden.
Language and network problems
Language is one major problem, since many lack not only any Norwegian training but don’t have a firm grasp of English either. Alexander Golding of Caritas Norge, a Catholic agency that tries to help new arrivals find jobs, told NRK Wednesday that they also lack the social networks of immigrant groups who are far more established in Norway. Caritas handled more than 7,000 applications for help last year alone.
Only the most highly educated within the fields of engineering and computer science have much luck finding good jobs in Norway, and many of them are recruited by Norwegian companies while still in their homelands.
Norwegian labour officials, also from the former left-center government, warned many of the work migrants who started arriving in larger numbers a few years ago that if they didn’t quickly find work in Norway, they should “go home,” because prospects were unlikely to improve. The competition for jobs, they claimed, is tough in Norway, too, despite the country’s strong oil-fueled economy.
Migrants holding EU citizenship that gives them work permission in Norway as well have continued to arrive, though, desperate to find jobs after finding it impossible to do so at home. “We’re still seeing a strong flow of work migrants coming from southern Europe,” Golding of Caritas told NRK. “Their prospects are poorer, even just socially, for making a living for themselves in Norway than for migrants from Poland and other Baltic countries.”
Moving around the country
SSB reported that work migrants, who earlier landed mostly in the Oslo area, are now spread over the entire country and have especially sought work in the west coast counties of Rogaland and Hordaland, both of which long have been buoyed by the oil and gas industry. Migration has also increased to the mountainous counties of Sogn og Fjordane and More og Romsdal, along with Sør-Trøndelag.
Many do find work on farms, in shipyards or the construction industry, but many also land in temporary low-paid cleaning jobs or as restaurant help, despite higher education. SSB reported that Rogaland, Møre og Romsdal and Finnmark in the far north of Norway had the highest levels of immigrant employment.
There are now a total of 317,838 immigrants in Norway with non-Norwegian passports, in a country of just over 5 million people. One of them, a middle-aged woman from Spain who didn’t want to reveal her name as she waited for help at Caritas, told NRK her family ran a business selling mobile phones and electronic equipment. When sales plunged and they finally had to close the shop, they traveled to Norway, hoping for a new start.
“There’s simply no work in Spain, it’s very difficult to survive there and we lost everything,” she told NRK. She’s had no luck finding work in Norway either, and claimed she’s willing to take on any kind of job now. Added another: “It’s not just an economic crisis in Spain, it’s a war among job seekers.”