Economic slowdown hits immigrants

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Fewer labour migrants from Europe are arriving in Norway, and immigrants already in the country are among the first to be losing their jobs as the country’s economic slowdown takes hold. After years of seeking help from abroad, Norwegian employers’ demand for labour has fallen along with oil prices.

“There are fewer jobs, those who held temporary positions are often foreigners, and they’re the first to go,” Anders Øwre-Johnsen, chief executive of Adecco Norge, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “Some of them have chosen to move back home.” On Tuesday, another 190 employees lost their jobs at Subsea 7, which is cutting staff by 2,500 worldwide.

Cutting staff instead of hiring
Øwre-Johnsen confirmed that many of Adecco’s clients are now cutting their staffs instead of hiring, and the demand for labour is clearly lower than it was last year at this time.

Workers from Poland, who also make up the single biggest immigrant group in Norway, are generally well-integrated and have been attractive for Norwegian companies. Many now, however, are being hit by what Øwre-Johnsen calls “challenging times.” New numbers from state welfare and employment agency NAV show that 7,800 Polish workers in Norway were unemployed at the end of April.

Knut Sunde, director of trade association Norsk Industri, told NRK that many Norwegian ship- and offshore yards have hired mostly Polish workers in recent years. After oil prices fell last year and new orders dried up, many yards have laid off workers.

“It’s natural for the companies to cut temporary workers they’d hired in first, before they cut full-time positions,” Sunde said. “The labour market for Polish workers has thus become much worse.” He thinks Norway’s unemployment rate, which rose above 4 percent last month for the first time in years, will continue to rise every month for the foreseeable future, and that it would rise even higher if the migrant labourers didn’t head home.

Severance pay disguises real unemployment
Erik Falk Hansen, a headhunter who specialized in finding well-trained workers for Norway’s oil and gas industry, also thinks the unemployment rate will rise, especially when severance pay collected by laid-off workers runs out.

“Lots of people are wondering whether they should start applying for unemployment benefits, re-train themselves, change branches, etcetera,” Hansen told NRK. “There are a lot of talented people, good workers, who are losing their jobs and there simply isn’t other work for them. But I think the worst they can do is panic.”

Steinar Holden, a professor of economics at the University of Oslo, also thinks severance packages are camouflaging the reality of unemployment in Norway at present. “With such a steep fall in oil prices, it’s easy to think that it should have led to higher unemployment numbers,” Holden told NRK. “I think we’ll see them gradually keep rising.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund