Optimism is high in Norwegian work life and activity in the labour market is up. During 2006 the amount of people in employment rose by 65,000. Unemployment is now at a record-low figure. We have to go back to 1987 to find a corresponding level of unemployment. At the end of May 2007, 42,000 people were registered as fully unemployed. This corresponds to an unemployment rate of 1.7 percent of the work force. During the course of 2006 registered unemployment was reduced by 25 percent, the largest reduction ever during a single year.
Right now the demand is great for manpower in Norway, which is clearly illustrated in this edition of Norway Exports. Many companies report that there is a lack of qualified workers. NAV’s (the Norwegian Welfare and Labour Organisation) company survey of 2007 shows that Norwegian companies lack 88,000 people. Consequently, the lack of workers is greater than the number of those available, and the greatest shortage is among skilled workers in industry and construction, along with engineers, civil engineers and IT personnel.
Despite record-low unemployment and the increasing shortage of workers, the pressure on the labour market has not yet given way to a large growth in wages or prices. The large labour immigration, particularly from other Scandinavian countries, Germany, Poland and Lithuania, has contributed to an increase of job offers in industries with a great demand for workers and this has reduced the pressure in the Norwegian economy. One of the reasons that the Norwegian labour market is strong is that many workers from abroad have chosen to come here to work.
In 2006 we had the largest total immigration into Norway ever, and during the first three months of 2007 the total number of work permits to citizens of the new EU countries increased by 54 percent in comparison with the previous year.
NAV participates in EURES, the European collaboration between labour market authorities. Through this Norwegian employers get unique possibilities for recruiting labour from EU countries. NAV EURES makes sure that positions are announced on EURES’s European database. People who want to work in Norway can also find information in English about available positions in Norway at EURES’s website: Eures.europa.eu.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion is now working on a white paper for labour migration. There is a need for seeing how conditions can be arranged so that Norway’s labour requirements are covered in the years to come. Minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen has also given notice that he will look at how regulations can be altered so that specialists from countries outside of the EU can be brought into work in Norway more quickly.
In order to meet the future needs for labour in Norway we have to focus on both a more inclusive labour market at home and on recruiting labour from abroad. Actively making sure to mobilize more people into work as well as hindering people from falling out of the labour market is vital for both society and the individuals that make it up. Labour resources are the most important resources in a country – therefore it is imperative to manage them well.
Director – Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation (NAV)