Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire 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
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.

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.”

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