Why does Norway face a shortage of Swedish workers? 

Several industries in Norway are facing a shortfall as fewer Swedes are choosing to cross the border for work. 

Swedish workers are turning their back on Norway. Pictured is a Norwegian and Swedish flag taped to the bridge at the old Svinesund border crossing.
Swedish workers are turning their back on Norway. Pictured is a Norwegian and Swedish flag taped to the bridge at the old Svinesund border crossing. Photo by Petter Berntsen/AFP

Hospitals, bars, restaurants and hotels are among sectors in Norway struggling to fill vacancies normally occupied by Swedish workers. 

“It is a very frustrating situation. We see the guests standing and knocking on the door, and there is no one who can work, we do not have enough people,” Bjarte Wigdel, general manager of a restaurant in Trysil, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Wigdel added that his eatery was operating under reduced opening hours due to a lack of staff. 

Anne Brodin Söderström, a hotel manager near the border between the two countries, said that the pandemic and Covid-19 border rules have made it hard to attract personnel from Sweden. 

“For us close to the border, Swedish labour is just as important as Norwegian labour. But the closed borders made working conditions very difficult,” she explained to NRK.

Söderström added that she felt the pandemic would have longer-lasting effects on Norway’s ability to attract Swedes. 

“We have lost a lot of valuable expertise. And it is a long time until the border between Norway and Sweden will be just a line on the map,” she said. 

READ ALSO: Norway posts record number of vacant job listings

A significant drop-off in the number of applicants from across the border has meanwhile been observed at Kongsvinger Hospital, Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT reports.

“There is a very big difference. We always, or at least often, had Swedish applicants. We are so close to the border. Now it seems like it’s harder. They have not been here in two years,” Jane Moe Castro, director of Kongsvinger Hospital, told SVT

Even with Norway’s border rules now less rigid than earlier in the pandemic, Swedes appear to be sceptical about coming to work in Norway. 

“There is growing scepticism among Swedish workers after the pandemic. There are still some mental barriers left. We know it’s very serious,” Trond Erik Grundt, general manager of the Border Service, set up by Norwegian and Swedish authorities to offer information to cross border workers, told NRK. 

Grundt added that Swedish workers had experienced an “us and them” mentality while working in Norway and felt alienated and discriminated against. 

“When you can get a job in your home country, and there has been so much hassle involved with travelling across the border, you’d rather choose the safe option at home,” he said. 

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) expressed its concern about a shortage of Swedish workers. 

“It’s definitely serious. It will be a great challenge in the future to get enough competent labour,” NHO regional director for Innlandet, Jon Kristiansen, told NRK. 

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Record job vacancies in Norway: Which sectors need workers?

During the first quarter of 2022, there were a record number of job vacancies in Norway available, but which sectors are most in need of workers?

Record job vacancies in Norway: Which sectors need workers?

Norway passed 100,000 job vaccines during the first three months of the year, figures from Statistics Norway have revealed.

Compared to the same period a year before, the number of job openings increased by 7.3 percent when the figures are adjusted for seasonal variation.

“The number of vacancies was a record high throughout 2021. This quarter we see a further increase, and the number of vacancies is now over 100,000, the highest in over ten years,” Tonje Køber, from the labour market and wages section at Statistics Norway, said.

Unemployment fell to its lowest level since 2009 in the first quarter, also, figures from the Labour Force Survey show. During the first quarter of 2022, unemployment in Norway was 3.1 percent.


Statistics Norway noted that construction was one of the industries with the highest number of vacancies, but the number of job openings was not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.

In the administration and support sectors, more than 11,200 vacancies were registered. Hospitality and accommodation was another sector with a high number of openings throughout the beginning of the year. Across these sectors, 7,000 vacancies were listed.

More than 6,000 openings were also reported for the comms and information sectors. The professional, scientific, and technical industries had just under 8,000 roles available during this period.

The technical and scientific professions were also the industries with the highest growth in the number of vacancies.

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) has previously said Norway needs more skilled workers. 

“We now see a strengthened and persistent imbalance between the competence that employers demand and the competence that jobseekers offer,” director of labour and welfare at NAV, Hans Christian Holte, said in a report on unemployment published last month.