Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Want to work in Norway? Not Norwegian? Forget it!

From the Aftenposten english edition:

Norwegian authorities have said the country needs specialists in a variety of fields, and they set a quota of 5,000 work permits that could be granted this year to foreigners with special skills. The result is disappointing. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that only 780 have applied for and received work permits in Norway.

Norway's tradition of egalitarianism also makes the country unattractive to foreign workers with years of often expensive education behind them. Most Norwegian employers don't link pay to university degrees, or the length of a worker's education, putting Norway at a competitive disadvantage. Employers in Germany, France and Portugal, for example, are more likely to tie pay levels to education levels.

Well, thats the official line, anyway...

My wife and I used to follow an ex-pat job website for non-Norwegians living in Norway, and just about every week someone would post how they wanted to follow their sweetheart to Norway, this is what they did for a living, and could they find a job here? And the response from the ex-pats, born of hard experience, was NO. It didn't actually matter what you did - if you weren't Norwegian, didn't speak Norwegian fluently, didn't have a Norwegian education, and were seeking a job with a Norwegian company, you had almost no chance of finding work. (If you had skills that a non-Norwegian company would value, your chances were better, but it was highly advised you get a job offer before you came).

Norway is filled with unemployed and underemployed spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends of Norwegians that have left good jobs in their home countries and cannot find work here. The ugly truth behind this is that deep down Norwegian employers are extremely xenophobic. Unfortunately its an issue that the government can't seem to get their head around. They and the Norwegian industries talk constantly about importing educated talent and the need for it, but when it comes to putting words into action, nothing happens.

Norway is a beautiful country and the people are generally nice, but they haven't really adjusted to the global economy yet (its only the past 30 years that Norway has been a truly first world nation - before the North Sea Oil, Norway was the poorest country in western Europe). They still have a very isolationist attitude when it comes to foreigners. Until they do change their attitudes, the talent they need to compete on the world stage will be heading elsewhere.

In my case, England.