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Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire skilled foreign workers

Attracting international labour has become an initiative for a number of Denmark’s lesser-known municipalities, one that has only grown more important in today’s tight Danish labour market.

Ringkøbing-Skjern, Denmark’s largest municipality by area, is one of several provincial areas in Denmark making concerted efforts to attracted skilled foreign workers.
Ringkøbing-Skjern, Denmark’s largest municipality by area, is one of several provincial areas in Denmark making concerted efforts to attracted skilled foreign workers. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

In the past decade, the Danish population of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality in western Jutland has decreased by nearly 8 percent, according to Statistics Denmark. 

However, in that same time frame, the municipality’s overall population has declined just 3.3 percent. Foreign residents, which the municipality has made a concerted effort to attract to the region since 2015, have made up the difference.

“I think the main reason politicians decided to put some money behind attracting and retaining internationals is because our population is decreasing and companies in our region need qualified labour,” Dorthe Frydendahl, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality’s settlement coordinator, told The Local. 

Attracting foreign labour has become particularly important as Denmark faces a particularly tight labour market

According to Jobcenter Ringkøbing-Skjern, the unemployment rate within Ringkøbing-Skjern is 1.6 percent, half that of Denmark’s national unemployment rate of 3.3 percent.

Danish migration patterns drive immigration demand 

“The reason we see more municipalities in rural areas calling for action is because they have seen a lot of locals leave for Denmark’s urban centers,” Søren Kjærsgaard Høfler political consultant in global mobility at the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) told The Local. DI is an interest organisation representing approximately 18,500 companies across Denmark.

The shortage is especially acute for skilled labour, Høfler said.

That’s why attracting international labour was included as one of DI’s proposals to improve rural Denmark’s economy. Several of the recommendations are already coming to fruition, including attempts to improve transportation conditions and increase education opportunities in rural municipalities. 

“The companies based in these municipalities would like to stay there, but to do so, the companies not only have to recruit people to their company but also to their municipality,” Høfler said. 

One solution, he continued, has been a closer partnership between municipalities and companies attracting highly skilled international workers. 

In Ringkøbing-Skjern, the municipality – Denmark’s third most popular tourist destination – often recruits Germans who are familiar with the region from years of holidaying there. 

The municipality gathers CVs on its website for prospective residents from those interested in moving to the area and distributes them to local companies.

Vejle Municipality in southeastern Jutland has also expanded its efforts to recruit international talent. Among its most effective initiatives has been hiring an expat business consultant dedicated to helping international employees’ accompanying spouses and partners find work in the region, said Louise Nielsen.

Her role as settlement guide within Velje’s Newcomer Service department aims to assist international residents in the region. 

“If someone has trouble, they have a single point of contact they can meet face to face who can guide them, connect them to the right colleague, or advocate for them if they got a ‘no’ when they should have gotten a ‘yes’ from agencies,” Nielsen told The Local. 

What’s in it for the municipality?

Ringkøbing-Skjern is Denmark’s largest municipality by area. As such, maintaining the municipality’s population is integral to keeping schools, childcare facilities, and other social services available throughout its villages, said the municipality’s department head of external development, Sara Jørgensen.

“The only way we can do that is if people choose to live here,” Jørgensen told The Local. “If we didn’t have internationals settling in our villages, I don’t think we would be able to sustain the number of local schools and childcare facilities.”

“I think our politicians have seen the value of trying to be international in 2021,” Nielsen said, adding that tax-paying internationals can also help fill the municipality’s coffers. 

“[Our politicians] see the municipality’s role to help newcomers receive the help they need, whether they are Danish or not.”

Member comments

  1. What about then pushing for some very necessary changes at national level legislation and discourse? I don’t think I need to make explicit what these are

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For members


Feriepenge: Denmark’s vacation pay rules explained

If you work for a company in Denmark, your yearly time off is likely to be provided for by the 'feriepenge' accrual system for paid annual leave.

If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar.
If you work in Denmark, a good understanding of 'feriepenge' (holiday allowance) rules will help you plan time off in the summer and around the calendar. Photo by Felipe Correia on Unsplash

One of the perks of being a full-time employee in the country, Danish holiday usually adds up to five weeks of vacation annually. There are also nine days of public holidays, which everyone benefits from.

The Danish Holiday Act (Ferieloven) provides the basis for paid holiday through accrued feriepenge (‘vacation money’ or ‘vacation allowance’). This covers most salaried employees, although some people, such as independent consultants or freelancers, are not encompassed.

What is feriepenge?

‘Holiday money’ or feriepenge is a monthly contribution paid out of your salary into a special fund, depending on how much you earn.

You can claim back the money once per year, provided you actually take holiday from work. It is earned at the rate of 2.08 vacation days per month.

If you are employed in Denmark, you will be notified when the money can be paid out (this is in May under normal circumstances) and directed to the website, from where you claim it back from national administrator Udbetaling Danmark.

Anyone who is an employee of a company registered in Denmark and who pays Danish taxes is likely to receive holiday pay, as this means you will be covered by the Danish Holiday Act (ferieloven). You are not an employee if, for example, you are self-employed, are a board member on the company for which you work or are unemployed.

How do I save up time off using feriepenge?

The law, which covers the five standard weeks or (normally 25 days) of paid vacation, states that you are entitled to take vacation during the vacation year period. You earn paid vacation throughout a calendar year at the rate of 2.08 days per month.

You earn vacation time in the period September 1st-August 31st. You can then use your vacation in the same year that you earn it and up to December 31st the subsequent year – in other words, over a 16-month period.

These rules also mean that holiday earned during a given month can be used from the very next month, in what is referred to as concurrent holiday (samtidighedsferie).

So when can I take time off using this accrued vacation?

The Danish vacation year is further broken down so that there is a “main holiday period” which starts on May 1st and ends on September 30th. During this time, you are entitled to take three weeks’ consecutive vacation out of your five weeks.

A lot of people take three weeks in a row while others break it up – which is why you often hear Danish people who work full time wishing each other a “good summer holiday” as if it’s the end of the school term.

Outside of the main holiday period, the remaining 10 days of vacation can be taken whenever you like. You can take up to five days together but may also use the days individually.

If your employer wants to decide when you should take any of your vacation days, they have to let you know at least three months in advance for main holiday, or one month in advance for remaining holiday (barring exceptional circumstances, such as an unforeseen change to the company’s operations or if the company closes for the summer shortly after you begin employment).

If you have not earned paid vacation, you still have the right to take unpaid holiday.

Public Holidays

In addition to the vacation days, there are also public holidays. These are bunched up mostly in the early part of the year and around Christmas. However, the period between June and Christmas includes the above-mentioned main annual leave, so there’s not usually long to wait until you can take time off.

Denmark has public holidays on:’

  • New Year’s Day  
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday  
  • Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag)
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

In addition to the usual public holidays, companies can choose to give extra time off, for example on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. There are also differences regarding Labour Day and Constitution Day, depending on where you work, what kind of work you do, or the collective bargaining agreement under which you are employed.

Sometimes you can get a whole day off for these extra holidays, sometimes just a half day. Check with your employer for details.