Why does Norway face a shortage of Swedish workers? 

Swedish workers are turning their back on Norway. Pictured is a Norwegian and Swedish flag taped to the bridge at the old Svinesund border crossing.
Swedish workers are turning their back on Norway. Pictured is a Norwegian and Swedish flag taped to the bridge at the old Svinesund border crossing. Photo by Petter Berntsen/AFP
Several industries in Norway are facing a shortfall as fewer Swedes are choosing to cross the border for work. 

Hospitals, bars, restaurants and hotels are among sectors in Norway struggling to fill vacancies normally occupied by Swedish workers. 

“It is a very frustrating situation. We see the guests standing and knocking on the door, and there is no one who can work, we do not have enough people,” Bjarte Wigdel, general manager of a restaurant in Trysil, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Wigdel added that his eatery was operating under reduced opening hours due to a lack of staff. 

Anne Brodin Söderström, a hotel manager near the border between the two countries, said that the pandemic and Covid-19 border rules have made it hard to attract personnel from Sweden. 

“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 explained to NRK.

Söderström added that she felt the pandemic would have longer-lasting effects on Norway’s ability to attract Swedes. 

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“We have lost a lot of valuable expertise. And it is a long time until the border between Norway and Sweden will be just a line on the map,” she said. 

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A significant drop-off in the number of applicants from across the border has meanwhile been observed at Kongsvinger Hospital, Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT reports.

“There is a very big difference. We always, or at least often, had Swedish applicants. We are so close to the border. Now it seems like it’s harder. They have not been here in two years,” Jane Moe Castro, director of Kongsvinger Hospital, told SVT

Even with Norway’s border rules now less rigid than earlier in the pandemic, Swedes appear to be sceptical about coming to work in Norway. 

“There is growing scepticism among Swedish workers after the pandemic. There are still some mental barriers left. We know it’s very serious,” Trond Erik Grundt, general manager of the Border Service, set up by Norwegian and Swedish authorities to offer information to cross border workers, told NRK. 

Grundt added that Swedish workers had experienced an “us and them” mentality while working in Norway and felt alienated and discriminated against. 

“When you can get a job in your home country, and there has been so much hassle involved with travelling across the border, you’d rather choose the safe option at home,” he said. 

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) expressed its concern about a shortage of Swedish workers. 

“It’s definitely serious. It will be a great challenge in the future to get enough competent labour,” NHO regional director for Innlandet, Jon Kristiansen, told NRK. 


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