We need the Swedes!

Photo: skydancingblog.com

By Maalfrid Brath, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup

If you’re in Norway and visiting a restaurant, hotel or kiosk, most likely you’ll meet a Swedish waiter, especially in Oslo and the other large cities. Swedes are a popular workforce in Norway, known widely for being service-minded, hard-working and loyal.

This is not unlike Norwegian youth, but the latter tend to be more conscious about what jobs they’ll take. We at Manpower are struggling to find Norwegian youth for many jobs, and are concerned about their resultant lack of work experience. In Norway, like in many other countries, we already have a labor shortage in many sectors, and we need all the talent and skilled labor we can get.

This summer there was much debate on this topic, first brought up by the newspaper Aftenposten entitled “Swedes are taking jobs from Norwegian youth.” A survey shows that Swedish youth outperform their Norwegian counterparts in part-time and summer jobs. As more Swedish young people come to Norway, fewer Norwegian youth are getting part-time and summer jobs.

Manpower was asked to comment on the survey, and we thought that, in addition to other explanations, perhaps Norwegian youth were spoiled. The reactions came rapidly; the matter was picked up by several media, with counter arguments and hefty comments in the papers.

That’s great! We need to discuss this. Why are all too many Norwegian youth reluctant to work part-time while studying? As many as one out of three of the youngsters over the age of 15 say they don’t want a summer job. The consequence is that many are losing out on valuable job experience before entering work life, thus ending up at the back of the line for jobs. In addition, they’re living on state-funded student loans and the financial support of their parents.

We live in one of the world’s richest countries, with generally high wages, good working conditions and secure welfare systems. This has a clear impact on us. Some say we’re virtually spoiled, taking things for granted and mostly not having to struggle to make a living. For example, one of our Work Life surveys shows that seven out of ten Norwegians do not want to relocate to find work.

The reason Swedish youth look to Norway for employment is their high unemployment rate of 22.5 percent versus 8 percent among Norway’s young population. In general, Norway has an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent as opposed to 7.8 percent in Sweden.

In the past decade the number of Swedish employees in Norway has grown by 70 percent to 25,000 persons. The Swedish population in Norway is increasing each year, and they are now the largest group of immigrants in Norway.

Norway enjoys a strong economy and great optimism in spite of the Euro crisis in many of our neighboring countries. According to Manpower’s latest Employment Outlook, many employers are planning to increase their workforce. Norway needs work immigration; we are not enough people to fill all the jobs. A ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage survey shows there is a serious shortage of sales staff persons, drivers and engineers. Many Swedes come to Norway for those very jobs. We need the Swedes. We also have to search in Europe to find engineers, who have an unemployment rate of virtually nil in Norway, particularly in the oil sector.

But we also need the Norwegian youngsters in the job market. Parents, authorities, schools and businesses have a duty to help Norwegian youth find the way from education to jobs. That’s why we at ManpowerGroup are highly committed to Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE), which aims to build bridges between schools and businesses and stimulate toward entrepreneurship and innovation among young people. We are happy to see that this work has succeeded and that many youth businesses are now in place to help move Norway forward and they themselves starting their professional career gain a foothold in the job market before finishing school.


Maalfrid Brath is the Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Norway, the world leader in innovative workforce solutions. The ManpowerGroup suite of solutions is offered through ManpowerGroup Solutions, Experis, Manpower, and Right Management. Brath has led the company since 2009, after leading different divisions in Storebrand (leading provider of insurance and pensions) since 1995. She is state authorized public accountant from The Norwegian School of Economics, and MBA from BI Norwegian Business School.  She is member of the council of BI Norwegian Business School and Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise Norway. Maalfrid Brath is married, has two children and lives in Bærum outside Oslo.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 24, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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