A work visa law for non-EU nationals working in Denmark, known as the pay limit scheme (beløbsordningen in Danish), has come into particular focus in reports by broadcaster DR and trade union media Fagbladet 3F.
The reports have uncovered evidence of Chinese nationals working for well under the minimum wage, for excessive hours and living in sub-standard accommodation.
The beløbsordningen provision enables companies to hire employees who are nationals of non-EU countries, provided they are paid a minimum of 417,793 kroner per year (roughly 35,500 kroner per month).
The wages must be paid into a Danish bank account, and employment conditions must comply with Danish labour standards.
It is this system which is used to apply for working residency permits for Chinese chefs, but they do not receive pay stipulated by the scheme, according to the reports.
“We are receiving an increasingly high number of (work permit) applications for Chinese chefs and are still seeing examples of rules being circumvented, and as such we will begin to strengthen our application assessments,” Frederik Gammeltoft, head of department at the Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration, SIRI) told DR.
Figures published by the broadcaster show that 588 and 582 Chinese nationals were registered to work in the hotel and restaurant industry in 2017 and 2018 respectively. That represents a huge increase in comparison with the 22 who were registered in 2010.
The authority has now described to DR routes by which the pay limit scheme may have been abused.
Digital login and bank account not administered by work permit holder
Chinese chefs granted permits to work in Denmark may not be in control of NemID, the country’s secure digital login system which allows access to public services such as tax registration, as well as private bank accounts.
“It may be the case that the individual in question is not in control of their own bank account and thereby cannot access their own salary,” Gammeltoft said to DR.
Wages paid back to employer
In some cases, money may have been moved in and out of Danish bank accounts registered to the Chinese nationals, meaning the terms of the pay limit scheme are technically met.
“We have seen examples of the chef being required to pay parts of their wages back to the employer,” Gammeltoft said.
Two workers paid one salary
Another method to circumvent the rules might be to hire a married couple, but only provide a visa and thereby wages for one.
“We have seen examples of chefs that have been given residency permits not receiving the wages they were promised. There may have been instances of the individual being allowed to bring their spouse with them (to Denmark) and they then work two-for-one, so to speak,” Gammeltoft told DR.