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LIVING IN DENMARK

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

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.

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

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.” 

Member comments

  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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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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