PM, opposition leader discuss employment of skilled foreign workers at conference

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and opposition leader Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democrats have both said Danish companies should be able to employ the foreign specialists they need.

PM, opposition leader discuss employment of skilled foreign workers at conference
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen addresses the DI Business Summit. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Rasmussen and Frederiksen both spoke about opportunities for skilled foreign workers this week as they participated at the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) Business Summit, writes

“Denmark’s companies need be able to hire the employees they need, including when it involves looking beyond our borders,” Rasmussen said in his speech at the DI Business Summit, promising that the government will release a proposal within the next few weeks making it easier for Danish companies to hire foreign employees from outside the EU.

“I’d also like to go slightly off-script here to applaud the statements made by the Social Democrats this morning indicating that they are prepared to work towards some of these matters,” Rasmussen said.

The prime minister said his party was prepared to go further than others to facilitate hiring skilled foreign labour, criticising changes made to the pay limit scheme (beløbsordningen in Danish), a provision that enables companies to hire employees who are nationals of non-EU countries provided they are paid a set salary. 

“A parliamentary majority without government support has hindered you [companies, ed.] by increasing requirements for the pay limit scheme. When you can’t bring in the employees you need, that means you lose orders. And it’s also money lost to the public purse, because every foreigner on the pay limit scheme contributes (to the economy) by more than 300,000 kroner, which amounts to 1.5 billion kroner in national revenue annually,” he said, citing figures from a Ministry of Finance analysis published in January this year.

The annual salary required to qualify for the scheme was in 2016 increased from 375,000 kroner by a parliamentary majority which excluded the then-single-party government led by Rasmussen, and is currently 417,793 kroner. There are no demands as to the qualifications of people employed under the scheme.

“We must make our approval list more dynamic so that it is also possible to bring in skilled workers – keeping in mind, naturally, that these are people who wish to take part in our society. It’s no secret that the conditions at Christiansborg aren’t optimal. I have therefore discussed the situation with partners on the labour market, and my impression is that trade unions understand that companies must be able to easily hire the employees they need,” the PM said.

Social Democrat leader Frederiksen also said that Danish companies should be able to recruit all the highly specialised employees they need, including from outside the EU.

“But given that (this labour) is so specialised, I’m certain that you’re also willing to pay for it,” Frederiksen said in reference to the required salary of the pay limit scheme, which her party voted to increase.

Frederiksen said she believes there should be more focus on recruiting employees from southern Europe, where unemployment rates are high.

Asked by moderator Cecilie Beck why there is a difference between employees from southern Europe and countries outside the EU, the Social Democrat leader claimed integration of non-EU workers presented a greater challenge than for those from outside the European Union.

“It makes a big difference in terms of our ability to integrate that employee. In the post-war years, when engines were also running at full steam, we brought in large numbers of unskilled workers from abroad. Many fared well, but there were also major integration challenges that we still feel the consequences of today,” she said.

“This is why we can’t look at the question with solely the interests of business and the need for immediate labour in mind,” Frederiksen added.

She also noted that there are still Danish reserves to be drawn upon.

“We have 50,000 young people who don’t have anything to do. I’m not claiming that they can step in from one day to the next and be the employees you need. But with the right initiatives and leadership, they can become that. And there are many unskilled workers you can help by accrediting their competences,” she said.

READ ALSO: Denmark trailing neighbours on graduate employment: analysis

For members


Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.