Few firms willing to hire foreigners

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American, Australian, Indian and other foreign workers have little chance of landing good jobs with Norwegian companies, no matter how educated or qualified they are, according to a new survey. Its results show that Norwegian employers prefer to hire Norwegian employees, even when faced with a labour shortage in the Norwegian market and even when it can be profitable and valuable for their companies to attract experienced workers from abroad.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday that more than 70 percent of Norwegian employers questioned in the survey said they had no plans to recruit or hire new colleagues who have a “multicultural” background. The survey, which questioned 2,000 leaders of Norwegian companies, was conducted by research firm Opinion Perduco for employment and recruiting firm ManpowerGroup.

‘Disturbing’
“I think this is disturbing,” Maalfrid Brath of ManpowerGroup told NRK. “Norwegian business needs to wake up, because we need competence from overseas.”

Employers generally cited a need for employees to be fluent in Norwegian as one of their main reasons for dismissing foreign applicants as potential colleagues. Brath doesn’t think that excuse is always valid: “Within some sectors, it’s important (to be able to communicate in Norwegian), but then it’s possible to do something about that. Foreign workers can learn Norwegian. Moreover, within the oil and gas sector, among others, they use English more and more, and that’s something I think those of us in business in Norway must adapt to as well.”

Brath believes the biggest reason for the resistance towards hiring non-Norwegians is pure prejudice. Most Norwegian employers want employees who are “most like themselves,” she told NRK on national radio Friday morning. That’s why they’re not looking for new talent from other parts of the world.

Some exceptions
There are exceptions, most notably the large oil service and industrial firm Aker Solutions, which has employees from more than 80 countries, many of them working at company headquarters in Oslo. Severin Roald, information chief at Aker Solutions, said it’s most important simply to find the best qualified employees, regardless of where they come from.

“We want to attract the very best, whether they’re from Hønefoss, Brazil or India,” Roald told NRK. “For us, it’s enormously enriching. It’s inspiring for the whole workforce, and the working environment becomes much more creative.”

Other large firms including Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Yara, Statoil, Kongsberg and Hydro also have a fairly broad representation of foreign workers but that remains unusual in Norway. According to the survey, only 37 percent of Norwegian companies have even just one or more non-Norwegian employee. Fully 74 percent have no plans to increase the portion of non-Norwegian employees, and the same amount answered that they didn’t know what they should do to present themselves as an attractive workplace for multicultural employees.

Unique competence ignored
The survey showed that 49 percent of those questioned did believe that multicultural workers can provide Norwegian business with unique competence that they wouldn’t otherwise get with a purely Norwegian staff, but only 37 percent think it would give them a competitive advantage. The largest concentration of foreign workers in Norway was found in the hotel and restaurant industry (65 percent), followed by industrial firms where demand for engineers and workers with high technological competence is high.

Of the 2,000 business leaders questioned, 43 percent admitted that prejudice among employers was the most important reason behind their decisions not to hire foreigners even when they were fully qualified for the job.

Norway’s failure to tap into global talent is not new, and both employer associations and politicians have urged Norwegian business to broaden their horizons beyond the Norwegian labour market. “We’re already struggling today to find talent within many branches,” Brath told NRK. “Company leaders must wake up and see how they can attract new talent, and be open to other types of cultures.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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