Preparing to catch the train home after a day in the sweltering city centre, Ove George, who’s from Nigeria and is currently unemployed, says he believes networking is often the key to getting work in Norway, something that can be tricky for foreigners without Norwegian connections.
“The last job I got was through a Norwegian friend I had, and after that I haven’t really got a good job,” he explains.
Also at the station is 19-year-old Djibouti-born Kayad Mahammed, who currently works for a media company. He says he’s “not struggling” and personally found it “easy” to get a job. But he adds that he believes “it’s hard to get rich” for many immigrants, who can wind up clinging onto entry-level jobs for fear of ending up unemployed again.
Meanwhile, despite the Scandinavian country’s pride over its egalitarianism, there are signs inequality is rising within the wider population, too.
OECD figures suggest that the share of Norwegians earning less than half the national average income was 8.1% in 2015, up from 6.9% in 2004, with young people more at risk than any other group. (Although, put this into context, this is still low by global standards – the proportion in the US is 16.8% and 10.9% in the UK.)
Those who end up outside of employment, training or education altogether can often feel more vulnerable in Norway than they might in other countries, argues Sebastian Königs, one of the authors of the OECD’s Investing in Youth: Norway report.
“For the young Norwegians who are disadvantaged and have social issues, finding their spot in society can be much harder,” he says. “Because generally speaking everyone is doing so well in society, this becomes a stigma.”
This cohort is six times more likely to feel depressed than other young Norwegians, nine times as likely to suffer from poor health and more at risk of remaining outside the labour market for the long term, according to OECD figures.
The price of success
According to Bjørnland, even the wealthiest Norwegians should be wary of its fragility moving forward.
“You’re used to having a good time, you’re used to taking long weekends... if you’ve had it like this for a long time you take it for granted,” she says. “But things which have happened in the past might not happen again.”