Can Denmark solve its labour shortage by finding workers in Denmark?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Can Denmark solve its labour shortage by finding workers in Denmark?
Denmark’s employment minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen wants to fill labour shortages with unemployed young people. Can it be done? Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s employment minister recently said she wanted to solve the country’s labour shortage by engaging more young people who are currently out of work, instead of allowing more foreign workers. Is that realistic?


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.

In an interview with newspaper Politiken earlier this week, Social Democrat Halsboe-Jørgensen said she was against allowing more foreign labour in Denmark, arguing it could have a negative impact on society.

Businesses and other political parties – including partners in the coalition government – have come out strongly in favour of more foreign labour to address Denmark’s ongoing shortage in many sectors, but the minister said she would prefer young Danes who are currently out of work to be drawn upon to help ease the shortage.

READ ALSO: Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

There are currently some 43,000 young people in Denmark who are neither working or enrolled in education, she told Politiken.

But that number is not enough on its own to fill all the job vacancies Denmark is likely to see in the coming years, according to an expert who spoke to broadcaster DR.

“It is not sufficient to be able to close the gap with that group and many have nothing like the skills the labour market needs. So that group is not the solution on its own,” Thomas Bredgaard, a professor in labour market research at Aalborg University, said to DR.


That view was also taken by Sabina Pultz, labour market researcher at Roskilde University, also in comments to DR.

“Analyses show that 80 percent of the approximately 43,000 young people have a relatively simple explanation for why they are not at work. That might, for example, be that they are taking a year out or are between education programmes. And then there’s the 20 percent who have more long-term problems,” she said.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) also said that relying on unemployed young people will not be enough.

“Foreign labour is an obvious part of the solution to the challenges. It is sensible to also look at young people, but I don’t think young people comprise a large potential alone,” DI’s deputy director Steen Nielsen told DR.

Bredgaard said that many people not in work or education often had problems that presented barriers to their employment. They may not have had good experiences in the education system and may therefore be unqualified.

Others might be suffering from mental health challenges or other wellbeing difficulties, he said.

Efforts by local municipalities to help young people into work have already had mixed results, he noted.

“[Local authorities] have tried a lot of different things and have had mixed experiences with it. But there have also been things that have worked, that should be extended further,” he said.

He also said that existing labour in Denmark could supplement foreign labour in filling vacancies.

“That could be a later withdrawal from the labour market, getting more to go from part-time to full-time, and getting young people into jobs faster after their studies,” he said.


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