Many Immigrants Are Overqualified For Their Jobs In Norway

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Around 40% of immigrants in Norway are working in jobs with lower competency requirements than their education level.

Finding a job in Norway can be a challenge for new arrivals, especially during the process of learning Norwegian. But new data from Statistics Norway suggests the problem doesn't always go away with time.

Foreign fishermen in Norway

An overqualified person is someone who has a job in which the competency requirements are lower than the education level of that person. For example, a bus driver with a Master degree in engineering.

Between 2015 and 2021, approximately 14% of Norway's population has been overqualified for their jobs. However, among immigrants, that number was 42%.

The problem was especially notable in the service industry. There are many highly-skilled immigrants working in shops, hotels, restaurants or in driving jobs, none of which require higher education.

Residence length does matter

While the numbers show that things do improve for immigrants over time, it's not the only factor.

Immigrant family in Bergen

Amongst those with a residence period of less than ten years, approximately 54% were considered overqualified. Amongst the group with a longer residence period, the proportion of overqualified was 30%. While better, that's still much higher than non-immigrants.

Skilled immigrants often have trouble

Why is the labour market so difficult to access for skilled immigrants? Life in Norway writer Tone previously addressed this question.

She said that language competence is one barrier, but so is the difficulty of verifying foreign credentials and a perceived lack of cultural understanding.

“Education, experience, and references are not enough; you also need to understand work-place cultural codes, expectations, and how to ‘translate’ and transfer skill sets to a Norwegian context,” she said.

Taxis in Oslo
Some skilled immigrants work as taxi and bus drivers in Norway.

Norwegian companies must change

It could be that companies themselves are the ones who need to adjust, according to a 2021 research study.

It found that companies do not trust the skills of highly educated immigrants. They question their certificates and language skills, and they believe they are less efficient.

“It is normal to be afraid and unsure of the unknown, but it is wise to open up a little. Organisations benefit from having a more diverse workforce,” said professor Annette Risberg of the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

She was one of the study's authors and believes the workforce exists within Europe to meet the needs of many industries with workforce shortages.

Another pointer towards recruiters needed to change their attitude came in an older study. This showed that people with a non-Norwegian name were 25% less likely to be called for a job interview.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “Many Immigrants Are Overqualified For Their Jobs In Norway”

  1. This situation is natural and quite obvious. Why even write an article on it? The free job market is the most intelligent system to sort this out. This situation exists in every country where people immigrate. The last thing one wants to do is legislate something here. Free market capitalism solves this in the quickest, most equitable way for all.


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