Fully 20 percent of all young workers in Oslo are currently Swedish, according to fresh figures from the independent social economic research foundation Frischsenteret. It reports that the number of job migrants from Sweden has soared 20-fold since 1990, but competition for jobs in Norway has gotten tougher.
You can hear their Swedish, or Swedish accents, in restaurants, hotels, clothing stores and other retail establishments all over the country. Frischsenteret said that the roughly 1,300 Swedes between 17 and 25 years old who worked in Norway in 1990 has since exploded, to more than 28,000 today.
They’re providing tough competition for Norwegian youth in the local job market, not least because they’re often viewed as more service-minded and may be willing to work for less pay than Norwegians. They also have few if any of the language challenges that migrant workers from other countries in Europe have.
“Norwegian and Swedish youth are quite similar and compete for the same jobs,” Bernt Bratsbeg, a senior researcher at Frischsenteret, told newspaper Aftenposten. “When the number of Swedes increases so strongly, it becomes more difficult for Norwegian youth to find part-time jobs and summer jobs.”
Keeping wage growth low
The tough competition for jobs is also leading to weaker wage growth. Frischsenteret research shows that the effect is much like that in the building trades, where high labour migration from lower-cost countries is leading to wage stagnation and making trades like painting and carpentry less attractive to young Norwegians.
“When a young Norwegian can earn NOK 500,000 (USD 83,000) working on an oil rig in the North Sea, NOK 340,000 from us isn’t competitive,” Jens Petter Lunde, who runs a painting company in Oslo, told Aftenposten. “The result can be more amateurs in the branch. It can be cheaper for customers, but the quality isn’t the same.”
Eager, less demanding
That’s not as big a problem in the Norwegian retailing and restaurant branches, for example, where eager young Swedes are keen to work because of difficulty finding jobs at home in Sweden. Helena Magnusson, a 19-year-old from Uppsala, moved to Oslo four weeks ago, applied for dozens of jobs, got called in for two interviews and landed a job as a waitress at a Dolly Dimple’s pizza restaurant.
“There were more than 100 applicants for the job, so I’m very happy,” Magnusson told Aftenposten. “It was harder to get a job in Norway than I thought.”
Bratsberg said the number of Swedes in the job market seemed to stabilize last year, after several years of growth, but he doesn’t expect any major changes in the trend. Magnusson said she’ll still earn 40 percent more per hour than she did in a waitressing job in Uppsala, and she can understand that Swedes may be preferred by Norwegian employers. “When we come from Sweden, we don’t have such high demands,” she said.
Alexander Gustavsen, operations boss for convenience store chain Deli de Luca, said many of the chain’s franchise owners say they prefer Swedes. “They work hard, are reliable and are only here to work,” Gustavsen said.