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Why overqualified foreigners in Norway struggle to find work

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why overqualified foreigners in Norway struggle to find work
Norway has been named as one of the worst countries for "brain waste". Pictured is an office setup. Photo by Jakub Żerdzicki on Unsplash

Norway is one of the worst countries in Europe when it comes to overqualified foreign labour being stuck in jobs that don’t make the best use of their skills, a new analysis has found.


Norway is one of many European countries struggling with “brain waste”, which is where immigrants struggle to find suitable full-time work or are overqualified for their roles due to their education not being recognised. 

The findings are part of an investigation by Lighthouse Reports, the Financial Times, El País and Unbias The News that found that most European countries fail to provide good job opportunities to educated foreigners – potentially at the cost of their labour forces and economies. 

“While the results differ slightly between labour market outcomes, a consistent pattern emerges: immigrants lag behind natives everywhere, but brain waste is worst in Southern Europe, Norway, and Sweden,” the report read

Some of the metrics used to measure brain waste were the proportion of foreign residents who were overqualified for their role, underemployed (meaning they weren’t working as much as they could), or unemployed. 

In Norway, 27.6 percent of university-educated Norwegians were overqualified for their roles, according to the report. Meanwhile, just over half of the university-educated immigrant population were overqualified for their job. 

This figure made Norway one of the countries with the largest raw difference in the percentage of the native population being overqualified compared to the immigrant population. 

Furthermore, the number of immigrants who were underemployed, 3.9 percent, was more than double the rate of Norwegians in the same position. 


The investigation used figures from Eurostat between 2017 and 2022. 

Norway’s Directorate of Integration and Diversity has recently investigated the obstacles facing the country’s foreign population in the workplace. 

Its report found that immigrants faced barriers both when trying to progress their careers or simply trying to get their foot in the door. 

Immigrants working in Norway were also more likely to leave working life earlier or lose their jobs. 

READ ALSO: The biggest barriers foreigners in Norway face at work

Factors such as working in temp positions, physically taxing occupations, and industries exposed to economic turbulence contributed to this. 

However, a lack of Norwegian proficiency, a lack of relevant skills and poor health also played a part. 

Discrimination prevented immigrants from entering the workplace and affected those who were employed

“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.


The directorate also said that most companies didn’t have concrete measures to try and promote diversity.

One factor holding back immigrants in Norway was their Norwegian language skills, the report said. 

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.

Meanwhile, Lighthouse Reports’ investigation found that brain waste in Norway varied from profession to profession. For example, Norway was one of a number of countries where college-educated immigrants were more likely to be doctors. 

Immigrants with a university education in IT-related subjects were also far less likely to be overqualified. There, the difference between migrants being overqualified compared to natives was just 2 percent. 

However, physical and engineering science technicians, engineering professionals (excluding electrotechnology), and those who have studied education at a university level were the immigrant groups in Norway most likely to be overqualified. 

One thing to note is that immigrants who obtained their qualifications in Norway were far less likely to be overqualified than those who got their degrees outside of Norway, even if they still fared worse than natives overall. 


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mbjrnk 2024/04/25 02:18
Why does Norway make it difficult for a traveling nurse from the United States to get a job. USA nurses have way more education than a Norwegian nurse.
Charlene Vosser 2024/04/23 13:17
Both my husband and I fall onto this article 100%. We have both been victims of everything that has been said in this as well. It made us opt into moving to Germany after trying for 5 years to “fit in”

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