Immigration breaks new record

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Around 80,000 persons moved to Norway last year, the vast majority coming from other European countries where unemployment is high. The influx exceeded the numbers expected by researchers at state statistics bureau SSB, and marks the highest level of immigration ever.

More than 260,000 European immigrants now live in Norway, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) just before the weekend. The total number of immigrants and children of immigrant parents in Norway now amounts to 655,170.

Newspaper Aftenposten followed up on Saturday with a report on how young Swedes also continue to flock to Norway in search of work. Around 80,000 immigrants from Sweden are believed to be living in Norway now, equal to the entire population of the southern city of Kristiansand.

Attracted by a strong economy
Norway’s total population surpassed 5 million last month, with the growth generated by a relatively high birth rate but mostly by immigration. Norway’s oil-fueled economy has remained strong and unemployment is low, prompting many more people from crisis-hit economies elsewhere in Europe to look for jobs in Norway.

“Immigration in 2011 was high,” SSB researcher Ådne Cappelen told DN. He makes prognoses on immigration based on macroeconomic factors and last summer he predicted that immigration would increase during the next several years. Cappelen didn’t think it would hit 80,000 in a single year, though, until 2015.

“The situation in Europe got much worse than expected last year, while things are actually quite cool (good) here in Norway,” Cappelen told DN. “The relative improvements in Norway were better than we’d expected.”

Swedish immigration wave continues
The overall unemployment rate in Norway now stands at 2.6 percent, according to SSB. That compares to 24 percent in Spain, 10 percent in Poland and 7-8 percent in Sweden, for example.

According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), though, the unemployment rate for young Swedes under the age of 25 is now 22 percent, compared to 8 percent in Norway. Newpaper Aftenposten reported how that’s prompting more young Swedes to move to Norway, while many already in the country are staying.

A recent survey presented by Aftenposten showed that 31 percent of Swedes questioned cited the lack of employment prospects in Sweden as their reason for moving to Norway. Fully 48 percent cited better-paid jobs in Norway, while 15 percent were looking for a change.

The Swedish immigrants are also popular among Norwegian employers, despite a long tradition of rivalry and joking between Norwegians and Swedes. There are few if any language difficulties and “Norwegian companies want Swedes,” Cecilia Magnusson, a restaurant manager and Swedish herself, told Aftenposten. “We get a lot of praise from customers for being polite and service-minded, and that we’re Swedes.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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