Unemployment insurance curbs could create administrative jam for internationals in Denmark

New rules could severely impair the efficiency of unemployment insurance cover for people who have lived abroad.

Unemployment insurance curbs could create administrative jam for internationals in Denmark
New rules could severely impair the efficiency of unemployment insurance cover for people who have lived abroad. File photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix 2014

Denmark’s a-kasse unemployment insurance system could face serious administrative difficulty if proposed stricter requirements relating to EU residency are passed by parliament, the industry has warned.

Rule changes in question relate to unemployment insurance, dagpenge in Danish, for which membership is obtained by paying a monthly fee to a provider known in Denmark as an a-kasse.

Under current rules, citizens of non-EU and EEA countries with permission to reside in Denmark must have been a-kasse members for one year and have worked full-time in Denmark for one year in order to qualify for the unemployment insurance.

Those requirements are made significantly stricter in the proposed reform, in which all a-kasse members will need to document residence in Denmark or another EU or EEA country for seven of the last eight years in order to be eligible.

As such, providers will not be able to pay out insurance to, for example, an individual who moved to Denmark five years ago to work, immediately joined an a-kasse but has since been made redundant, unless the person in question lived in an EU or EEA country for two of the three years before relocating to Denmark.

This means considerable administrative work for the insurance providers, who do not have access to the relevant information in their own databases and would therefore be required to contact authorities in other countries – a process that is likely to be time-consuming and resource-heavy.

Insurance providers in Denmark can refer to the personal registration number (Det Centrale Personregister, CPR) system to confirm whether a person has left Denmark, but that is where their reach ends, Verner Sand Kirk, director of Danske A-kasser, an industry representative body, told The Local.

“Some countries have a CPR system like us, but then we need access to it, and it’s not certain they’ll want to give us that. It’s also possible that some countries won’t have a CPR system – some countries don’t. Then we need to look at registries in local municipalities where people say they have lived,” Kirk said.

READ ALSO: Is life in Denmark impossible without a personal registration number?

Previous experience with requesting information from authorities in other countries suggests the proposed rules could cause significant delays on payouts, Kirk said.

“Response times are often long and that means that we can’t pay out insurance to people,” he said.

The Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Interior has confirmed that Denmark’s CPR register does not contain sufficient information on addresses abroad to enable the proposed rule to be administered.

“Information on a person’s current foreign address will not, as such, necessarily be updated. A person may, for example, be registered as living in Germany with the CPR, even though that person, after travelling to Germany, then moved on to the United States,” Carsten Grage, a department manager at the ministry, told broadcaster DR in a written comment earlier this week.

Kirk said that the only option for a-kasse insurance providers would be to directly contact authorities in other countries.

The new rules would create serious administrative difficulty for no tangible benefit, he said.

“We are against this, because it is an attempt to solve a problem that we don’t believe exists.

“The (non-EU or EEA citizens) who will be affected by this are people who are already required to have worked full time for one year if they have moved to Denmark. That is already a very strong protection against potential exploitation of the system. Hardly anyone would travel to Denmark, work full-time for a year and pay into an a-kasse with the intention of later becoming unemployed,” the Danske A-kasser director said.

The new rules could potentially make Denmark less attractive to skilled foreign workers.

“We were given an example of a colleague from Iran who had a job, came to Denmark and worked continuously for three years, is an a-kasse member and everything. If he loses his job, he won’t be able to receive unemployment insurance for six years. We don’t think that’s fair,” Kirk said.

“We can’t claim that we’re pleased to see skilled people coming in from other countries while also telling them they can’t be insured if they lose their jobs,” he added.

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

The government, which has final responsibility for application of the rules, is yet to clarify guidelines on how to address the issue, Kirk told The Local.

The proposed law change would be applied retroactively, meaning that anyone – Danish or foreign citizen – who becomes unemployed after it takes effect could be at risk of waiting to receive insurance payouts until their provider is able to confirm the whereabouts of any periods of residence abroad.

According to information provided by the Ministry for Employment to DR, EU countries are required to provide further required information to the unemployment insurers.

The broadcaster was unable to reach employment minister Troels Lund Poulsen for comment.

The proposal, which is included in a tax agreement between the government and the Danish People’s Party, is scheduled to go before parliament in October.

Should the proposal be accepted, changes could come into effect from January.

Just under 600,000 foreign-born people are currently living in Denmark, according to the latest figures.

READ ALSO: Internal division over proposed curbs on Danish citizenship: report

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.