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Norwegian history: immigration and emigration



Norway has been home to diverse ethnic groups for a long time. The Sámi have lived in Northern Norway for two thousand years and people have come to work in Norway for many hundreds of years. The first immigrants who came to work here, came from neighbouring countries and Western Europe. Today, people from 200 different countries live here.

The Norwegian economy improved from 1960 onwards. There was a need for more labour and many people arrived from other countries to find work. The first people who came were from Europe, but from around 1970 onwards, many people also came from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many Pakistanis and Turks came to work here, and many of them still live here. In 1975, immigration was halted because unemployment was increasing and it became difficult to find housing for everyone who was arriving here.

Today, people from EEA countries can get a residence permit and a work permit in Norway. It is also possible for specialists within professions that Norway needs to get a work permit. In recent years, many asylum seekers have also arrived here from many parts of the world. People who have to flee war and violence can apply for asylum in Norway.


©Norsk Folkemuseum©Norsk Folkemuseum

Norwegians have also emigrated to other countries. In the last half of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, about 800,000 Norwegians emigrated to the USA. Norway’s economy was poor and it was difficult to find work. Many people dreamed of starting a new life in the USA. They had heard that there were many opportunities there. Many people found life in this new country difficult at first, but most did well.

Today, many Norwegians work or study in a different country. They spend the time getting to know another culture and perhaps learn a new language. Young Norwegian adults often spend a few months or a whole year travelling around the world to see and experience different countries and cultures.

The latest emigrants from Norway are those who travel to warmer countries for longer or shorter periods. Many pensioners want to get away from the cold Norwegian winters. Some move, for example to Spain, permanently, while others live there during the winter and in Norway during the summer.

Norway halted immigration in 1975. How can we explain the increase in the immigrant population since then?

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