Norway’s immigration rate continues to rise, but it seems Oslo is bucking the trend. A new report by Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå, SSB) shows migration to the capital has fallen by almost 6 per cent, reducing Oslo’s share of total immigration to 27.7 per cent.
Researchers discovered that many foreign jobseekers are now bypassing Oslo, where jobs have become harder to find. They’re heading instead for regional areas particularly in western Norway, with its lucrative oil and gas, fisheries and construction industries. “Labour immigrants follow the money and demand … they move where the jobs are,” SSB researcher Lasse Sigbjørn Stambøl told newspaper Aftenposten.
Oslo’s City Councillor for Culture and Business, Hallstein Bjercke of the Liberal Party (Venstre), denies the figures show a lack of support for migrant workers within the municipality. “It’s natural that the movement of immigrants in Norway has leveled out over time,” he told the paper.
Small communities, meanwhile, are clueing in to the value of foreign workers, according to Norwegian research foundation Fafo. Research Director and Professor Jon Rogstad told Aftenposten that immigrants strengthen population growth, fill schools, and build up economies of regional towns. This is key for outlying areas in Norway that often struggle to retain workers and families.
“Small towns have given up on ‘the partying Swedes’ who leave after one year,” he says, referring to young people from Sweden who’ve been flocking to Norway to find jobs at higher wages. “Being included in local communities and available job positions are important criteria for immigration.”
Migrant workers may be in high demand, but small communities appear less willing to accept refugees. Earlier this month it was revealed that about 4,700 asylum seekers approved for resettlement remain stuck in asylum centers. Townships claim they lack the money for refugees’ housing and training needs without extra government funding.
Refugees stick around
The SSB report has also discovered different patterns in the way migrant workers and refugees settle in Norway. Refugees who move to Oslo after spending time in asylum centers are less likely to relocate to another region, despite having lower than average employment prospects.
“They move to places where they can meet others who are like-minded, and communicate in their own language,” says Lasse Sigbjørn Stambøl. “In the regions, there is not always as much knowledge about their nationalities and backgrounds.”
Somalian Nafisa Omar Osman was in her 20s when she fled to Norway nine years ago. “Everything in Norway is about networks, and many who come here spend a lot of time forming contacts. When you have shaped a life, you don’t want to leave it,” she told Aftenposten. “I couldn’t think to begin all over again in a new place.”