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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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FARMING

Danish meat producer announces 350 redundancies

Danish Crown, Denmark’s largest producer of meat, is to release 350 employees due to financial challenges, the company said.

Danish meat producer announces 350 redundancies

Financial problems suffered by farmers who supply pigs to the company are behind the decision to let staff go, Danish Crown said in a statement on Friday.

Two Danish Crown abattoirs are affected. Around 275 are to lose their jobs at Sæby, while another 75 at a factory in Ringsted are also to be let go. Danish Crown currently employs around 8,000 people in Denmark.

Poor economy in the production side of the business is to blame for the decision, the company said.

“This is a very unpleasant situation. The employees affected by this have produced excellent work. Since autumn 2020 and until a few weeks ago we have almost constantly had more slaughter-ready pigs than we could slaughter,” head of production Per Laursen said in the statement.

“But the situation now looks different and it hurts to see that we now are set to say farewell to around 350 competent staff,” he said.

High energy prices are a factor in the financial struggles that have led to the redundancies, as are increasing costs of feed. These have caused many farmers to scale back or stop production of pigs for meat production.

Statistics Denmark figures show that the number of pigs in Denmark fell by almost one million during the last year. 13.4 million pigs – more than double the number of people – lived in Denmark in January 2021 according to the agency’s records.

Data from industry organisation Danish Agriculture & Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer)

Show additional energy costs for the sector of 20 million kroner compared to 2021, financial media Finans reported on Thursday.

Danish Crown said it will invite released staff to interviews to discuss future options. The company is obliged to launch a social plan when firing large numbers of staff under the terms of its agreement with trade unions.

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