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Denmark's proposal to recruit skilled foreign labour falls apart

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Denmark's proposal to recruit skilled foreign labour falls apart
Integration Minister Inger Støjberg. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix
13:38 CET+01:00
A proposal presented earlier this month that would make it easier for Danish companies to recruit skilled workers from abroad looks doomed after the government on Monday failed to garner enough political support for its plan.
The opposition Social Democrats and government ally Danish People’s Party both refused to support one of the proposal’s central tenets, which would lower the minimum salary requirements for foreign workers. 
 
Integration Minister Inger Støjberg said that lowering the minimum salary requirement is such a key component of the government’s proposed 21-point programme that negotiations have now broken down on the entire package. 
 
“We have been very willing to compromise, but it cannot become so watered down that it doesn’t help. And it won’t [help Danish businesses] unless we change the pay limit,” Støjberg said. 
 
The government’s proposal called for significantly reducing the minimum salary needed to qualify for the pay limit scheme, (beløbsordningen in Danish), a provision that enables companies to hire employees who are nationals of non-EU, EEA or EFTA countries provided they are paid a set salary.
 
 
The plan calls for reducing the minimum salary to qualify for the scheme from 418,000 kroner to 330,000 kroner for nationals of 12 countries that engage with extensive trade with Denmark. Those counties are the United States, Singapore, China, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Russia and Mexico. 
 
With the two camps unable to agree on this key element of the government proposal, negotiations broke down on Monday after just 15 minutes. 
 
Mattias Tesfaye, a spokesman for the Social Democrats, said that his party supports 15 of the government’s 21 proposals but refuses to vote in favour of changing the pay limit scheme. 
 
“We do not want to open Denmark up to a low-paid workforce. We believe that it is fair to say that if people cannot earn 185 kroner per hour plus pension, they shouldn’t be allowed to work here,” he said. 
 
The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF), whose support is essential to the government, has always opposed the idea of making it easier for Danish governments to bring in foreign workers. 
 
“The government’s proposal was not thought out and it will invite salary suppression and more Muslim workers in Denmark, and we are not interested in that,” DF spokesman Martin Henriksen said. 
 
The government indicated on Monday that despite not having the votes needed to pass its package, it would move forward with formally presenting the 21-point plan to parliament. 
 
According to Helveg Petersen of the opposition Social Liberals (Radikale), the government’s inability to get its support party on board is a sign that it can no longer effectively govern. 
 
“The country is getting poorer because the government cannot find solutions with its own parliamentary support,” he said, adding that the government should immediately call for an election. 
 
Støjberg and Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen presented their 21-point plan earlier this month, promising it would “make it easier and less bureaucratic for Danish companies to attract and employ foreign labour.”
 
In addition to lowering the minimum salary requirements, the package also proposes updates to the so-called ‘positive list’, a list of specialties within industries in which Denmark currently lacks highly skilled labour, as well as the simplification of rules and application processes for foreign nationals working in Denmark.
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