Two different proposals – one from the minority Social Democratic government and one from four conservative opposition parties – were both rejected in parliamentary votes on Wednesday.
Under current rules, Denmark grants work permits through the Pay Limit Scheme to foreigners who are offered high-paying jobs. There’s no education requirement and the pay limit scheme applies to all industries, as long as the annual salary is 448,000 kroner or higher.
The Pay Limit Scheme is one of a number of business schemes used to grant work permits for non-EU and EEA nationals.
The scheme has been the subject of ongoing political discussions relating to a potential lowering of the wage requirement as politicians seek to ease a skilled labour shortage.
The government proposed lowering the threshold from 448,000 kroner a year by more than 16 percent to 375,000 kroner, while the four conservative parties pushed for a 20 percent reduction to 360,000 kroner.
Although the difference between the proposals is therefore only 15,000 kroner, other objectives meant the two sides were unable to agree.
“If it was just a question of what the limit should be, we would be able to agree with each other,” Mette Abildgaard, political spokesperson for the Conservative party, told newswire Ritzau.
“But there are also a lot of other parameters where we look at it differently. For example — how long will this scheme work? Two years or indefinitely? How many people can come into this scheme?”, Abildgaard said.
The joint conservative proposal contains a clause that would ban nationals of specified Muslim majority countries from being granted work permits under the scheme.
Hans Andersen, employment spokesperson with the Liberal (Venstre) party, said that the Liberals voted against the government’s proposal because it was temporary in nature.
“We want to ensure that the scheme is not a temporary one but a permanent one,” Andersen said.
The conservative parties want new talks with the government over a reform to the scheme following the failure of the proposals, Andersen told Ritzau.
“Businesses are in acute need of labour here and now. We have reached out and hope the Minister of Finance will accept (a request for new talks),” he said.
That looks unlikely in the short term, however, after Social Democratic political spokesperson Rasmus Stoklund said new talks would not take place after the government proposal was rejected.
“We have already come a long way,” Stoklund said, apparently referencing a change of policy from the Social Democrats, who were previously opposed to any reduction of the Pay Limit Scheme’s minimum salary.
“This was not a proposal that came from our side but an accommodation of requests that have been made,” Stoklund said.
Business organisations have long called for the minimum salary to be reduced to enable more skilled labour to be attracted from abroad.