Posted on July 9, 2008

Immigrants Keep Oslo Going

Hilde Lundgaard, Aftenposten, July 9, 2008

New figures from the City of Oslo indicate that every fourth resident of Norway’s capital has a non-Norwegian background. They may have come from Sweden, the USA, Vietnam or Gambia, and they’re playing an important role in the job market and the culture.

“Without the immigrants who work hard and do a great job, we could just forget trying to keep the restaurant branch going,” said the boss of the company canteen at the large German industrial concern Siemens.

Of the 10 persons working in Siemens’ canteen, for example, only two were born in Norway. The others come from Denmark, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Gambia, Turkey, Morocco and Kosovo. All contend that they don’t really think about the international diversity.

“But we do talk a bit about the countries we come from, said Yaya Jallow Olsen from Gambia.

“And we laugh a lot together and have fun on the job,” added Lene Halstvedt from Denmark.

“We learn a lot from each other,” confirmed Yonus Kaplan from Turkey.

New data from the city and state statistics bureau SSB shows that of Oslo’s 560,484 residents, 137,878 are immigrants. That’s up from 85,550 in 1998, when the city had a population of 499,693 and immigrants made up 17 percent, not the 24.5 percent today.

The largest single immigrant group continues to be from Pakistan, with 20,313 living in Oslo. Next in line is Somalia, with 9,708 immigrants and Sweden, with 7,462. Other countries with relatively large immigrant groups in Oslo include Sri Lanka, Poland, Iraq, Turkey, Vietnam, Iran and Denmark. Eastern Europeans as a whole make up nearly as large a group of immigrants as those from Pakistan, with 19,721 registered as living in Oslo.

Foreigners also make up a fairly large portion of the population in Stavanger, where many expatriates are working in the oil and offshore industries.

Erling Lae, head of Oslo’s Municipal Executive Board, is pleased with the amount of foreigners in the capital. “When every fourth resident has a foreign background, I ask myself what the city would look like if they weren’t here,” Lae told newspaper Aften. “Oslo would have been in a deep crisis.

“It doesn’t matter where they’re coming from, but that they’re doing well and have a job. And most do.”