Norwegian parents ‘spoil’ their kids

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Young Norwegians are so privileged and demanding that relatively few have been working in hotels, restaurants, fish factories or warehouses this summer. Frustrated Norwegian employers claim they simply can’t find Norwegian youth willing to take such traditional summer jobs.

“Whether it’s because the jobs aren’t ‘fine’ enough, or don’t pay enough is difficult to say,” Thor Bendik Weider of employment firm Manpower told newspaper Aftenposten. He thinks many Norwegian youth have little interest in working because they’re spoiled by their parents and don’t have to work, while Swedish and Polish youth are more goal-oriented, service-minded and keen to work.

“And we think that’s worrisome,” Weider said. “Young Norwegians can risk having a lack of fundamental work experience that they really should have.”

Visitors don’t meet Norwegians
At Norwegian hotels, even some of the country’s most traditional and historic, it’s been common for guests this summer to encounter staff who can’t speak any Norwegian or offer any local insight or knowledge. That’s because they’re from Poland or Lithuania or other countries where a poor job market has prompted them to seek work in Norway. While many hotels would prefer Norwegian staff, as would many guests seeking a Norwegian experience, Weider says local youth aren’t nearly as motivated as their foreign counterparts.

Labour organizations suggest the young foreigners are willing to work for less pay than Norwegians, while employers defend their pay levels and say their costs are the same whether they employ Norwegians or foreigners, not least because some firms also offer housing for foreign staff.

At Jangaard Export, a dried fish producer in Ålesund, the vast majority of employees are non-Norwegian. “Most of our production would grind to a halt if it wasn’t for our foreign staff,” Dag Harald Tuene, Jangaard’s head of operations, told Aftenposten, adding that his workers from, for example, Lithuania “are reliable, clever and almost never call in sick.”

Rely on imported labour
His industry’s reliance on imported labour is widespread, according to a new report from their research organization Fiskeri- og havbruksnæringens forskningsfond (FHF). The report confirmed that most Norwegian fish processors want to hire locally but can’t find or retain Norwegian staff. “Recruiting is a huge problem,” said Øyvind André Haram of trade association Fiskeri- og Havbruksforeningens landsforening. The report also noted that some firms prefer imported labourers because they’re “more willing to work hard” than Norwegians. A lot of Norway’s seafood production has moved overseas, to lower-cost countries like Poland and even as far away as China, with only 19 percent of Norway’s enormous volumes of fish now processed in Norway.

One parent scoffed at the Manpower executive’s characterization of Norwegian youth. Responding in a commentary to Aftenposten’s report, Geir Flikke of Nesodden claimed that Norwegian youngsters have a hard time competing with foreign workers because of other “obligations” and wishes during their eight-week summer holiday. “They want to have holiday on their own, holiday with their family and, if possible, a summer job,” wrote Flikke. “Employers who can hire youth who can work for eight weeks straight, maybe even into September, will naturally do so.”

Flikke rejected the insinuation that Norwegian youth are “lazy” or spoiled by their parents. “It would be interesting to hear what Manpower has done to accommodate (Norwegian) youth who want to both work and have some holiday,” he wrote.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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