Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state

Greener pastures or false promises?

Illustration photo of a filipino male outdoors in snow landscape.

Carolyn Arguelles writes about the risks Filipino nurses undertake to work in Norway and the strong motivation that drives them to succeed.

The Philippines is the world’s largest exporter of nurses. Filipino nurses can be found in the United States, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe. Many Filipino nurses work as au pairs or helsefagarbeider (auxiliary nurses) before they get registered as sykepleier (nurse).

Norway is attractive to Filipino nurses

Norway is very attractive to Filipino nurses, because of high wages, excellent social benefits, and exceptional quality of life. These incentives are sufficient for many Filipino nurses to take a risk and migrate to Norway thinking that they will find greener pastures there.

I recently interviewed Mark, a Filipino registered nurse who worked in a hospital with nursing students prior to migrating to Norway in 2011. Salary wise, Mark was paid more than a staff nurse in the Philippines, however, he still wanted to go abroad for better opportunities. He was so eager to migrate that he paid a hefty amount to a recruiter who promised to teach him the Norwegian language and assist in applying to be registered as a helsefagarbeider. Mark was also promised a job upon arrival.

None of the promises materialized. Upon arrival in Norway, Mark found himself jobless and living in the recruiter’s friend’s house. It is unclear if Mark had to pay rent or if it was to be a temporary arrangement.

Motivated to succeed against all odds

Mark knew he had to learn Norwegian fast to be able to find employment. Unable to pay the amount he had borrowed to pay the recruiter, but too proud to go back to the Philippines, Mark locked himself from the outside world to practice Norwegian.

Miraculously, he got hired without being able to speak Norwegian fluently. With his earnings, he was able to pay off his debt in a couple of months.  This made him ecstatic! He has been working as a helsefagarbeider for almost seven years now and is currently applying to be registered as a nurse (sykepleier). Once he succeeds, Mark will get promoted from auxiliary nurse to full nurse, and will then make more money, and have a chance for upward mobility and a nice career in nursing.

Mark’s story is just one of thousands of fascinating stories—both positive and negative–describing Filipino nurses’ experiences in striving for a better future. Their trials become their motivation to succeed and their success makes their families back home proud.

Text by: Carolyn Arguelles. Illustration photo: colourbox.com

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