Opinion: Danish odds are stacked against skilled foreign workers

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Yater Dabbo - [email protected]
Opinion: Danish odds are stacked against skilled foreign workers
File photo: Anne Bæk/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish rules for employment of non-EU citizens are preventing skilled foreign workers from entering the labour market, depriving the country of talent, argues The Local guest columnist Yater Dabbo.


I've got an interesting story to share with you. It's actually my own story and it starts about five years ago, when I first moved from Jordan to Denmark.

At 22, I chose Denmark over the other 194 countries in the world. My research was comprehensive: I googled the countries with the least corruption and best quality of life. Also, there aren’t many insects and I hate those vicious little monsters. 

Soon after I came to Roskilde to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in International Sales and Marketing, I fell in love with Denmark.

The dynamics of moving here from a foreign country are different to when you’re European. As a non-EU citizen, I had to pay for my education and I didn't receive the state student grant (SU), so I was pretty much on my own. I didn’t get any of the fancy government support. 

However, during my studies at the Zealand Institute of Business and Technology, I was awarded two consecutive scholarships, financed by the Danish government. Once a year, a single international student is granted this scholarship for exceptional academic and social performance. 

I remember the feeling of belonging that I felt the first time I received the news about it. “Finally, a country that recognizes me as a human and acknowledges my drive,” I thought.

Naturally, I committed to making the most of it and proving to myself and my university that the scholarships were well deserved. My determination drove me to be the top student in my class.

But it wasn’t all about the grades. I became an active part of my university, was hired as a student assistant, helped new students integrate better, ran the student bar for a period of time, became part of the business incubator, hosted an innovation week, started a student library and even gave entrepreneurship a shot. I came up with a concept that was amongst the three shortlisted ideas in the 'People & Society' sector at the 2016 Danish Entrepreneurship Contest.

Being part of society was vital for me. I joined Internationals in Roskilde, volunteered at a cafe, then became a member of Mensa Denmark where I have made many Danish friends and learned more about the Danish ways of living. 

Yater Dabbo. Photo: supplied

The first time I went back to visit my parents, I made them smørrebrod. The following year I brought them mjød, then salty liquorice. The list goes on…

As time went by, laws were changed. Currently, I have to wait for eight years before being able to apply for permanent residency, changed from five years previously. 

READ ALSO: Danish parliament rejects campaign to soften residence bill

As a Jordanian, I'm encompassed by what’s known as 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. 

This means I need to have a job that pays a minimum of 417,793 kroner per year (roughly 35,000 kroner per month). To give you some perspective, an average salary of a fresh graduate with my degree is around 28,000–29,000 kroner per month. 

The salary the government expects from me is a unicorn situation – it reflects a situation that is unlikely to exist in the real world. 

Fortunately, after I interned for free with a Danish company, they saw my potential and agreed to pay me 35,000 kroner per month. I will always appreciate that. However, a year later, they couldn’t afford me anymore and I was let go.

This leaves me where I am now, on a job seeking visa that is valid until the end of February 2019 with one way of being able to stay: get a job that pays 35,000 kroner per month! 

I am not allowed to intern, work part-time, volunteer or just work for the salary that similarly qualified Danes or Europeans would earn.

I have applied for more than 60 jobs. Unfortunately, I rarely hear anything back, but I haven’t lost hope and I’m still applying. I have spoken to the job centre and various recruitment agencies and none of them were optimistic about finding a job for that salary. I am stuck.

Denmark is in need of marketing and sales managers. I am at an early stage of my career, have huge potential and I want to get more experience. Another 2-3 years of training will sharpen my skills and give me the time to perfect my Danish to fully comply with standard requirements for these and other positions.

The job market is competitive and I don’t feel that I am given a fair fighting chance. I am a recent graduate, who has to make 34,816 kroner per month and I don’t get called to any interviews. I sometimes wonder if my background influences this in some way.

What would you do if you were me? Would you give up? Would you keep going? I’m confident that there’s a place for me here, and I’m determined to find it. 

This blog article was originally posted by Yater on his LinkedIn page.




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