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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thousands of Ukrainians enter Norway’s job market

After losing their jobs, homes and parts of their country to Russian invaders, thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Norway are now emerging from both personal trauma and “introduction programs” aimed at helping them adjust to life in Norway. Their next major challenge is to find jobs, and Norwegian officials are asking employers to give them a chance.

Many Ukrainians in Norway still demonstrate daily against Russia’s invasion of their homeland, like here on a recent Sunday. Their numbers have declined, however, as they’ve entered the workforce in Norway or are trying to do so. In the background, the grounds of the British Embassy in Oslo, located across the street from the Russian Embassy that’s the target of most demonstrations. PHOTO: Møst

“It’s extremely important that as many Ukrainians as possible join the workforce,” Hans Christian Holte, director of Norway’s welfare and unemployment agency NAV, told newspaper Aftenposten. Finding jobs, especially meaningful employment in line with the refugees’ education and qualifications, is what Holte claims will really create inclusion and integration into Norwegian life and society.

“That’s what also will give refugees an opportunity to develop an understanding of our society and the language in Norway,” Holte said. With more bad news coming out of Ukraine in the past several weeks, and even more Ukrainians forced to leave bombed-out homes, it’s increasingly likely that those already in Norway will need to stay, perhaps permanently.

Many of the more than 70,000 Ukrainians who came to Norway in 2022 and last year have completed or are now finishing up a one-year introduction program that includes Norwegian language classes and classes on Norway itself including its history, geography, education and society. Graduates of the program are now looking for work: Ukrainians make up around 7 percent of those currently registered as unemployed in Norway. Many young Ukrainian refugees, meanwhile, are going to school full-time, completing Norwegian high school and aiming to apply to university, while also working part-time.

NAV has 10,263 Ukrainians registered as job seekers in Norway, and the number is rising as thousands more emerge from the introduction program. Among them is Iryna Bielova, a 47-year-old mother of two who was already the widow of a Norwegian citizen when Russia invaded in February 2022. The family lived in Odessa, but Bielova fled with her children to Norway and told Aftenposten that she’s “incredibly grateful” for the help and support she’s received. “When you lose your job, your land and your home you need to start life over again,” Bielova said. “We want to live in Norway now, it’s our second homeland.”

Bielova, who has 15 years of experience working within banking and technology, also needs to support her family. She found her first job in a software company in Norway and used English as her working language during the first year. Now she’s gone through the introduction program and completed a 30-week course in accounting. Aftenposten reported that she now speaks Norwegian and is  seeking a job with finance and administration.

“Lots of employment sectors need people,” Holte said, noting how Norway’s unemployment rate remains low at 3.9 percent, lower within some sectors like health care. “Even if a match isn’t perfect, I’m urging employers to see what our job seekers can contribute,” Holte added. Employment regulations in some sectors, including transport, have been eased to more easily allow hiring of Ukrainians who may not meet all requirements.

Trine Lise Lyng, who counsels job seekers, told Aftenposten that many of the Ukrainians now in Norway “have a lot of competence. They come with a lot og experience. They need our help to transfer that competence into Norwegian systems.” Lyng also described Ukrainian job seekers with whom she’s worked as “motivated, responsible, duty-oriented” and keen to do a good job.

She hopes potential Norwegian employers won’t be put off by foreign names, as has often been the case when new residents from abroad apply for jobs in Norway. Those with Norwegian names often get called in first for interviews. Aftenposten reported that Denmark has integrated Ukrainian refugees to a much larger extent than Norway has. Labour Minister Tonje Brenna said the public sector also has room for improvement in hiring refugees or other foreign workers.

“Many employers do give people a chance,” Brenna told Aftenposten. “At the same time, we know that the private sector is better than the public sector at making use of the tools we have to get more people into the workplace.” Berglund



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