Why does Denmark have so many job vacancies?

The number of job vacancies in Denmark is at its highest level for over a decade, according to new figures released on Thursday.

Why does Denmark have so many job vacancies?
File photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

A total of 53,500 private sector vacancies were registered in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 14,000 compared to the preceding quarter and the highest number in the 11 years the data has been recorded, according to Statistics Denmark.

Vacant positions now comprise 3 percent of all jobs in Denmark, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, figures from job website Jobindex show that vacancies at the end of August were at their highest level since February 2008, shortly before Denmark was hit by the global financial crisis.

As vacancies have soared over the summer, so has the number of people employed on the Danish labour market.

Unemployment is now close to dropping under the level it was at immediately prior to the Covid-19 crisis.

READ ALSO: Denmark wants migrants to work for welfare benefits

The two trends are evidence of Denmark’s emergence from the economic impacts of the coronavirus, according to Jeppe Juul Borre, senior economist at Arbejdernes Landsbank.

“It’s pleasing to see that the Danish economy has got moving so well,” Borre said.

“But the flip side of the coin is that more and more companies are reporting a lack of labour,” he stated.

The need for labour has become a politically discussed topic in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the government presented proposals it claims will add to the number of workers on the market.

Those proposals include cutting the standard monthly unemployment insurance payment for new graduates as well as shortening the eligibility period.

The government argues this will encourage university graduates to take jobs sooner, including unskilled work outside their area of expertise, if necessary.

READ ALSO: What do Denmark’s proposed welfare reforms mean for foreign residents?

The overall welfare reform package will increase employment by 10,400 people by 2025, according to government expectations.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) praised the government for looking for solutions to the problem but called for measures that tackle the lack of hands in the shorter term.

Businesses wanting to fill various positions are held back by limits on bringing in workers from abroad, DI has suggested.

The business interest organisation backs a reduction in Denmark’s pay limit scheme or beløbsgrænse, which sets a minimum wage which businesses must pay skilled non-EU nationals in order for the employee to qualify for a Danish work permit.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s proposal to recruit skilled foreign labour falls apart (2018)

“Businesses are really challenged by being unable to find the staff they need. That means they have to say no to orders, thereby denying Denmark economic growth,” DI vice director Steen Nielsen said.

“The government’s direction is good but it doesn’t solve the challenges we are facing here and now,” Nielsen added.

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Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Membership of a trade union in Denmark can occasionally result in your union requiring you to take part in industrial action by going on strike. But can that put foreign workers at risk of losing their work permits?

Can foreigners lose their Danish work permits if they take part in strikes?

Around two-thirds of people in employment in Denmark are members of a trade union.

Union membership forms a core part of Denmark’s “Danish model” by which the labour market regulates itself through collective bargaining agreements between the trade unions and employer organisations.

These agreements form the basis of salaries – rather than laws – and also ensure standards for working hours and vacation time under the agreements made in various labour market sectors.

As such, it’s common to be a union member in Denmark and foreign nationals working in the country are also likely to find it in their interests to join a union.


One aspect of union membership is that members may be required to participate in industrial action, such as strikes, blockades, or solidarity actions.

For example, the 2021 Danish nurses strike organised by the Danish Nurses’ Organisation (DSR), which represents 95 percent of nurses in Denmark.

“The nurses’ strike is an example of the results of unsuccessful negotiations on the renewal of their collective agreement,” Peter Waldorff, international consultant at FH, Denmark’s largest trade union confederation, told The Local.

In this case, he continued, DSR called the strike and decided which members would be required to withdraw from work to join the strike. As the strike continued from June to August 2021 (one of the longest strikes in recent Danish history), an increasing number of union members were called to strike until the dispute was resolved. 

In such a situation, it is conceivable that some of the workers asked to take part in the strike would be foreign nationals from countries outside of the EU or EEA, who need a work permit to take employment in Denmark.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Foreign employees who are union members would participate in the strike just as Danish members would.

Although the employees involved in the strike would stop receiving their salaries they would instead receive conflict aid from the union, “meaning the person would not need to receive dagpenge or other social aid,” Stine Lund, senior legal consultant at the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA), a trade union for engineering, science, and IT professionals, told The Local

That is an important distinction for internationals working in Denmark because receiving social benefits can impact the ability to fulfil work permit criteria.

The employer would also be required to re-employ all employees once the conflict is resolved, Lund added. 

According to FH’s legal department, Waldorff said, participation in legally-called industrial action should not affect work permits. 

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) confirmed this to be the case.

“Third-country citizens will not have their residence permit revoked on the basis of employment, if they don’t work at their employer due to the reason that they participate in a legal labour dispute during their employment. EU/EEA citizens residing in Denmark will not lose their right to reside in Denmark on the basis of participating in a legal labour dispute,” SIRI said in a statement to The Local.

Although foreign workers can be asked to strike, the likelihood they will have to remains relatively low.

“In Denmark, strikes are relatively rare,” Waldorff said.

In the academic labour market, collective agreement conflicts almost never happen, according to Lund.

“We haven’t been in a situation where that measure has been taken for many, many years,” she said.