Labor immigration brings greater inequality to rural life in Norway

Labor immigration brings greater inequality in rural life

Income disparities increased as the EU opened up to the east. Many of the immigrants from the eastern regions settled in rural areas and took low-paid jobs. Credit: Shutterstock, NTB

Income disparities in small Norwegian cities have increased since 2004, when several former Eastern Bloc countries joined the EU.

“As the EU expanded to the east, Norway had historically high labor migration. What was also new was that immigrants largely settled in rural areas“says Marie Holm Slettebak, who is a sociologist and PhD fellow at NTNU.

Slettebak has dived into the numbers to examine the connection between different types of immigration and income inequality in Norway since 2004.

After 2004, many municipalities that had no experience with labor immigration took many labor immigrants, says Slettebak.

Survey confirms growing income disparities

It is well known that immigration is typically accompanied by increased income inequality because the new population groups earn less than others. This is especially true when immigrants come from countries with significantly lower income levels than Norway.

Slettebak’s research confirms this income pattern. She has used data from Statistics Norway to survey all Norwegian municipalities from 2005 to 2016.

An important question is not just whether immigrants’ own income leads to increased income inequality, but whether immigration also affects income inequality in the rest of the population.

Previous research in Norway indicates that some sections of the population benefit from labor migration, while others lose.

“The question I asked was whether this immigration also affects the income of Norwegian-born,” says Slettebak.

“I found evidence that this was true,” she said. “The income disparities in the Norwegian-born population increased as a result of labor migration, but only in rural municipalities. The effect is present, but perhaps a little weaker than some had feared,” she says.

Slettebak points out that labor migration is far from the whole explanation for the increase income inequalities.

Norwegian-born and immigrants in their respective labor markets

Immigrants from Eastern Europe mainly take jobs in agriculture fishing industrytourism and the construction industry.

As for whether Norwegians in these occupations also earn lower wages as a result of labor migration, Slettebak says: “According to economic theory, a large supply of labor would push wages down. But it has not affected Norwegians as much as one would think. The reason is “Norwegians do not compete very much with migrant workers.”

“Labor migrants come and take jobs that Norwegians no longer want, for example in the fishing industry, which I examined in this study,” she said. “In recent decades, we have seen an education revolution and a sharp rise in wages. Certain jobs are therefore no longer attractive to Norwegians.”

At the same time, she says, it is possible to argue that jobs have become less sought after because wage growth in these occupations has stopped. Wages are stagnating the construction industrye.g.

“So the Norwegians have become too ‘good’ for these jobs, and that the jobs have become less good,” she said.

Labor immigrants remain low paid

Although the generalization of collective agreements has provided greater certainty against the exploitation of labor migrants, there are clear differences between the different groups of workers.

“Working immigrants are overrepresented at the low end of the wage distribution, while Norwegian-born are overrepresented at the top,” says Slettebak.

The fishing industry an immigrant niche

Slettebak and Professor Johan Fredrik Rye have especially studied the fishing industry. The industry has benefited from labor migration for some time, and the employment of immigrants really picked up from 2004.

“Immigrants make up the majority of the manual workers in the fishing industry. The fishing industry has become a immigrant niche, «says Slettebak.

She and Rye studied mobility patterns for employees in the fishing industry. They followed everyone who had manual jobs in this industry from 2009 to 2018 and found a very clear pattern.

“Norwegians leave the industry much more often better jobs or for better jobs in the industry. They have upward mobility and have not been pushed out. The majority of Norwegians have done well, and have done best compared to working immigrants. Working immigrants tend to stay in industry manual jobs, “says Slettebak.

At the bottom of the ladder

Non-Western immigrants came out worst in the competition for good jobs and good wages.

“It is really clear that non-Western immigrants have the fewest opportunities. Their chances of ending up outside the labor market are much higher. They have an unstable affiliation here and very few opportunities for upward mobility,” says Slettebak.

“A question that we do not answer in our research is whether immigrants outside Europe have been very negatively affected by the influx of migrants following the enlargement of the EU in 2004. But there are many indications that if anyone pays the price of the large labor supply of labor market, this group would be, ”she says.

Jobs – not immigrants – can save Norwegian settlements

Another question that Slettebak has looked at is whether immigration can save Norwegian rural communities. She found that it was not municipalities with large migration populations and low birth rates that took in the most working immigrants.

“I found that relatively speaking, the rural municipalities that have the least need for immigrants got the most. The solution for Norwegian municipalities that are threatened with residents moving elsewhere is not in the immigrants themselves, but in the accessible ones. job“says Slettebak.

Returns home during the historical age of mass migration

Citation: Labor migration brings greater inequality to rural life in Norway (2021, December 7) retrieved July 18, 2022 from

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