Danish Social Liberals press for more foreign labour in government talks

The centre-left Social Liberal party, a potential partner in a new coalition government, says it wants Denmark to increase its foreign workforce.

Danish Social Liberals press for more foreign labour in government talks
Martin Lidegaard, Katrine Robsøe and Samira Nawa (R) of the Social Liberal party at parliament on Thursday. The party wants Denmark to attract more foreign labour. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Thursday’s talks over a new Danish government focused on the economy,  including how ongoing inflation should be responded to.

The Social Liberals, a financially liberal party which is progressive on social issues, wants more foreign labour to help bolster the economy be easing a labour shortage that is currently affecting the private and public sectors.

“It is still far too difficult for Denmark’s businesses to bring foreign labour to Denmark. There are trip wires everywhere, and we have a whole catalogue of proposals,” Social Liberal leader Martin Lidegaard said ahead of talks on Thursday.

“But this is actually also about the foreign labour we already have in Denmark, which is sitting and twiddling its thumbs at asylum centres or waiting for permission for family reunification with a Danish citizen,” he said.

“Today [under current rules] they are not allowed to work. Why is that?”, he said.

READ ALSO: How the dizzying cost of family reunification keeps Danes and foreign partners apart

The Social Liberals are one of three parties – the others are the Moderates and the Social Democrats – to be actively pursuing a centrist coalition government following last week’s election.

Because the Social Democrats are the largest party and their leader, caretaker prime minister Mette Frederiksen, is leading the talks, such a government remains a likely outcome of the election despite being a rare occurrence generally in Danish politics.

Earlier this week, Lidegaard said he wanted a new government to include the parties behind the “national compromise” political agreement from March this year. The agreement was backed by parties spanning the left and right of the Danish political centre.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Liberal party calls for ‘national compromise’ government

“Maybe the most important message today is: Let’s get the negotiations progressing and try to create a strong, Danish broad government,” Lidegaard said on Thursday.

Currently, 11 of the 12 parliamentary parties remain involved in talks. Only the national conservative Denmark Democrats have so far withdrawn.

“In a way, there’s something very beautiful about the fact that everyone is still there and wants to be part of the process. But it’s certain that at some point, of course we have to move forwards,” Lidegaard said.

READ ALSO: Is there any progress on talks to form Danish government?

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Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

A new report from Statistics Denmark shows that 48 percent of residence permits granted to foreign nationals in Denmark in 2021 were for employment reasons. Asylum seekers accounted for 1 percent of new residents.

Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

Since the beginning of the century, the reasons for which foreign nationals are granted residency in Denmark have changed considerably, according to a new report by national agency Statistics Denmark.

Over 48 percent of foreign nationals who moved to Denmark with a residence permit in 2021 did so for the purpose of working in the country.

That is the highest level in the last 20 years.

“During the last 20 years there has been a steep increase of immigration of persons who do not have Danish or Nordic citizenship, only briefly interrupted in 2020 because of Covid-19,” Statistics Denmark senior consultant Jørn Korsbø Petersen said in a press statement.

“But the reason for the immigrants’ residence has changed a lot during this period and last year almost half came to Denmark due to work,” Petersen said.

Data from back in 1997 show that during that year, half of the 21,264 people who were issued residency in Denmark arrived for asylum or family reunification reasons, with 32 percent moving for work or study.

In 2021, those proportions had shifted with 70 percent of the total 52,736 arrivals for reasons of either work or study.

Just 1 percent of residence permits were given for asylum with 5 percent granted family reunification.

The primary reason for that change is the increase in people moving to Denmark from other EU countries, according to Statistics Denmark.

Since 1997, a number of new countries including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania have joined the EU, with immigration from these countries to Denmark for work reasons subsequently increasing.

Nationals of EU countries can freely move to Denmark to work under the right to free movement guaranteed by EU membership. Citizens of other countries do not have the same rights and must fulfil stringent criteria to be granted residency in the Nordic country.

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

That is reflected by the data, Statistics Denmark notes. Of the 25,500 persons who immigrated to Denmark for work reasons in 2021, 19,500 were EU or EEA citizens.

The numbers show that the demand for labour in Denmark is “almost insatiable” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Tore Stramer, the senior economist with the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv).

“Foreign labour has been a very important lifeline for Danish businesses at this conjuncture,” he said.

“If businesses had not been able to recruit foreign labour, the economic recovery after the corona crisis would have been significantly harder,” he said in a written comment.