Denmark needs to attract more foreign workers. This was what Deputy Director General of the Confederation of Danish Industry Kim Graugaard made clear when he spoke at the CEPOS growth conference at Industriens Hus Thursday last week.
One of his main points was that foreign employees generate growth and prosperity in Denmark:
“Foreigners are vital to Danish growth – both now and in the future. Since 2010, foreigners have been responsible for two thirds of all the progress we have made in Denmark,” said Kim Graugaard and referred to new figures published today by the Confederation of Danish Industry.
The figures show that Denmark’s growth creation from 2010 to 2014 grew by DKK 34 billion and that foreign workers were responsible for DKK 24 billion of this.
Currently, 145,000 foreigners measured by full-time employees are employed in Denmark. This is an increase of 45% since 2010 – and projections show that immigrants and descendants of immigrants will be responsible for more than 70% of the increase in the workforce by 2050. Denmark must therefore ensure that it attracts more foreign workers with the right skills sets.
“We need to attract more highly skilled foreigner. That is why it is important for us to develop our existing work permit schemes for third country citizens who come to Denmark to work so that the schemes are better matched to the requirements of the Danish job market,” said Kim Graugaard.
He explains that the Confederation of Danish Industry therefore believes that the pay limit scheme should be expanded to ensure that Danish businesses are given the best possible opportunities to attract the types of skilled worker that they need.
When it comes to foreign labour, Kim Graugaard believes that it is important to emphasise that a clear differentiation must be made between the foreigners coming to Denmark to work and the foreigners arriving because they are refugees.
“It is important that we do not mix up these two debates. Asylum seekers and migrants come here because they are fleeing something and to create a better life for themselves. It is positive step if they can integrate and get work, but they are not the solution to our needs for highly qualified labour,” said Kim Graugaard.
Many of the refugees who come to Denmark have very little or no education. 40% of refugees on public benefits and their families are deemed to have no or poor schooling while only approx. 10% are deemed to completed medium-length college courses or higher education.
“It is natural to focus on handling the challenge of a rapid increase in the number of refugees, but this must not overshadow our need for attracting highly quality foreigners to Danish businesses,” Kim Graugaard pointed out.
The media and decision-makers have brought up things like integration income as a possible solution to how refugees could enter the job market. But Kim Graugaard is adamant.
“The idea of integration income is based on businesses being interested in taking on employees with low skills if their wages are lower. But for the vast majority of businesses that is currently not what they need,” said Kim Graugaard and referred to the fact that Denmark has for many years seen a trend in its manufacturing industry where many low-skilled jobs have been scrapped.
On the contrary, he wants to see practical business-oriented solutions, such as traineeships and wage subsidies, used more.
“The differences in how the municipalities use practical, business-oriented solutions are far too big. If all the municipalities used them as often as the five best municipalities do, about double the number of refugees would go into traineeships,” said Kim Graugaard and continued:
“The integration income proposals that have been mentioned do not give businesses any advantage compared to their existing tools. Traineeships do not cost businesses a penny and that can simply not be matched by any form of integration income.”