Guest workers don't want to leave

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Thousands of European workers who moved to Norway during the boom times of recent years now don’t want to leave even when they’ve lost their jobs. The job market is invariably worse back home and many are optimistic that new opportunities will arise soon, especially in the Oslo area.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that the number of guest workers in Norway has increased once again from last year, even though the market for many trades has deteriorated.

In May, there were 10,072 citizens of Lithuania registered with work permits in Norway, compared to 9,903 in May 2008, according to new figures from immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) . The number of workers from Estonia rose from 1,628 to 1,846, while Latvians registered with work permits rose from 1,616 to 1,980. The number of workers from Germany holding valid work permits rose from 11,157 last year to 12,701 this year.

There are fewer workers from Poland in Norway now, though, with the total number of valid permit holders falling from 44,255 to 42,083. Hundreds moved home when the market turned in Norway, also because many had new opportunities in Poland.

The majority, however, seem to be sticking around. Laid-off workers from some of the Baltic countries and other eastern European nations can also earn more money collecting unemployment benefits in Norway than they could working in their own homeland, reports Aftenposten .

“Many of those who have earned rights to unemployment compensation want to stay here,” Stein Langeland of state employment agency Nav told Aftenposten . “The outlook is better here than in many other countries.”

The Baltic countries have been hit hard by the global finance crisis. “It’s a full crisis in Latvia and it’s probably going to get worse,” said Ina Holmstad, who helps Latvian workers in the construction industry. “My impression is that they’ll stay in Norway as long as they can.”

Martins Selickis, a 27-year-old carpenter from Latvia, is among those with no plans to travel home any time soon. He noted, though, that it’s tougher to get work in Norway: “They (employers) demand that we speak Norwegian and they only take on those who have worked for them before.”