Stoltenberg under fire over foreign workers

Stoltenberg under fire over foreign workers
Photo: Kjetil Ree (File)
Norwegian unemployment has never been lower and joblessness among its immigrant communities and foreign workers is lower than elsewhere in Europe, a harried Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told parliamentarians on Wednesday.

Despite the assurances, opposition party leaders and labour and integration committee members were steadfast in their attacks on Norwegian labour policy. Amid calls for greater acceptance for foreign workers' skills, a succession of labour policy critics suggested workers be allowed to take their trade certification tests in English.

“We’re open to all ideas toward the better integration of foreign workers in the country,” Stoltenberg said.

The prime minister said 8,000 new jobs had been created so far this year. A dramatic increase in the number of foreign workers in recent years hasn’t swelled the figure.

The opposition, however, pointed to worrying signs of continued “social dumping”, cases of employers paying foreigners far below industry norms. One opposition leader cited the case of a Polish-speaking lawyer who had won all 70 of his labour violation trials on behalf of Poles plying the Norwegian market.

Whatever the evidence, Stoltenberg’s mid-morning address to parliament rounded out with an assertion that unemployment among newcomers to Norway was lower than corresponding figures in all other countries. He said the focus of his government would be helping Norwegians into the job market, an effort he said would trickle down to foreign workers.

“We want job market integration,” he said, adding, “We don’t want social dumping.”

Parliament’s own Labour Committee has pointed out that 125,000 foreigners, or about half the foreign workforce, still endure “consistently low incomes”. Committee members have proposed a 10-year focus on integrating foreign labour. 

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