Economic refugees face tough market

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Economic refugees from crisis-ridden countries in southern Europe continue to stream into Norway, but they face a hard time finding work despite Norway’s strong economy and low unemployment rate. New statistics have unveiled the fields where foreign workers are least needed.

Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm has already warned unemployed Europeans from countries like Spain and Greece to “go home,”  even though they legally qualify for work permits in Norway. Now “help wanted” ads show that demand is only high enough in Norway for experienced engineers, mostly those with a background in the energy branch, to justify hiring workers who aren’t fluent in Norwegian.

There are hundreds of jobs available in Norway in the construction, warehousing and transport sectors, but even there, hopeful candidates from outside Norway will need to compete with Norwegians who understand the language. As Inger Lise Blyverket of employers’ organization Virke told newspaper Aftenposten, companies won’t invest the time or money in language training for new arrivals in Norway if they can hire a Norwegian to do the job.

Blyverket noted that there is a “growing understanding that we need new impulses from other countries,” especially within companies that operate internationally and need international competence or cultural understanding. “But whether that’s opening a big enough market, no, I don’t think so,” she told Aftenposten.

New young professionals arriving in Norway who are educated, for example, within marketing, journalism, political science or interior design have the least chance of finding work.. There are simply too many Norwegians with the same qualifications, and not enough jobs available.

Recent job listings on the popular website finn.no (external link) showed nearly 300 jobs available within the hotel and restaurant branch but again, Norwegians or Swedes proficient in the local language will likely be more attractive.

Yiola Syka, who fled high unemployment in Greece in the hopes of finding work in Norway, confirmed the situation many new arrivals face. “From one firm, I got the message that I wouldn’t be considered unless I could speak Norwegian,” Syka told Aftenposten. “I haven’t even heard from the others.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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