Shortage of Swedish Workers in Norway

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Fewer Swedes are choosing to work in Norway since border restrictions were relaxed. Hospitality and healthcare are among the industries affected.

Many kitchens are struggling to hire chefs because Swedish workers have chosen not to return now that most pandemic restrictions have been lifted. Hospitals are also struggling for support staff.

Norway-Sweden road border

A relatively common language and the ability to earn a Norwegian salary while enjoying a Swedish cost of living is an attractive option for many young Swedes.

So much so, that Swedish workers used to be a common sight at restaurants and bars in and around Oslo and other parts of Norway within easy reach of the Norway-Sweden border.

Or at least, they were until pandemic restrictions closed the border. But despite the lifting of some border controls, the Swedes have not yet returned.

Problems on the border

The popular winter resort Trysil is short by up to 20 chefs ahead of its high season.

Trysil mountain resort in Norway
Trysil, Norway.

“It is a very frustrating situation. We have guests knocking on the door, but there is no one who can work. We do not have enough people,” said Trysil general manager Bjarte Wigdel to NRK. He has been forced to cut the opening hours of a restaurant due to the staff shortage.

Pandemic hits mobility habits

Trysil is very close to the Norway-Sweden border. Many other businesses close to the border rely just as much, if not more, on Swedish labour as Norwegian.

Read more: Service Wage Scandal in Oslo

Hotel manager Anne Brodin Söderström said the long-term uncertainty over the border rules has made it much harder to attract Swedes. While the return of Swedish tourism has been slow, the return of Swedish employees has been slower.

“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 told NRK, adding that she expected the trend to continue.

A problem in healthcare

Swedish news service SVT first picked up the story, reporting that the Norwegian healthcare system is also struggling to attract Swedish workers. The management at Kongsvinger Hospital said the number of Swedes applying for temporary positions has fallen significantly.

Sweden Norway folded flags

“According to several employers SVT spoke to, interest in jobs in the neighbouring country has cooled significantly,” stated the SVT report.

Border uncertainty

For several months now, vaccinated Swedes have been able to freely cross the border by showing a valid EU coronavirus certificate. Non-vaccinated Swedes can enter without quarantine as long as their region of Sweden is not classed as red.

Read more: Norway Travel Restrictions

However, Swedes still seem less interested in job opportunities in Norway than before the pandemic.

Trond Erik Grundt is the general manager of the Border Service, a joint Norway-Sweden initiative to provide information to cross border workers. He told NRK that the hassle during Covid has put people off, but that there are other issues too.

He said Swedish workers experience an “us and them” mentality and feel discriminated against, which is something that “cannot be repaired overnight.”

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) also expressed its concern about the Swedish labour shortage.

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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