The results go directly against the warnings of Danish labour unions, who have argued that refugees and other immigrants entering the labour force make unemployment rise amongst native Danes.
“During previous refugee influxes Danish unskilled workers and those with low education have found other jobs that pay them higher salaries. Refugees have complemented the existing workforce, not replaced it,” economist Mette Foged told Finans.
Along with a researcher from the University of California, Foged analysed the workforce impact of refugees who arrived in Denmark between 1991 and 2008.
They found that refugees from the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq took over the most manual jobs and that in turn forced Danish unskilled workers to specialize themselves and seek out better paying jobs.
The analysis concluded that arrival of refugees increases the salaries of unskilled workers on the whole. When the number of refugees entering the labour market increased by one percent, Danes’ salaries rose by 1.0 – 1.8 percent.
Labour union 3F rejected the analysis’s conclusion and said that refugees have a clear negative impact on unskilled workers.
“There are significantly fewer unskilled jobs. We already face an enormous challenge and the refugee influx only makes the challenge that much larger,” 3F economist Frederik Pedersen told Ritzau.
Pedersen said that the results of the analysis can’t be compared to the situation today, when significantly more refugees are coming to Denmark than in the 1990s and 2000s.
“Plus [the analysis] was based on a golden period. Employment increased by several hundred thousand and despite that increase there was still a shortage of manpower,” he said. “The situation is completely different today.”
Pedersen said that 3F is concerned that the roughly 500,000 unskilled workers in Denmark will end up either unemployed or in lower-paying jobs.
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has made the employment of refugees a central theme in his ongoing tripartite negotiations with business and union representatives.
The University of Copenhagen analysis will be published in the April edition of the American Economic Journal.