Danish parliament rejects proposals to ease key work permit rule

Denmark’s parliament has voted against proposals that would have eased a minimum wage requirement on the Pay Limit Scheme, a criteria system used to grant work permits to non-EU nationals.

Denmark's parliament
Denmark's parliament rejected two separate proposals to reduce a key clause of the Pay Limit work permit scheme. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

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

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.

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Danish businesses repeat call for foreign workers amid labour shortage

Local authorities and a major business interest organisation have urged Denmark’s government to address a labour shortage.

Danish businesses repeat call for foreign workers amid labour shortage

Unmet demand for labour in both private businesses and the public sector has reached a crisis point, according to an appeal to the government to reach a broader labour agreement. 

Parliament must renew its efforts to find a new national compromise which will secure more labour, the National Association of Municipalities (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL) and the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) said according to financial media Finans.

“The parties [in parliament] must be honest with voters and start a completely different and strict prioritisation of what the public sector can offer people,” mayor and KL chairperson Martin Damm told news wire Ritzau.

“Otherwise, the parties must find the labour needed for private companies to provide growth and wellbeing, and for us at municipalities to have the staff and economy to deliver the services people expect,” he said.

The municipalities will need 44,000 additional employees by 2030 due to increasing numbers of children and elderly in the population, according to KL.

Short the lack of labour persist, municipal governments could be forced to reduce the priority of services such as cleaning for elderly residents, according to Damm.

Danish businesses are finding it harder than ever to recruit staff and could hire 38,000 new workers immediately if they were available, according to DI, which represents the interests of about 19,000 Danish companies. 

Lars Sandahl Sørensen, managing director of DI, firmly believes the answer to the labour shortage lies outside Danish borders. 

“We will need many more foreigners,” Sørensen told Finans.

“It is not about getting cheap labour, but about getting people at all. We are in a situation where we do not have employees to carry out the things on green conversion that we have already decided to do, and that we would like to do on health and welfare,” he said.

Employment minister Peter Hummelgaard told Finans that the government agreed a deal on international recruitment shortly before the summer break.

READ MORE: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you aren’t an EU national?