For members


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


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.