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LIVING IN DENMARK

Is it easier for foreigners to find a job outside Denmark’s major cities?

Although the density of job opportunities for foreign residents is likely to be highest in larger cities, outlying municipalities contend that there is plenty of demand for international labour across Denmark.

Vejle is one of a number smaller cities and rural municipalities in Denmark which aim to promote local opportunities for skilled foreign workers.
Vejle is one of a number smaller cities and rural municipalities in Denmark which aim to promote local opportunities for skilled foreign workers. Photo: Mikkel Berg Pedersen/Freelance/Ritzau Scanpix

Earlier this year, construction began on the much anticipated Femern Belt, an 18-kilometre immersed tunnel beneath the Baltic sea connecting the Danish island of Lolland with the German island of Femern. 

Not only will the tunnel better connect Scandinavia to Central Europe, it may also attract new residents to the southern Danish region and reinvigorate its labour market, said Julia Böhmer, international consultant for Lolland Municipality.

“Lolland has for many years been an area with very few development options,” Böhmer told The Local. “[The tunnel] is a new beginning for Lolland. Hopefully the area will develop into a new international hub.”

Part of that plan relies on attracting international talent. 

It’s a goal the municipality shares with many other lesser-known municipalities around Denmark and one that has taken on increasing importance in Denmark’s current labour market.

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

What kinds of jobs are there outside of the major cities?

According to Vejle Municipality’s settlement guide, Louise Nielsen, there are more than 600,000 jobs within an hour’s drive of Vejle. 

“Being located in the triangle region [Trekantsområdet in Danish, ed.], there are thousands of job opportunities within an hour’s drive,” Mariola Kajkowska told The Local. Originally from Poland, Kajkowska moved to Denmark in 2003 and lived in Esbjerg, Sommersted, and Herning before moving to Vejle in 2019, where she works as an employee retention consultant. 

“Vejle is a great place to find a job,” Kajkowska said, adding that there are often fewer applicants for these jobs than there are in larger cities.

Both Lego and Siemens Gamesa are large companies within commuting distance of Vejle. 

One hundred kilometres east, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality is home to several high-profile Danish companies that hire many internationals, including wind energy turbine company Vestas and dairy producer Arla. 

However, the municipality’s small- and medium-sized companies are also interested in recruiting international labour, said Ringkøbing-Skjern’s department head of external development, Sara Jørgensen.

To connect prospective employees with these lesser-known companies, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality has launched a website for internationals, available in English and German, where you can upload a CV that will be sent out to 700 local companies. Recently, a German man submitted his CV via the website; within three weeks, he had a signed job contract.

Demand for international labour in Ringkøbing-Skjern includes both highly skilled workers and skilled trades, particularly in the farming and manufacturing industries. Tourism and green energy are also important industries in the region.

Lolland also has many job opportunities in green energy, as well as in the agriculture and food production sectors.

“There are more than 1,000 unemployed internationals with university degrees in Copenhagen,” said Dorte Stang, employment specialist at Femern Agency, an employment service for companies involved in the Femern Belt. “Meanwhile, we lack these very skills in southern Denmark.” 

In September, Stang helped organise a virtual conference to inform nearly 200 unemployed foreigners with higher education degrees living in the greater Copenhagen area about job opportunities in Lolland. 

In addition to Lolland’s largest industries, there is also a need for skilled trades employees as the Femern Belt project advances. Although the Agency tries to attract Danish labour as much as possible, Stang said they acknowledge that the scale of the project is so vast that it won’t be possible to employ only Danish labour. 

However, she acknowledged that it can be difficult to navigate the job market in Lolland. She recommends checking out Business Lolland Falster and the Femern Agency’s websites for a list of companies operating in the region who may be seeking skilled foreign workers.

“If you asked me five years ago if you should move to Lolland, I would have said it was a little too early,” Stang said. “Now, there is so much hype and energy surrounding the Femern Belt. The timing is perfect.” 

Do I need to speak Danish?

Although jobs related to the Femern Belt will be in English, Stang said it’s important to speak Danish to succeed professionally and socially in Lolland. 

“It’s okay if you speak only English in the beginning,” Stang said, “but I think it’s important to show you’re willing to learn Danish and truly become a local.”

In Ringkøbing-Skjern, speaking Danish is also important for expanding one’s job opportunities. 

“There aren’t as many companies here searching for employees that only speak English,” Lea Cesar, a Slovenian living in Ringkøbing, told The Local. When she first moved to the area and struggled to find a job, she took it as a challenge and opened her own cafe in central Ringkøbing called Baking Sins.

Antoniya Petkov, originally from Bulgaria, faced similar challenges finding work when she moved to Ringkøbing several years ago after her husband accepted a job at a wind energy company in the area. 

“Most of the job opportunities in my field in the area require a high level of Danish language, which I am still working toward,” Petkov told The Local. In the meantime, she continues to commute to Aarhus, where she works as a technical recruiter at a large Danish software firm. 

“However, there are a lot more opportunities for developers, engineers and people with a technical job profile where English isn’t required,” Petkov said.

Even in technical roles, Danish proficiency helps. 

Victor Balaban, originally from Moldova, moved to Vejle while working as an engineer at Siemens Gamesa. Although he said there are plenty of job opportunities in the region, Balaban said his options would be significantly more limited if he didn’t speak Danish.

Candice Progler-Thomsen, an American who has lived in Denmark on and off for three decades and now lives in Lolland, said Danish proficiency is “almost essential” to find a job in the municipality. 

“There will be greater job opportunities here for individuals who learn Danish,” she said.

“But just because it’s easier to find a job in the cities doesn’t mean internationals shouldn’t look in other areas as well.”

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For members

WORKING IN DENMARK

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 borger.dk 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.

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