Minister to face questions over impact of foreign residency clause on Danish unemployment benefits

New rules are set to be introduced on January 1st, 2019 inserting more stringent demands over foreign residency in unemployment insurance claims.

Minister to face questions over impact of foreign residency clause on Danish unemployment benefits
Minister of Employment Troels Lund Poulsen (L) will face questions over the implementation of new residency demands on unemployment benefits. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

But the new rules could create an administrative backlog preventing on-time payments for people due cover, according to service providers.

Stricter qualification requirements relating to EU residency in Denmark’s a-kasse unemployment insurance system are scheduled to come into effect from next year, potentially impairing the viability of the system for people who have lived abroad.

A parliamentary majority remains in favour of the stricter rules, despite criticism over their impact on groups including returning foreign-based Danes and people who have moved to Denmark from non-EU countries.

But the Social Democrats, the largest party in opposition, are considering withdrawing support amid concerns raised by the a-kasse service providers over the difficulties likely to arise enforcing the rules, newspaper Politiken reports.

Minister of Employment Troels Lund Poulsen is scheduled to respond to questions at a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday.

The rule changes in question relate to eligibility for unemployment insurance, dagpenge in Danish, for which a monthly fee is paid 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.

READ ALSO: Government maintains support for residency clause in Danish unemployment insurance

The task of documenting the whereabouts and employment history of members – whether foreign or Danish citizens — who have spent time abroad will fall to a-kasse administrators.

“It will be interesting to see where we get that information from. Not all countries have that information and if they have, they are not obliged to give it to us as far as I’m aware,” Verner Sand Kirk, director of industry representative body Danske A-kasser, told Politiken.

Kirk told The Local in September that the new rules could potentially make Denmark less attractive to skilled foreign workers.

“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.

“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: Unemployment insurance curbs could create administrative jam for internationals in Denmark

According to Politiken’s report, a survey conducted by Danske A-kasser amongst its member organisations – which have a total of over two million members — revealed that 20 out of 23 providers expect the residency clause to result ‘to a high degree’ in problems such as delayed payments due to insufficient information. The remaining three organisations said they expected ‘some degree’ of impact.

Social Democrat spokesperson for employment Leif Lahn Jensen is set to question Poulsen over the issue at Wednesday’s committee. Jensen told Politiken he was keen to find out the potential cost of administrative backlogs and the risk of unemployment benefit payouts being delayed as a result of the new condition being introduced.

“This is currently completely unclear,” Jensen said to Politiken.

The newspaper has also reported that up to 1,400 people currently receiving sick or parental leave benefits risk losing that right in coming years as the rule change is phased in. Those people will instead be required to apply for the lower integration benefit (integrationsydelse).

This may constitute an illegal discrimination against sick and pregnant people, according to remarks made by government legal advisors in comments appended to the proposed law change, Politiken writes.

The Social Democrats, who were previously in support of the stricter residency requirement, are now considering a change in position in light of the many potential complications associated with it.

“This issue has proved to be somewhat complex and quite poorly prepared by the government,” Jensen said to Politiken.

“I’m actually becoming more and more uncertain about where we will end up. I can’t say where we stand at the moment, because I really think this is becoming more and more of a mess,” he added.

Hans Andersen, spokesperson for employment with the governing Liberal party, which Poulsen also represents, admitted that the administrative task for unemployment service providers would likely become “a bit more difficult”.

“I am not concerned that, if you have the right to unemployment insurance benefits, you will get them, provided you can document this. But I agree there will be an extra administrative task,” he said to Politiken.

Should the Social Democrats decide to oppose the planned law change, the government would nevertheless retain a majority in favour, given that the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a parliamentary ally, remains in support.

That party’s spokesperson on the issue, Bent Bøgsted, told Politiken that “(a-kasse) members are (also) responsible for documenting their employment history”.

READ ALSO: The Local's introductory guide to parental leave in Denmark

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.