April 2014, Volume 21, Number 2
Eastern, Northern Europe
Russia. The Federal Migration Service in January 2014 reported that 415,000 legal foreigners, and a million irregular foreigners, were working in Moscow. The FMS reported 1.5 million applications for work permits.
The Russian economy depends on exports of oil and gas and other natural resources. The OECD warned in January 2014 that, with a shrinking workforce and controversy over migrant workers, more must be done to raise labor productivity. Many firms are overstaffed, including Russian Railways, whose one million employees make it Russia's largest employer.
The Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea in February 2014 were marked by reports of unpaid wages for the migrant workers who helped to construct the $50 billion Winter Wonderland. Many migrants were hired by subcontractors who said they were not paid, which they said made it impossible to pay their workers.
Norway. The anti-immigration Progress Party, which won 16 percent of the vote in September 2013 elections, helped to form the current Conservative-led government. The government and many Norwegians worry that the generous welfare state created during the 1930s is being abused by newcomers, prompting the prime minister to promise to modify laws so that everyone in Norway always "earns more money by working than by not working."
The Progress Party calls for limits on immigration and welfare benefits for immigrants as well as lower taxes and more support for the elderly. The most popular new Norwegian word in 2012 was "naving," meaning to live off welfare from NAV, the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration.
Berries. Foreigners enter Finland, Sweden and other Nordic country each summer to pick berries for piece-rate wages. After problems in Sweden with workers who paid recruiters for their jobs and then earned very low wages, the government required berry workers to have contracts that assure them at least the minimum wage and that deduct taxes from their earnings. Finland is considering a similar requirement.
Under the EU's seasonal worker directive, non-EU foreigners entering EU countries after January 1, 2014 with seasonal work permits are supposed to receive access to health insurance and other benefits.