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The biggest barriers foreigners in Norway face at work

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
The biggest barriers foreigners in Norway face at work
There are a number of issues facing foreigners in the workplace in Norway. Pictured is an office space. Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash

Norway’s integration directorate has put together a report on how foreigners in Norway fit into working life as part of a wider plan to combat discrimination.


Foreigners in Norway are three times as likely to be unemployed, and up to 40 percent of migrant workers are overqualified for their role, according to a new report from The Directorate of Integration and Diversity.

The overview of working life put together by the directorate is part of a wider action plan from the Norwegian government to try and combat racism and ethnic discrimination.

READ ALSO: How much money do Norway’s different foreigners make?

Working life was the focus of the report from the integration directorate as it is an area where foreigners make a key contribution to Norwegian society.

“From an integration perspective, it is absolutely crucial to make it possible for immigrants to contribute their resources in various areas of society, and working life is the most important area for inclusion and integration,” the report read.

Despite the importance of work for integration, there were several areas where foreigners were much worse off than their Norwegian counterparts in working life.

Nearly half of immigrants in Norway are overqualified for their job

The report said that immigrants in Norway were much more likely than the rest of the population to experience barriers in their careers, both when starting out and when trying to progress.

Figures from the report show that 40 percent of immigrants were overqualified for their job, compared to 14 percent of the rest of the population.

“This shows that there is great potential for better use of immigrants’ skills in working life, and a need to break down barriers,” the report read.

In addition to being overqualified for their jobs, foreigners in Norway were also more likely to lose their jobs, be unemployed, or leave working life earlier.


This was partially due to working in temp positions, physically taxing occupations, and industries exposed to economic turbulence, but also due to a lack of Norwegian proficiency, a lack of relevant skills and poor health.

One of the issues with foreigners leaving their working lives earlier than their Norwegian counterparts is that they were less likely to be entitled to an old age pension in the country.

READ ALSO: Five key things you need to know about Norway's state pension

Discrimination in the workplace is an issue for workers from overseas

The report found that discrimination prevented immigrants from entering the workplace but also caused problems once foreigners were able to land a job.

“More and more people in the population have contact with immigrants in working life, and most experience that contact as mainly positive. At the same time, one in four immigrants has experienced discrimination in the workplace, and this discrimination can occur in different forms and in different working situations,” the report read.

Norway’s integration directorate also outlined that while plenty of employers are positive about diversity within their business, very few have concrete measures to try and promote diversity.


This is despite the report also outlining that a diverse workforce could be more profitable for business through “increased productivity, lower wage costs, more exports and more innovation”.

Norwegian skills are improving, but still need work

While there were plenty of structural barriers to finding work and progressing one’s career in Norway, one thing holding foreigners back is their Norwegian skills.

While Norwegian skills were moving in the right direction, less than half of foreigners in the country had advanced Norwegian language skills (level B2 according to the European framework) after completing language training.

Lower Norwegian skills were pointed to as one reason why immigrants were more likely to be unemployed, along with low levels of formal education and qualifications, little work experience, and a lack of network in the country.

The report also pointed towards a connection with immigrants’ Norwegian skills and their health, formal and informal networks, and participation in immigration.

Women find it harder than men to find work

In almost all cases, women face more barriers to finding a suitable job in Norway than men.

Around 40 percent of female migrant workers faced barriers in finding a job compared to 34 percent of men.

This was almost regardless of the reason for moving to Norway. However, male refugees were the exception, with women with an asylum seeker background facing fewer barriers than men. Overall, refugees were the groups to face the largest barriers in working life.


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