Denmark discusses lower minimum age for bus drivers

A shortage of bus drivers in Denmark has led to the opposition Liberal party calling for a lower minimum age for drivers. The government says younger drivers could reduce passengers’ sense of security.

Denmark is reported to be short of 1,000 bus drivers. The Liberal party has suggested lowering the minimum age for drivers.
Denmark is reported to be short of 1,000 bus drivers. The Liberal party has suggested lowering the minimum age for drivers. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

As many as 1,000 more bus drivers are currently needed in Denmark to fill vacancies behind the wheels of municipal buses (such as those used to transport patients to health care facilities) and school buses, broadcaster DR reports.

If more drivers are not soon found, the shortage will soon impact city buses and regional transport, according to sector interest organisation Dansk Persontransport.

The opposition Liberal party has recommended that the minimum age for driving buses with passengers under Danish traffic laws be reduced to 19 years as one way of addressing the shortage. The current minimum age is 21 or 24 years, depending on the type of transport.

“It’s going to be very expensive if public transport ends up suffering because of this,” Liberal party spokesperson Kristian Pihl Lorentzen said to DR.

“We should therefore first and foremost make sure that more young people want to become bus drivers. That’s why we suggest reducing the age limit for when you can drive a bus,” he added.

Specifically, current rules require drivers to be at least 24 years old for vehicles with passengers for journeys over 50 kilometres; and 21 years for journeys under 50 kilometres.

The Liberals have called for bus driver training to begin at the age of 18, using training partnerships with experienced drivers. Once they reach the age of 19, the trainees can take over as drivers, according to the Liberal proposal.

Dansk Persontransport told DR it backed the idea.

Many drivers changed jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, resulting in the current shortage, according to the organisation.

Minister of Transport Benny Engelbrecht recognised the shortage in drivers but said a lower age limit for drivers is not a solution he supports.

“I don’t think it’s the right way to go to reduce age limits. My sense is that this would have a negative effect on the feeling of security experienced by passengers,” Engelbrecht told DR.

“People should feel comfortable taking the bus and my impression is that this wouldn’t be the case if we allow very young people to drive buses,” he added.

Instead, the minister said efforts should be made to encourage older drivers to stay in the sector. He also said that women with immigrant heritage, who are a demographic with a lower employment rate than the national average, could help to meet demand.

A project at Aarhus language school UC Plus was already working to this end, the minister told DR.

The broadcaster writes that political discussion of the issue is slated for early next year.

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Denmark has more people in work than before Covid crisis

More people are in work in Denmark than before the coronavirus crisis, according to analysis from the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

Denmark has more people in work than before Covid crisis

During the lockdowns in Denmark, unemployment rose sharply and a record number of people were out of work. But now the trend has reversed.

Out of the country’s 98 municipalities, 90 today have more jobs than in the fourth quarter of 2019, and there are 115,000 more employees in Denmark, which is an increase of 4.1 percent.

Ringsted and Brøndby top the list of municipalities with the most jobs. According to the Danish Chamber of Commerce, this may be due to the fact that there are several large companies in those municipalities.

A record number of foreign nationals are also active on the Danish labour market and now comprise over 10 percent of all people in full time employment.

The figure, reported by newspaper Berlingske, comes from an analysis by the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), which found that 266,000 foreign nationals, reported to be a record number, were working full time in Denmark in October 2021.

As such, foreigners comprise 10.5 percent of total employment, according to the report.

The Danish government is currently negotiating with parliament over potential solutions to labour shortages and the need to attract more international workers.

Several political parties have suggested they favour reducing a minimum salary requirement used to assess work permit applications.

At the moment, you can get a work permit on the pay limit scheme if your salary is at least 448,000 kroner a year. 

The government has proposed that the annual salary requirement be lowered to 375,000 kroner over a two-year period, to allow more international workers into Denmark on the scheme.

However, four conservative parties – the Conservatives, Liberal Alliance, Liberals and Nye Borgerlige (New Right), would like the annual salary permanently reduced to 360,000 kroner but do not want the scheme to include nationals of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?