working in the nordic countries

Want work? Well, while Iceland is your best option of the Nordic countries, Finland is your worst. Recent numbers over unemployment in the Nordic…

Want work?

Well, while Iceland is your best option of the Nordic countries, Finland is your worst.

Recent numbers over unemployment in the Nordic countries are quite interesting:

Country Unemployment

Iceland 1.3 per cent

The Faeroe Islands 2.8 per cent

Norway 2.8 per cent

Denmark 4.5 per cent

Sweden 6.3 per cent

Greenland 7.2 per cent

Finland 8.1 per cent

These numbers are from May and June, except for Greenland, where they are taken to the first quarter of 2006.

However, working in the Nordic countries isn’t all that simple, at least it’s not if you’re Canadian.

Iceland’s laws on foreign labour is quite similar to that of the other Nordic countries.

According to the Icelandic Directorate of Labour, foreign nationals in Iceland must have work permits before they accept employment or operate a business and, of course, the work permits must be obtained before arriving in Iceland.

Furthermore, such permits may not be granted unless a residence permit has been obtained.

Of course, if you are a national of member countries of the European Economic Area, then you are exempted from the work permit requirement.

Still, you can get a work permit for up to four weeks if you are a scientist or lecturer, artist, athletics coach, driver of a bus registered in a foreign country that arrives in Iceland to carry foreign tourists around, reporter from a foreign media outlet, and consultant or instructor working at a construction, installation, supervision or repair of equipment.

Note however that musicians employed by restaurants do not fall under the artists category.

Students at an Icelandic university are also granted a work permit, which can come in handy as it is very expensive to live in Iceland, as well as in the other Nordic countries.

But if you come from the EU, your chances of obtaining a work permit are much better.

This is very much reflected in the recent wave of foreign workers in all of the Nordic countries.

Of these, Iceland, per capita, has received most immigrants from the new EU countries in the past two years — or since the EU opened its doors to eight former Soviet Union states, along with Malta and Cyprus.

These numbers were presented at an international conference held in Reykjavík by the Icelandic Directorate of Labour at the end of September.

Meanwhile, Norway has accepted most foreign EU workers of all the countries, or nearly 42,000 new workers last year, and renewed work permits for another 27 thousand.

This is despite the fact that Norway is not a member of EU (and neither is Iceland, though Iceland has more ties to EU than Norway).

Sweden accepted 10,000 foreign workers and Denmark another 10,000, while Iceland took 5,800 foreign EU workers and Finland 5,600. (Remember that while several millions live in each of the Scandinavian countries, only a few more than 300,000 live in Iceland.)

In all of the Scandinavian countries, Poles are among the largest group of immigrants.

Poland entered EU in the year 2004, and since then, more than two million Poles have looked for better-paying jobs in Europe — leaving serious workforce gaps in their own building industry, that people from Ukraine and Belarus are now attempting to fill.

At the conference, spokesmen from the Nordic countries discussed the remarkably similar problems this huge increase in foreign workers causes.

Workers and employees on the labour market increasingly attempt to underbid one another, often going under the strict minimum wage salary that is mandatory in all the countries.

Reports are heard of bad treatment of workers, while workers and employees alike attempt to scrimp on taxes, or plainly ignore the paying of them, and police and unions get increasingly involved in various matters involving immigrants.

Because of the close co-operation between the Nordic countries, it is likely that each government, as well as individuals within each country, will look to its neighbours to find a solution to these new problems.