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Are provincial parts of Denmark a good option for international families?

Local authorities in Denmark say they want to attract -- and keep -- skilled workers from abroad by also helping their families to settle.
Local authorities in Denmark say they want to attract -- and keep -- skilled workers from abroad by also helping their families to settle. Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Denmark’s less populous cities and towns say they offer benefits for foreign residents and their families. In fact, some are going above and beyond to ensure a smooth transition not just for new foreign hires, but also for accompanying partners and children.

During the past six months, Lolland Municipality has been busy.

As construction on the Femern Tunnel connecting the island to the German island of Femern has begun, the municipality has launched a series of new initiatives to attract and retain skilled foreign workers. 

In addition to efforts to brand Lolland internationally, a new website for newcomers, welcome events and an international ambassador program, the municipality opened Denmark’s first public international school earlier this fall. 

Located in Maribo, Lolland International School offers free bilingual education to children from international families. 

“Lolland International School is without any doubt the biggest growth and development initiative in Lolland at the moment,” Julia Böhmer, international consultant for Lolland Municipality, told The Local.

The free international school is just one example of how provincial municipalities in Denmark are going the extra mile to attract and retain skilled foreign residents in an increasingly tight labour market – often by appealing to the whole family.

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“It’s refreshing to hear from municipalities who are looking after the entire family,” Søren Kjærsgaard Høfler told The Local. Høfler is a political consultant in global mobility at the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), an organisation representing approximately 18,500 companies across Denmark. 

DI sees attracting and retaining international labour as one solution to the labour shortage Denmark currently faces, especially outside its major cities. 

 “If the entire family is engaged in the community, that enhances the family’s chance of staying,” Høfler said.

DI has a network of companies across Denmark’s municipalities that share best practices for attracting international labour.

“That illustrates how important we think this is for our member companies,” Høfler said.

Family-focused approach gets results, municipalities find

Although Böhmer said it’s too soon to measure the effect of Lolland’s new programs, the international school has already been deemed a success, enrolling more than twice as many students as anticipated in its first year.

“Our international consultant has also received an increasing number of calls from people from all over the world who have heard about the Femern Belt project and sometimes also the free international school,” the municipal consultant said.

One such family belongs to Candice Progler-Thomsen. Originally from the United States, Progler-Thomsen has lived in Denmark on and off for three decades. 

When her family returned to Denmark in 2020 after living in Saudi Arabia, Lolland International School was one factor in their choice to move to Lolland.

“The international school definitely caught our eye,” she told The Local. 

The municipalities of Esbjerg and Vejle have also seen success with initiatives that focus on family. Both municipalities have established programs to help accompanying partners also find jobs in their regions. 

“I’ve heard from residents who have said that [our expat business consultant for accompanying partners] factored into their decision to live in Vejle, even if they work in a neighbouring municipality,” Louise Nielsen, the settlement guide within Vejle’s Newcomer Service department, told The Local.

Esbjerg Municipality has found that its job services for spouses improves retention. 

“If an employee is recruited, but their family doesn’t see anything for them in the city and doesn’t feel like they belong, they are likely to move away after a few years,” Pia Enemark, Esbjerg Municipality’s newcomer service coordinator, told The Local. 

Services for families have also been a recruitment tool for the municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern. As Denmark’s third most popular tourist destination, the municipality often recruits Germans who are familiar with the region from years of holidaying there. 

“We’ve found that our childcare options are often attractive to German families, compared to the options available in Germany,” Dorthe Frydendahl, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality’s settlement coordinator, told The Local. 

Social ties to stick the landing

Another aspect of municipalities’ efforts to attract internationals is to help new arrivals establish a social network. 

“Our aim with making it easier when people first arrive and helping them establish a social network is so they stay,” Enemark said. 

“It’s important that the whole family – not just during work hours, but in their spare time, too – feel like a part of the city they live in,” she added. 

In Vejle, where nearly 10 percent of the population is foreign-born, the municipality has an extensive lineup of events for foreign residents to learn about topics of interest, from taxes to schooling. It also offers some of its town events in English. 

“Leisure activities, friendships, and engagement with the community all make newcomers feel welcome,” DI’s Høfler said. “If they love their job and their family seems settled, that increases the chance they will stay.” 


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  1. Love this article. Having moved to Denmark from Luxembourg, another (much smaller population) country that understands how economic and social growth comes through attracting skilled/educated workers from the international community. Attract/hold/integrate is the recipe for growth. Bravo Lolland

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