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WORKING IN DENMARK

Danish conservative parties want to exclude Muslim countries in foreign labour rules

Four Danish conservative parties are expected on Tuesday to present a proposal to ease Denmark’s labour shortage by recruiting workers from abroad. The proposal would exclude nationals from specified Muslim countries.

L-R Pernille Vermund (Nye Borgerlige), Jakob Ellemann-Jensen (Liberal), Rasmus Jarlov (Conservative) and Alex Vanopslagh (Liberal Alliance) speak to media on January 25th on a proposal to change Danish work permit rules.
L-R Pernille Vermund (Nye Borgerlige), Jakob Ellemann-Jensen (Liberal), Rasmus Jarlov (Conservative) and Alex Vanopslagh (Liberal Alliance) speak to media on January 25th on a proposal to change Danish work permit rules. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The proposal includes a reduction of the beløbsgrænse (pay limit), which is a key element in restricting labour immigration under current rules because it requires employers to pay a set salary to staff from non-EU countries for them to meet criteria for a work permit.

The parties – the Conservatives, Liberal Alliance, Liberals and Nye Borgerlige (New Right) – want to reduce the minimum salary requirement but will not extend the accommodation to nationals of Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East, broadcaster DR reports.

The latter of the four parties, Nye Borgerlige, which is the furthest to the right and known for its hostility towards Muslims, demanded the clause in return for supporting the proposal, according to DR.

While the proposal will be presented fully on Tuesday, Liberal Alliance leader Alex Vanopslagh revealed some key details of it in an interview with DR.

“Our proposal is a permanent scheme with a lower pay limit whereby you can come up here and work, but where it will apply to a slightly lower number of countries,” Vanopslagh said on DR’s radio programme Ring til Oppositionen.

The four parties behind the proposal want to reduce the pay limit to 360,000 kroner annually. In ongoing negotiations over the labour shortage, the government has suggested it should be 375,000 kroner. The current amount is 448,000 kroner.

READ ALSO: Could Denmark ease key work permit rule for foreigners?

The government has pushed for a temporary two-year reduction to the pay limit, while the conservative parties behind the counter-proposal want it to be permanent.

Where the government’s scheme would be extended to all countries, the counter offer excludes “Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East” according to Nye Borgerlige leader Pernille Vermund, who described the proposal in a Facebook post.

Speaking on DR radio, Vanopslagh confirmed first that the four parties had agreed to exclude certain countries from the proposal, and then that the exclusion applied to MENA countries.

“We propose (excluding) a number of countries where we in practice avoid some of the countries where there are generally many people over-represented in our domestic crime statistics,” Vanopslagh said.

The Liberal Alliance leader said that his party’s adoption of the policy was “primarily a result of us being four parties which had to agree. For some parties, it was important that not all countries in the world” were included, he said.

Countries encompassed by the scheme would also have to meet two other criteria – a certain level of in- and outgoing investments with Denmark, and no visa requirements in the Schengen zone for their nationals.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Denmark must reform immigration if it wants to solve labour shortage

In comments to DR, Vanopslagh appeared to distance himself somewhat from the apparent structuring of the proposal to exclude people from Muslim countries.

Asked if he shared Nye Borgerlige concerns about people from Muslim countries entering Denmark through the pay limit scheme, the Liberal Alliance leader replied “no”.

“The pay limit scheme is set up so that you must still earn 350,000 [360,000, ed.]. I think that most people who can maintain an annual salary of 350,000 kroner are members of the public who behave relatively well in Denmark,” he added.

The Social Democratic government does not currently have a majority for its version of the proposal, with only two parties – the Social Liberals and Socialist People’s Party – in support.

But the government’s finance spokesperson Christian Rabjerg Madsen told DR he expected conservative parties to eventually vote in favour and called the counter-offer which pushes for an exclusion of specified countries “hypocritical”.

“It’s obvious that we have some parties who want to reduce the pay limit scheme just as we do, and they are taking a step in our direction instead of backing our proposal,” Madsen said.

“The reality is they are selling out the needs of Danish businesses because of considerations which are not serious,” he said.

Excluding certain countries from a reduced pay limit would be “bureaucratically heavy to administrate,” he also said.

“It’s important to be aware that it is not refugees or vulnerable groups who need to be protected who would be the beneficiaries of this agreement,” he said.

Naqeeb Khan, a campaigner for fair Danish immigration rules including for foreign workers, called the proposal from the conservative parties “discrimination”. Khan is a board member with the Danish Green Card Association and president with the Green Human Resources campaign group.

“(The proposal to exclude Muslim countries) is institutionalised racism and violation of the Danish constitution which guarantees equality among all human beings with no regard to the colour of one’s skin and their religion,” Khan told The Local via email.

“I would reject any such invitation to the foreign workforce without first reforming broken immigration policies,” he said.

Editor’s note: article updated to include comments from Naqeeb Khan.

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WORKING IN DENMARK

Demand for labour remains high in Denmark with employment up for 14th straight month

Denmark’s labour market remains on a trend which has seen the number of people in paid employment in the country grow month-on-month since early 2021.

Demand for labour remains high in Denmark with employment up for 14th straight month

New data from national agency Statistics Denmark shows that the number of people in paid employment increased by 16,000 between February and March this year and now stands at 2,947,000. The data is corrected for variations caused by work that is season-dependent.

The new figures represent the 14th consecutive month in which the number of people working in Denmark has increased.

Additionally, more people are in work now compared to just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with a knock-on effect on the economy and jobs.

145,000 more people are hired now than just before the Covid-19 crisis, senior economist with Sydbank, Mathias Dollerup Sproegel, told news wire Ritzau.

“The labour market continues to be a ray of sunshine in the Danish economy,” Sproegel said.

“Aside from record-high employment, unemployment is also close to the record-low from before 2008. That tells us that the labour force has been strengthen somewhat in recent years,” he said.

“That is due to earlier political reforms and an active effort to bring all available hands in the Danish economy into play,” he said.

READ ALSO: How Danish work permit rules are keeping out skilled foreigners living in Sweden

Another analyst, senior economist Lars Olsen with Danske Bank, said the figures evidenced that it is still possible to find staff to fill the many available positions on the labour market.

“This suggests that there are still reserves to draw on, probably among students and people who have not previously had a strong connection to the labour market,” he said in a written comment.

“It would also seem to help that the age of the state pension has been put up again this year, so nobody will reach pension age during the first half of this year,” he said.

READ ALSO: Could Denmark delay plan to increase retirement age?

Hotels and restaurants are among sectors which saw the strongest growth in employment in March, with over 5,500 new hires giving an increase of 4.6 percent.

Culture and leisure also saw notable growth at 3.3 percent or 1,900 people.

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