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Foreigners face tougher path to welfare benefits

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Foreigners face tougher path to welfare benefits
If you're an out-of-work foreigner in Denmark, be prepared to visit the local job centre more often. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix
12:26 CEST+02:00
Saying that the EU's free movement rules shouldn't be used to "go to where one can receive the best welfare benefits", the employment minister has announced tougher requirements for foreigners to qualify for welfare benefits.
The government will now require foreigners with limited experience in the Danish workforce or poor Danish language skills to take language lessons and meet up at their local job centre more often than non-foreigners. 
 
The move is particularly targeted at foreigners from other EU countries who are entitled to Danish benefits under EU rules, Employment Minister Mette Frederiksen said. 
 
“The free movement in the EU creates a lot of opportunities, but it shouldn’t be used to go to where one can receive the best welfare benefits. We need to ensure that rules are followed and therefore we are implementing these new and stricter safeguards,” Frederiksen told newly-launched political website Politiko
 
Specifically, the new requirements will affect foreigners who over the past three years have less than 12 months of work experience in Denmark. One’s language abilities will be determined via a so-called “Danish language assessment” to be carried out on an individual basis with unemployed foreigners. 
 
According to Politiko, there were more than 7,000 EU residents who received the Danish cash welfare benefit konanthjælp in 2013, 1,000 of whom did not even live in Denmark during the year. An additional 5,000 unemployed foreigners received the unemployment benefit dagpenge in 2013. 
 
Frederiksen told Politiko that the new requirements were designed in a way to not run afoul of EU laws forbidding different treatment on the basis of nationality. 
 
She said that in theory the requirements could also affect unemployed Danes, but the language aspect should keep that from happening.
 
“I think we have set this up in a way that can be used precisely for what it is designed for,” she told Politiko. 
 
The new requirements went into effect on October 1 via an executive order. The requirements are set up as a two-year trial, after which the government will evaluate whether the changes worked as intended. 
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