Publiceret: 09.05.2018Af Karen Witt Olsen mail
What does it take to make talented foreign workers stay in Denmark?
“Language.” Among other things, says Head of Global Talent Linda Duncan Wendelboe, the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).
She explains that language is one of the decisive factors determining whether foreign workers settle down more permanently in Denmark – for the benefit of Danish businesses.
“If you don’t speak Danish, it can be difficult to follow what’s going on and feel like part of the community at a workplace,” she says.
The head of DI Global Talent worries that a new bill that puts an end to free Danish lessons would make the foreign workers that Denmark so greatly needs leave.
“I fear that a price tag of DKK12,000 for Danish lessons will prevent foreign workers from learning the language. And if they don’t, we risk having them leave Denmark faster than before,” she says.
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The proposal to charge for Danish classes applies to so-called self-sufficient foreigners and is part of the tax agreement between the government and DF.
It will have its first reading on 8 May and will likely have a majority in favour.
New data from DI shows that more than half of highly-educated foreign workers today leave the country after just five years.
This is bad during an economic boom, where it is necessary that businesses can attract – and retain – their foreign workers, explains Linda Duncan Wendelboe.
“Denmark is highly dependent on the foreign workers who have come here in recent years. It is incredibly expensive for companies when they leave again quickly. That is why many companies including Microsoft, for example, work hard to retain employees. And in this effort, language is one of the cornerstones,” she says.
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If the government and DF’s bill is passed, the price of learning Danish will be DKK 2,000 per module and DKK 1,250 as a deposit for each module.
This adds up to a total of DKK 12,000 for the six modules that constitute a Danish language course.
The head of DI Global Talent points out that the charge will also apply to spouses of highly-educated foreign workers – and thereby ultimately have an effect on the entire family’s desire to stay in Denmark.
“We fear that spouses who are forced to pay 12,000 kroner to learn Danish will decide not to take the language course and thereby have difficulty settling down here. And we know that they have an important say in whether or not the family decides to stay in Denmark,” says Linda Duncan Wendelboe.
The same is true for international students who study in Denmark.
“It is a major benefit for Denmark when international students stay here and work after completing their studies. And here, language also plays a big role,” she says.
See also: Beter integration could bring 139.000 more peole in to the workforce
Previously, Danish classes have been free for all foreigners.
At the trade union 3F, the worry is that charging for language classes might prevent foreign workers from obtaining necessary language skills. This could impact the work environment and safety at workplaces.
“Foreigners suffer more accidents at work than others, and I’m certain that a lack of Danish skills is one of the reasons. That is also why the courses should be accessible to all,” General Secretary Søren Heisel states in an interview with 3F's magazine, Fagbladet.
If the bill is passed, the charge for Danish classes will apply to foreign workers, EU citizens, students and others who are currently entitled to language classes.
User-financed Danish language classes
The government’s tax agreement with the Danish People’s Party (DF) is partly financed by charging self-sufficient foreigners DKK 2,000 per module + DKK 1,250 in deposit on each module.
This adds up to a total of DKK 12,000 for the six modules that constitute a Danish language course