Norway is characterised by very high levels of migration from within the European
Economic Area (EEA) and growing but small scale labour migration from countries outside
the EEA. In this context, the challenge for managing discretionary labour migration
is to ensure it complements EEA flows. High-skilled workers who come to Norway often
leave, even if their employer would like to keep them. Norway has many international
students, but most appear to leave at graduation or in the years that follow. The
spouses of skilled migrants – usually educated and talented themselves – face challenges
in finding employment, and this may cause the whole family to leave. Key industries
in smaller population centres wonder how they will source talent in the future. This
review examines these aspects of the Norwegian labour migration system. It considers
the efficiency of procedures and whether the system is capable of meeting demand.
It looks at several policy measures that were implemented and withdrawn, and assesses
how these and other mechanisms could be better applied. The characteristics and behaviour
of past labour migrants is examined to suggest means of encouraging promising immigrants
to remain, and how Norway might attract the specific labour migrants from which it
can most benefit in the future.
Norway is second only to Switzerland in terms of inflows of labour migrants as a share of population, according to a new OECD review of the labour market integration of migrants in Norway. Most migrants come from the European Union, with free movement accounting for about 40 000 in 2012, compared with fewer than 5 000 non-European workers admitted.
“Recruiting Immigrant Workers – Norway” says that Norway is less affected by concern over the global competition for talent, over imminent skills shortages or over the dramatic population ageing faced by many other OECD countries such as Germany or Japan.
This, says the OECD, highlights the role for discretionary labour migration, which already feeds certain key sectors and occupations in Norway, and may play a growing role in the future. Future demand is likely to increase for certain categories of skilled workers. Technology, engineering and the extraction industry are global fields in which Norwegian employers compete worldwide. Other sectors such as healthcare are also expected to look abroad for labour in the future.
The report recommends that Norway:
Identify target areas where Norway represents a strong competitor for skilled workers who would be more likely to stay
Eliminate the cap on skilled permits exempt from a labour market test
Market tertiary education as a pathway to employment in Norway
Reconsider au pair criteria to ensure that the cultural exchange programme is not a domestic work permit
Strengthen services for labour migrants and their families