Half of Norway’s wait staff foreign

Foreigners in the hospitality sector keep Norwegians eating and drinking

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

47 percent of waiting and service personnel have a foreign background, according to the report commissioned by Norway’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries. This was over twice the number working in 2003—which was 22 percent in that year.

The report, compiled by Nordic Socioeconomic and Policy Consultancy company DAMVAD, also shows that 56 percent of foreign origin and so-termed ethnic Norwegian staff are under 30 years of age.

Another contributor to the report was Economic Analysis Norway, a group of economists that perform analysis and consultancy work. Roger Bjørnstad, chief economist at the group, tells the Foreigner why he believes that there are so many foreigners and young people working in this sector.

“The sector is one of the remaining ones in Norway with low recruitment costs and which needs workers with low to medium-high education levels. It’s also one of the gateways to Norwegian working life.”

Workers from Asia represent the strongest growth in restaurant, bar, and takeaway employees. “Norway is also experiencing the highest immigration numbers in Europe compared to the size of the population.”

“Moreover, it’s important to remember that Norway is the country in Europe with the smallest wage gaps, high relative wages, and relatively low unemployment. This gives people with low education and the unemployed elsewhere quite a high incentive to come and work here,” explains Bjørnstad.

Extensive use of part-time and temporary labor, as well as a high proportion of non-Norwegian workers characterize the food and beverage industry, states the report. “While there has been little change in age and gender distribution over time, the use of labor utilizing [people of a] foreign background has increased significantly,” the document reads.

Successful Norwegian businessman Olav Thon, and immigrant multi-millionaire Tommy Sharif, have both slammed young Norwegians’ lackluster work attitudes.

“The food and beverage service industry, like many other Norwegian industries, experiences difficulties recruiting sufficient numbers of skilled staff,” states the report.

The Foreigner asked Professor Reidar Johan Mykletun, of the Norwegian School of Hotel Management at the University of Stavanger, why more foreigners than Norwegians choose to work in this sector.

“Firstly, it’s the size of the salary; it’s not very well paid. Then there are the unsociable working hours.”

“Thirdly, many of these jobs are dead-end ones. People would have to move to another sector if they want another job, which results in a high staff turnover. On the other hand, the food and beverage service industry is positive, because it provides an opening for employment and pay. It’s good news, in that way,” explains the professor, who was the report’s third co-author.

Stavanger-based law firm Bull & Co. was the fourth contributor to the report. It was handed to Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Saying that it “contains several important findings,” the Minister added that “I worked at an outdoor restaurant, cafeteria, and in catering in my youth.”

“It gave me valuable experience,” she commented in a statement.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Dec. 26, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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