In the course of our fieldwork, we met many young people on the move, and their individual stories varied greatly. Here we present four typical stories of young migrants who moved to find a job in Austria and in Norway. Their stories are constructed on the basis of 116 interviews with migrants, employers and intermediaries.
József moved from Hungary to Austria to work in an engineering firm
József is a young Hungarian male, aged 24. He achieved his university degree in electrical engineering in Hungary and has been working in Austria for six months. Back home his team won first prize in a student industrial competition and the award was an internship for three months with an Austrian company. He was delighted with this opportunity, but it was difficult for him to move to Austria: he had problems finding an affordable place to live because as a student money was tight. Moving to Austria involved costs: for travelling, for the hotel that he needed until he found a place to live, for deposits and for basic living equipment. Furthermore, he had only basic German skills and so it was difficult to obtain information about room listings. A number of people on an online portal offered him a room, but because his spoken German was weak, and he needed a room for only a few months, he was not considered a very attractive applicant. After more than 30 attempts, he got the chance to rent a room in a shared apartment. On hearing of József’s troubles, his two student colleagues in Hungary who also won the internships in Austria decided to stay at home.
So József came to Austria alone. He worked hard to convince his employer to offer him a more permanent position. Since he had been one of the best students at his university, he did well and was offered a job for another two years when the internship finished. Today he is thankful for the opportunity and still works hard hoping one day to get a permanent position. He often works nights and at the weekends and has few friends in Austria, so he uses his time mainly for work. He enjoys his job because he is in the R&D department and is working with new and exciting technology. However, sometimes he wishes he had more spare time and more friends in Austria.
But József is grateful to have this job because at home he would not earn as much. Even if he only gets the minimum wage as defined by the collective agreement for his profession, he earns much more than his friends who stayed in Hungary. He is not sure if he will ever return home. Perhaps he will stay in Austria or move to Germany where job opportunities are even better.
Zuzana moved from Slovakia to Austria to become a care worker
Zuzana is a 32-year-old woman from Slovakia. After highschool, she worked in different offices as a secretary. She married at 26 and had her first child at 27. One year later she divorced, and since then she has experienced financial problems. She has to pay back a loan in order to keep the apartment where she lives with her daughter. This made Zuzana decide to work as a 24-hour carer in Austria. She knew women who worked in Austria and she heard the pay was good. And so she took a 200-hour course for care workers provided by the Red Cross. In a course folder, she found information about an agency in Bratislava that helps women to find a job as carers in Austria. She called and they gave her an exam date to prove her German skills. Unfortunately, she failed, so she then set about improving her German skills over the next two months using her sister’s old school textbook. She passed the exam on the second attempt and got a job offer within two weeks. Two cooperating agencies, one in Austria and the other in Slovakia, managed all the paper work and they sent a taxi to her apartment that took her directly to an Austrian household.
Zuzana has been working in Austria as a carer since 2011. She is usually available in a household for 24 hours over two weeks. When this two-week shift is over, another Slovak woman arrives in a taxi to replace her and the same taxi takes Zuzana back to Slovakia for two weeks. Her parents look after her daughter while she is working in Austria.
Zuzana is a self-employed worker, but the intermediary companies take care of all the legal formalities. She pays around 350 euros per year for their services. Even if she hardly ever needs the help of the agencies, she is willing to pay the fee because should she lose her current client, the agency would then find her a new one within a few days or weeks. At the moment, she is pleased with her job: she lives with a friendly family who treat her well. However, she has worked in households with very difficult and unfriendly clients. Once the situation was so bad that she decided to leave. The employment agency supported her, but she now believes it would be better not to make any complaints about a future client.
Zuzana is happy with her situation because she earns good money and is able to pay back her loan. In the two weeks when she is at home, she can spend a lot of time with her daughter. However, it’s hard to be separated from her for the other two weeks. Furthermore, she feels isolated working in a household in the Austrian countryside. Apart from the relatives of the client she cares for, she meets no Austrians. Since she must always be available for the client when she is in Austria, she has no possibility to get in contact with other Austrians or build up any social network of her own. Zuzana hopes to pay off her debts as soon as possible so she can return to Slovakia and live with her daughter.
Fredrik moved from Sweden to Norway to work in bars and then in IT
Fredrik came to Norway from a small town in the north of Sweden to find work. Having finished highschool with only an IT specialisation, his career prospects at home were poor. Many of his friends (those who had not already left for other countries or larger Swedish cities to work or study) were unemployed. Fredrik had a job in Sweden − a fixed-term, relatively poorly paid position with an IT company. His employer expected him to work hard and never be absent from work; he was let know that others could fill his position with a day’s notice. Fredrik wanted to get away – to discover the world.
Through his network of friends, he knew that there were job opportunities in Norway and that the wages were considerably higher than in Sweden. He had some savings and borrowed money from his grandmother before heading to Norway with the telephone number of a friend of a friend where he could stay for a couple of nights. Through his contact he was encouraged to contact a Swedish Association in Norway. This association offers cheap lodgings and he had a room within a week. In the lobby, he met a group of other Swedes on their way to the tax office to get a necessary “D-number” and they told him to set up an account with a Norwegian bank.
At the same time, he applied for a range of jobs through the Internet and visited bars and restaurants to look for job openings. On the third day, he contacted a temporary job agency and was offered a two-week engagement in a restaurant starting the following week. At first it was a bit of an adventure, he gained many new friends and had fun. But he soon discovered that the cost of living was high in Norway and he was running short on funds. It took him only a week to land his first job, but he wasn’t going to get his first pay cheque for a month. Fredrick’s living quarters were not suited for a long stay and he started looking for a place to live. He was offered a room in a shared dwelling with other Swedes in an apartment downtown, but in addition to paying the first month’s rent, he had to come up with a two-month security deposit. If his family had not come up with the funds, his adventure would have ended there.
Two years later, Fredrik is still in Norway. After working on different short-term IT project contracts, he was offered a permanent position in a firm that he had been working for through a temporary jobs agency. The company then paid to buy him out of his contract with the agency and he now works in a large private IT organisation with good training and career opportunities. He still dreams of travelling the world, but he may have to wait for the holidays.
Lisa moved from Sweden to Norway to work as a nurse
Lisa worked as trained nurse in a Swedish hospital in a large city not far from the Norwegian border. She graduated from her university two years ago and has been working in the same hospital for the past year. At a training seminar, a representative approached her from an employment agency offering her the same amount of pay in two weeks that she now made in a month if she was willing to move to Norway. She accepted and was offered a flat on the hospital grounds in Norway, and assistance in going through the formal procedures for the accreditation required to work in a Norwegian hospital and the formalities related to taxes. Two months later, she started working in Norway with colleagues and patients that could understand her native language and she even found a few work friends from her hometown.
However, problems arose with the limitations on working hours. Ideally, she would work as much as possible over two weeks in Oslo, but her hours are limited by labour regulations. She now plans to move back home to Sweden to be closer to friends and family.