Hege Merete Knutsen, Katrine Fangen and Oksana Žabko: Integration and exclusion at work: Latvian and Swedish agency nurses in Norway

Based on qualitative interviews, this article by Hege Merete Knutsen, Katrine Fangen and Oksana Žabko explores the different experiences of Latvian and Swedish agency nurses in a situation of double control,  from the agency and at the workplace.


Qualitative interviews with Latvian and Swedish agency nurses in Norway reveal that the two groups have quite different experiences of integration in the Norwegian labor market. Aiming to add knowledge about differentiation within migrant labor markets, the objective of this article is to examine how language, nursing culture, and personal motivation affect the double control that agency nurses are subject to, their resultant skill-sets, inclusion in the workplace, and response to this. Norway is of interest as the Norwegian language can be difficult to learn outside Scandinavia. The Latvian agency nurses are harder hit by the double control of the temporary work agencies than the Swedish are. They obtain higher wages and better working conditions and are ready to speak up against unfair treatment. If they want to leave the agency, they easily find direct employment. Latvian nurses seem more ready to accept work below their qualifications and some show signs of “resigned acceptance.” They have more to lose than the Swedish nurses in terms of access to work, wages, and working conditions if they return to their homeland. Although Latvian and Swedish nurses largely feel well received in the workplace, the double control they are subject to calls for self-restraint and impedes a sense of inclusion. For the Latvian nurses, language problems and cultural differences exacerbate this. The study expands and nuances how double control affects agency workers, and applying a broad concept of resigned acceptance it nuances what language means for discrimination in the workplace.

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Published Mar. 19, 2019 4:16 PM - Last modified Mar. 24, 2019 10:01 PM