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Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

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Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour
Danish employment minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen says the Social Democrats to not want to ease immigration rules in response to the labour shortage. File photo: Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s employment minister, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, is not in favour of easing immigration rules to make it easier for companies to recruit foreign labour despite calls from elsewhere in the government to do so.

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Social Democrat Halsboe-Jørgensen said she was against allowing more foreign labour in Denmark, saying it could have a negative impact on society.

“As a government we must have an eye on everything. The question I have to ask myself as minister, which individual employers don’t ask themselves is, that if they get those workers, let’s say from an African country, what does that mean for the cohesive force [of society],” the minister said in an interview with newspaper Politiken.

Government policies on labour and immigration are closely related, she said in the interview.

“I think they are related when you start talking about, for example, 50,000 [people] from Kenya. Then we certainly must look not only at what it what do for the place of work those people are taken into, but very much also what it would do to society as a whole,” she said, citing a figure recently given by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in a proposal for raising Denmark's international workforce.

“I think individual people from Kenya could be of great benefit to Denmark but I think that the number means something,” she said.

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The minister recognised that foreign recruitment from both inside and outside the EU could ease the labour shortage, but said that recent talk of seeking agreements with non-EU countries on the area, as well as easing existing rules, was not in line with the immigration policy followed by the Social Democrats.

“It’s now been a while since almost everyone at Christiansborg [parliament, ed.] fortunately recognised that the number [of immigrants] means something,” the minister said in reference to the so-called ‘paradigm shift’ of 2019, in which most parties inside and outside of government agreed on a stricter approach to immigration, particularly asylum.

Businesses and other political parties – including partners in the coalition government – have more recently come out strongly in favour of more foreign labour to address Denmark’s ongoing shortage in many sectors.

READ ALSO: Fear of slack migration rules holds back Denmark on foreign labour: Deputy PM

Young Danes who are currently not engaged on the labour market should instead be drawn upon to help ease the worker shortage, according to the minister.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of coalition partner the Moderate party, said last month that Denmark’s businesses should be allowed to freely hire international staff, provided they comply with labour market collective agreements.

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“The proposal we have should speak directly to a good social democrat because it’s a real tribute to the Danish labour model,” Rasmussen said at the time.

Rasmussen has previously suggested Africa, citing Kenya as a possible example, as a region in which Denmark could seek agreements with specific countries in relation to recruitment of labour.

Earlier in September, deputy prime minister and economy minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said a fear of being seen as weak on immigration is a factor in Danish politics which hinders measures to recruit much-needed labour from abroad.

Ellemann-Jensen is leader of the Liberal (Venstre) party, the third partner in the coalition.

“Since the 2000s, successive governments have tightened the [immigration] rules,” Ellemann-Jensen said.

“But we have ended up in a situation where we are afraid of making sensible and necessary decisions that would ensure international labour for fear of being called ‘a slackener’,” he said at a Danish Chamber of Commerce event.

Some 42 percent of Danish businesses said they were short of labour in 2022, according to figures from national agency Statistics Denmark reported by Politiken.

The Confederation of Danish Industry has called for action to avoid a potential shortage of labour amounting to 130,000 people within the next ten years, the newspaper writes.

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