Nearly 50,000 new jobs have been created in Norway during the past year and more than 35,000 of them have been filled by immigrants. The numbers, revealed when the government proposed its new state budget this week, show how much Norway now relies on what Finance Minster Sigbjørn Johnsen calls the “arbeidsinnvandrere” (literally, job immigrants) to keep the economy rolling.
“There is a very strong need for labour in the Norwegian economy,” Johnsen said when presenting the new budget on Monday. “It wouldn’t have been possible to get all the work done and have the growth we’ve seen without the labour immigration.”
‘Competence’ in demand
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how 316,000 more persons are now employed in Norway than in 2005, when the left-center government coalition of which Johnsen is a part took power. Of that, according to budget documents, 200,000 of the new jobs have gone to immigrants.
In 2011 alone, employment rose by around 47,000. Of those taking on the new jobs, around 35,000 (70 percent) were immigrants.
“Those coming to Norway (many from crisis-hit European countries) have high competence what we will need in the years head,” Johnsen said. He worries, though, that the stream of job-seekers coming to Norway, and the relatively easy access that gives employers to labour, means companies may not need to fight so hard for talent or create possibilities for those still struggling to join the workforce. “We need to mobilize our own labour force as well,” he said.
Plans to stick around
Johnsen thinks the employment growth will continue and that Norway will continue to attract highly qualified workers. Among them, for example, is Romas Stakauskas, age 28, who came to Norway in 2009 after losing his job as an engineer in a construction firm in Lithuania. His wife moved to Norway a year later and now he’s working as a production operator for a company in Hedmark. The couple have an infant, bought and fixed up a home in Skarnes and now Stakauskas’ wife Doville, age 27, is looking for work as well.
“Now we’re beginning to live our own lives,” Stakauskas told DN. “You should never say ‘never’ (regarding a move back to Lithuania), but the way things are now, I think we’ll keep living here.”
Far from all immigrants are as lucky as Stakauskas, and former Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm actually told many of the new arrivals from Spain and other troubled countries to “go home” earlier this year if they didn’t quickly find work. Language barriers remain a problem and not all companies make concessions for employees who haven’t yet learned Norwegian. Unemployment nonetheless is expected to remain at less than 3 percent nationwide and the job market for skilled workers is expected to remain strong, especially for engineers and construction workers. Immigrants otherwise often wind up with jobs Norwegians don’t want to take, in a variety of relatively low-paying fields.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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