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Danish government to introduce obligatory work for welfare benefits

Ritzau/The Local
Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish government to introduce obligatory work for welfare benefits
Illustration photo. Denmark is to introduce a weekly work requirement for people who receive basic welfare. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark is to implement a rule requiring work at unskilled municipal jobs to qualify for the basic unemployment benefit.

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The measure, which is intended to primarily affect unemployed immigrant women of “non-Western” backgrounds, was confirmed at a government briefing on Friday.

The Social Democratic party, the senior partner in the coalition government, made the policy part of its platform in 2021 and has now reached an agreement with a majority of parties to implement it.

Under the new rule, migrants will be told to complete 37 hours' work a week in order to receive the basic form of unemployment benefit, kontanthjælp.

Kontanthjælp is distinct from dagpenge, a different benefit which provides a higher safety net and requires membership of a semi-private A-kasse unemployment insurance provider.

READ ALSO: Who is eligible for Danish unemployment benefits?

Examples given of the type of work that could be done under the new requirement are laundry and food preparation at care homes.

“We want to send a very clear signal together that when you come to Denmark, we expect something of you, and that you should work if you can,” Employment Minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said.

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Statistically, the proportion of people from non-Western immigrant backgrounds not attached to the labour market is higher compared to other groups. It is also higher for women than for men from the demographic.

Immigrants from all EU countries, along with Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Vatican are considered ‘Western’ by Danish authorities. Everywhere else is ‘non-Western’.

The Social Democrats have previously faced concerns from other parties that the measure could squeeze others out of unskilled jobs.

“It is fenced into our agreement that this should not replace anything people are already doing today. It should naturally be mostly a stepping stone to a real job,” Halsboe-Jørgensen said.

“It is up to municipalities to look at their areas and see what needs to be done,” she said.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek said that two municipalities, Aarhus and Greve, had already successfully tried the measure.

“The places where it has been done have found that a task like this can easily be handled. The municipalities are good at getting people out [to work]. It’s not the intention for people to have these jobs for many years,” he said.

Neither of the two ministers said how many people can expect to be affected by the new rule, but a figure of 20,000 has been given in the past.

The two right-wing nationalist parties, Denmark Democrats and Danish People’s Party, are to support the government in voting through the new law.

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