'One in four' Danish companies reliant on foreign labour

The Local Denmark
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'One in four' Danish companies reliant on foreign labour
Computer programmers and managers at the Copenhagen startup AthGene back in 2015. Photo: David Leth Williams/Ritzau Scanpix

More than half Danish companies employ foreign labour and one in four say they could not run their company without them, according to a member survey of 1,255 company managers by the Lederne management union.


Of the 1,255 members who replied to the survey, 759 said they employed foreign workers and 354, more than one in four, said that these workers were essential to their business.

“This tells us that we cannot run Denmark without foreign labour, so it is not a discussion whether we need foreign labor or not. We have it, and we need more of it,” Bodil Nordestgaard Ismiris, the union’s managing director, told the Politiken newspaper.

“That’s why the message from us is that we must do away with all these weird rules which mean that today in Denmark we actually expel many well-functioning, well-integrated people because of some very strange arguments. We have to understand in Denmark that every time we do that, we shoot ourselves in the foot,” she said.

In November, there were 365,031 foreign nationals employed in Denmark, nearly double the 181,567 who were working in the country ten years ago. 

According to Nordestgaard Ismiris, more than 60,000 job offers have had to be withdrawn in Denmark over the past six months because the positions could not be filled. 


Denmark's three-party centre coalition has announced that it wants to lower the minimum salary threshold for work permits, so long as unemployment is low.

READ ALSO: What do we know about Denmark’s plans to relax work permit rules?

Danish companies are currently reporting record numbers of unfilled positions, with an analysis by the Economic Council of the Labour Movement predicting that if current trends continue Denmark will be short of 99,000 skilled workers. 

Despite this, Employment Minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, from the Social Democrats is concerned that loosening Denmark's strict work permit rules too much risks unemployed people in Denmark being kept out of jobs by foreign labour, telling Politiken she would prioritise getting people already in Denmark who are unemployed into jobs.

The rules would only be loosened, she said, at times when unemployment is particularly low. 

Mohammad Rona, immigration spokesperson for the Social Democrat's government partners, the Moderates, wants to launch a broader critical review of Danish work permit rules.

"There are some rules in this country where logic does not prevail, unfortunately. It is my opinion that we should have looked at - and potentially tightened up - rules that prevent good companies from keeping their good employees", he has told Politiken.

Discussions over the bill are ongoing behind the scenes, and the new work permit bill is expected to be finalised in February. 


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