Poles are packing their bags and returning from Norway to their home country. The reason is not only the Covid-19 pandemic but also rising wages in Poland and the falling value of the Norwegian krone (NOK). As a result, the Norwegian construction and shipbuilding industry is running out of workers, NRK TV alerts.
As the Polish Press Agency reports, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK spoke to the plumber Wojciech Persinski, the head of a Polish community organization. He confirmed he knew many compatriots who had returned to Poland or moved to Germany.
– The earnings in Poland are better than before. Working in another country is difficult because of the different culture and language – Wojciech Persinski explains.
Paulina Olbryś, the Pole who deals with employment services in Norway, says that “Norway is no longer as popular among Poles as it was 10-12 years ago.”
NRK points out that many Poles left the Fjord country as early as 2016 when the value of the Norwegian krone had fallen. Several employers interviewed by NRK admit that the situation in the employment market for foreigners has changed.
– It is difficult now to get labour from Poland, especially the skilled one – says Jan Helge Vassnes of Vassnes Solutions, who employs 160 workers from Poland.
Jorgen Leegaard, director at the Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries (Byggenæringens Landsforening – BNL) notes that “things are getting better in many countries”.
– Workers from Eastern Europe prefer to work in their home countries rather than in distant Norway – he emphasizes.
Leegaard fears that a shortage of workers could cause delays in many construction projects, including important public facilities such as hospitals and schools.
Stein Lier-Hansen, director of the Norsk Industri organization, quoted by NRK, points out that “wages have risen sharply in the countries from which Norway sourced labour.”
As NRK reminds us, since 2004 (when Poland and other countries joined the EU), the number of people migrating from Eastern Europe to Norway and Western European countries has exploded.
– This has led to a lack of skilled labour, the consequences of which countries like Poland now have to face – a Norwegian journalist emphasizes.
The Oslo-based FAFO Institute for Labour and Social Research highlighted the development of vocational education in Poland in its 2020 report, including practices to help find successors for those who left. According to FAFO expert Jon Erik Dolvik, Norway should try to “find itself” after the exodus of Eastern European workers.
– We need to bet in Norway on vocational training, retraining of workers and have long-term strategies to ensure our labour supply. We cannot be a second Kuwait, which depends on the international economic situation – Dolvik emphasizes.
FAFO research published this spring shows that one in four Lithuanians and one in five Poles working in Norway are considering returning to their home country. Unfortunately, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a difficult year for migrants working in Norway, who suffered shutdowns, layoffs, and the border’s closure to temporary workers.
In the picture above: Ulstein shipyard.