GOTHENBURG, Sweden—Oil wealth and an impressive employment rate have made Norwegian youths unwilling to take unskilled jobs. This is good news for Norway’s eastern neighbor Sweden, which has a 25 percent youth unemployment rate. Swedish municipalities now organize job-finding trips to Norway in order to battle local unemployment.
Ostersund in the Swedish northwest is a case in point: Located 160 miles from the Norwegian city of Trondheim, the local employment agency looks to its wealthy neighbor in the west to find jobs for its youth.
“We arrange recruiting trips to Trondheim,” says employment officer Tina Tuomi. “We rent buses, and unemployed youths can book a seat for free. We usually have them twice a year.”
In Trondheim, the youths attend a work fair at a major hotel, where they bring their résumés to different employers and their representatives. They also typically visit a few local companies. Several employment officers from Trondheim also visit Ostersund to recruit Swedes.
Tuomi says, with some pride, that Ostersund has less unemployment than the national average. “I don’t know if this is because so many people go to Norway. It could be the case,” she said.
In Norway, the young Swedish migrant workers typically keep their living expenses down by sharing apartments. They take jobs in stores, bars, day care centers or on assembly lines—all jobs that Norwegian youth shun.
According to media reports, Norwegian employers appreciate the attitude and work ethic of the Swedish youth.
Further south in Sweden is the city of Soderhamn, which has taken this assisted migrant labor concept even further. Recognizing that many youths might be hesitant to make the move from their parents’ house straight to another country, they have initiated a project to provide a support system for youths going west in search of employment.
Youths going to Norway not only get their travel expenses taken care of, they also get various kinds of assistance with things such as finding housing, getting a bank account, and finding their way around the new city.
This summer’s project resulted in 9 out of 10 youths being offered employment within 30 days, a remarkable outcome, especially when viewed from the perspective of the serious youth unemployment problem in Sweden. This has in turn attracted more participants.
“I’m convinced that when these youths return, they will have both self-esteem and new hopes for the future,” José Pérez Johansson, the project’s manager, told labor market news site Arbeidsliv i Norden.
One reason for Sweden’s high youth unemployment may be the strictly regulated Swedish labor market, where relatively high wages and benefits are guaranteed even for inexperienced youth, making them a less attractive prospect for employers.
But Sweden, unlike Norway, also has a genuine, general unemployment problem. In October 2012, 7.7 percent of Swedes were unemployed, compared to just 2.3 percent of Norwegians.
A major reason for Norway’s terrific employment rate, as well as its wealth, is its oil fund. The majority of the $660 billion oil fund is kept for future generations, but a small portion of it is used for national expenses, such as projects for keeping unemployment down.
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