Airtame is a Danish technology company. We are growing and extremely ambitious. A few years ago, there were five entrepreneurs with one idea. Today we have 40 employees with 19 different nationalities, with more on the way. While Denmark’s apparently internationally challenged minister for integration celebrates immigration curbs, we celebrate the foreign nationals that our company couldn’t cope without.
On some days, I’m very proud to be Danish. I’m proud in a lot of different ways. On other days, though, it gets difficult to be proud.
The infamous cake day was one of those days. Seeing Inger Støjberg proudly (and clearly self-servingly) showing off a cake that celebrated 50 curbs on Denmark’s openness to foreigners made me feel ashamed.
I was ashamed because I go to work every day feeling happy that the company I work for is a well-functioning micro-cosmos of people from 19 different countries. These people give blood, sweat and tears to make a Danish business successful. And at the end of the working day we play sport together or sometimes go for a beer or two. That’s how things are in most of the companies I know.
I don’t understand politics and can therefore only talk about my own first-hand experiences. And they tell me that the foreign nationals that work in Denmark, in spite of how hard it has been made for them to come here, graft with a diligence far greater than the average Dane. They graft to make a difference and to make Danish businesses successful. That is worth a lot of money for Denmark and is quite invaluable for the individual companies.
So it makes me ashamed to witness the apparently narrow-minded and cowardly thought process represented by the cake picture. Even more, I am shocked that a government that claims to support industry and business has no idea what many Danish businesses actually need.
Denmark cannot and does not need to compete by using cheap labour. That much is clear at this point.
It is therefore crucial for Danish businesses to be better and more innovative than their overseas competitors. As such, these businesses must employ the world’s most skilled workers. Basic mathematics tells us that Denmark, with its population of 5.6 million, only makes up 0.08 percent of the 7.4 billion individuals worldwide.
The probability of us having the absolute best programmers, for example, is minimal. Therefore, we are (fortunately) forced to hire people from around the world and bring them to Denmark.
And yes, of course, I know that there will be people with their fingers poised over social media comments sections ready to point out that there is a difference between refugees and skilled workers. But we shouldn’t be naïve here.
When two subjects are so closely related, what seems to me like a cheap shot at gaining attention on social media can have a negative effect on the foreign nationals we can attract to Denmark.
We talk about the cake picture in our office. It was discussed in the New York Times. Who knows, maybe we will have to apologise for it next time we interview someone for a job? It is incredibly bad for Denmark’s future – poisonous, as investor and former Saxo Bank director Lars Seier Christensen called it in his opinion piece.
And no, the current rules for bringing skilled workers to Denmark are not rational. I would recommend reading lawyer Martin Von Haller’s comments on this.
As a final remark - before cake is served - I would like to note that my company, Airtame, is about to lose a brilliant programmer because his university-educated American partner has been denied a residency permit here.
And here we are - caked is served.
Steffen Hedebrandt is marketing director with Airtame and a former Scandinavia director with Upwork.com. This blog was originally published by Børsen and has been translated and republished with the author’s permission.