Shortage of field workers

Oslo youth stand in for foreign laborers unable to return to Norway this summer

field workers

Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
Vietnamese laborers are working in the fields of strawberry farmer Per Isingrud at Minnesund in Viken. But this year, there is a significant shortage of foreign laborers due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Local

Norwegian farmers have looked to alternative labor sources after foreign workers in areas such as fruit and vegetable picking were temporarily kept away by travel restrictions because of COVID-19.

Although Norway is now open to tourists from most of Europe, the government’s closing of the borders when the coronavirus crisis began has affected the labor force on farms. Many farms hire seasonal workers from Vietnam, Ukraine, and Poland, the newspaper VG reported.

Although Norway announced the reopening of its borders for seasonal workers from the European Economic Area as early as March 30, the use of local labor as a stand-in has continued in at least one case.

Anders Hørthe, a farmer who produces squash plants, told VG that he initially looked for help from Oslo’s Vestre Aker neighborhood, where he found assistance in young people looking for summer vacation work.

Hørthe chose to keep using youth workers after rules were updated to enable seasonal workers from abroad to return.

“We all know that our youth are vital for the future. Youth leaders and groups from Oslo are a resource we are working with. I believe that agriculture has a number of valuable things to offer society. Leadership and helping people to develop, while also producing and selling food are pillars of society,” he told VG.

The farmer explained that more senior youth workers are trained so that they can train younger recruits in turn, ensuring safe and efficient processing of the produce.

He added that he saw the hiring of young locals as a potential benefit to society.

“In recent years, we farmers have had free access to labor from outside of Norway, but I see that some of the important values young people learned in the past [from seasonal work] have been lost. In that sense, I hope I’m contributing to society,” he said.

This article first appeared in The Local.

This article originally appeared in the July 31, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.