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Jobs news in Norway: Labour shortages and the gender pay gap

Every week The Local brings you a roundup of the latest jobs news and talking points related to working life in Norway. This week we’re looking at severe staff shortages and the gender pay gap. 

In this weeks working life roundup we take a look at the gender pay gap and labour shortages in Norway.
In this weeks working life roundup we take a look at the gender pay gap and labour shortages in Norway. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Record demand for labour 

The Confederation for Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) reports a record-high number of vacancies, and the proportion of companies lacking qualified labour is at its highest level for 13 years. 

The confederation says that this massive labour shortage could affect Norway’s economic recovery from the pandemic. 

“We say that this is something that can slow down the recovery, the prospect of companies not getting the manpower they need,” chief economist for the NHO, Øystein Dørum, told financial media DN.

Dørum said there were two possible explanations for the lack of labour. Firstly, those unemployed or laid-off due to the pandemic have moved into different careers and secondly, the lack of access to foreign workers due to Norway’s strict entry restrictions. 

“What happens when the jobs are gone over a longer period is that people find other jobs and they start studying. In a good number of places, I think this is about entry restrictions,” Dørum said. 

Hotels facing staff shortages

On the topic of labour shortages, hotels and catering are the worst affected by a lack of qualified workers. 

In a recent survey carried out by NHO, eight out of ten businesses in the industry said they were struggling for staff. 

Other industries hit hard by staff shortages include the construction and cultural sectors.

How many companies have a gender pay gap? 

Around three out of ten of the 100 largest companies in Norway pay men more than women, according to auditing and consulting firm PwC. 

Due to strict gender equality law in Norway, companies with more than 50 employees and all public enterprises must report differences in pay between men and women every two years. 

In 2019 women in Norway earned, on average, around 87.6 percent of what men did, according to Statistics Norway. The gender pay gap in Norway is shrinking according to the data collection firm, with the gap decreasing 2.3 percentage points between 2017 and 2019. 

Union demands SAS re-hire laid-off staff 

One of Norway’s most prominent unions, LO, has demanded that airline SAS re-hire staff that it laid off during the pandemic. 

The union also alleged that SAS restructuring is being done to circumvent any obligation to re-employ staff. 

LO argues it leaves laid-off staff no choice but to reapply for their old jobs on worse terms. 

“Very many SAS employees have been unemployed for over 1.5 years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They have taken the biggest blow for all of us. Now the LO community stands with them,” LO leader Peggy Hessen Følsvik said. 

Despite receiving large amounts of financial support from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the airline laid off almost half of its workforce during the pandemic. 

“It is very disappointing that such an important company as SAS, with long Scandinavian traditions, now challenges decent practices in aviation. At the same time, we notice that there are new players in the market who want to build on the Norwegian working model,” Are Tomasgard from LO Aviation said. 

Did you know? 

Employers are more or less unable to demand that workers get tested for Covid-19 unless it poses a risk to life for customers and other staff members. 

This is because Covid-19 testing is classed as being related to health. There are therefore a number of legal mechanisms in place to protect the privacy of employees. 

Essentially this means that testing can only be demanded in exceptional cases where lives could be put at risk. This is balanced against the employee’s right to privacy and any contractual or collective agreements that may be in place. 

Employers can instead ask workers to get tested, with it being up to the staff member to decide for themselves.

READ MORE: Can your boss in Norway make you take a Covid-19 test?

Useful links

Below you’ll find a couple of helpful articles, guides and resources put together by The Local, which cover key aspects of working life in Norway.

How to get a work permit in Norway

Salaries in Norway: Which jobs have seen wages rise (and fall) the most?

Is this useful?

Please get in touch with me at [email protected] to let me know if this weekly feature is useful and any suggestions you have for jobs related articles on The Local Norway.

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Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don’t need it for work

It's certainly possible to get a job in Norway without knowing the local language, but not making an effort with Norwegian could be holding you back at work and in your social life. 

Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don't need it for work

There are plenty of English-speaking roles in Norway, making it possible to get a job without learning the local language. 

“In Norway, many companies will accept English speaking candidates without any Norwegian skills. Examples are high-tech, and research companies, academia, hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and startups,” Karin Ellis, author and founder of Ellis Culture, which specialises in explaining the social norms and unwritten rules of the job market in Norway, told The Local. 

Now maybe is a better time than any to secure a job without language skills in Norway. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates and post job adverts in English to reach a bigger audience. 

READ MORE: Record job vacancies in Norway

However, not getting to grips with the local lingo can hold back foreigners in the long run, even if they secure a job that doesn’t require any Norwegian language skills. 

“It is very important that immigrant workers make an effort to learn Norwegian, even when they work for an English-speaking company. Until you speak the native language, you will never be fully accepted in the workplace or society,” Ellis said

The working life expert added that language-related conflicts could be common in workplaces, and even workers in highly-skilled companies may be reluctant to speak English. Additionally, not making an effort with the language, in the long run, could make it harder for you to gel with your coworkers. 

“Not making an effort to learn the language could negatively impact your relationships with your coworkers because they may reduce their contact with you. Even if they speak English with you in the workplace, it is quite likely that they will prefer to socialise with Norwegian speakers,” Ellis explained.  

Even if you only intend on working in Norway for a short while, it may be worth trying to get to grips with the language in case you have a change of heart and decide to stay in the country. 

“Immigrant workers who start on a temporary contract in an English-speaking workplace often stay in Norway much longer than originally planned. Then, several years later, when they decide to change jobs, they regret not learning Norwegian from the start. At that point, no employer will be impressed by the fact that they have not bothered to learn Norwegian,” Ellis said. 

On the flip side, learning Norwegian could help give your career in the country a welcome leg-up. 

“Learning Norwegian could boost your career because you will be able to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues on a deeper level and avoid misunderstandings. When employers select candidates, they emphasise people skills and the ability to collaborate,” the working life expert said. 

READ MORE: The dos and don’ts of writing a killer CV to impress Norwegian recruiters

Even just being able to engage in small talk in the native language could help your career prospects and put you in contention for promotions, according to Ellis. This is because chit-chat can help highlight your ability to communicate and work well with others. 

“To be a good leader in Norway, you need to contribute to a good working environment by taking an interest in your colleagues, supporting and sharing information with them. All of this is easier if you speak the language, as you are then showing that you have taken the step to become part of the Norwegian community and understand the culture,” Ellis said. 

 Taking the time to sharpen your language skills can also help you outside of work and help you make more friends. 

“Learning Norwegian will make it easier for you to get Norwegian friends simply by speaking with them in their language and understanding their jokes. You will then start to share experiences, news and perspectives with Norwegians. This will give you more common topics and interests for conversation and discussion, whether it is during the lunch break at work or at a private party,” Ellis said. 

What do The Local’s readers think? 

In a previous survey, The Local’s readers were asked whether they thought that foreign residents could speak Norwegian was important. 

The majority, 60 percent, said they thought it was, while 40 percent said it wasn’t. 

“I am a native English speaker working in Norway for a large international company. However, all internal meetings and documentation are in Norwegian. This demands that even international companies require Norwegian knowledge,” one reader, Susan, told our survey. 

Susan wasn’t alone in sharing her thoughts that learning the language was crucial. 

“Well, in many industries these days, it doesn’t matter much anymore as the working language is English. However, socially it is better to learn and is also very much appreciated by the Norwegians,” Arjen told the survey. 

READ ALSO: Tips for finding an English-speaking job in Norway