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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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WORKING IN DENMARK

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.

READ ALSO:

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.

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