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Opinion | A letter of gratitude and promise
Dear expat, let me start by expressing my gratitude to you for the choice you have made to come to Denmark to work. It goes without saying that in a country of only five million people, expats are crucial for the continued growth and development of the country. Thank you for contributing to this with your presence and your skills.
The need for highly educated immigrants will become even more evident in the years to come. We are demographically challenged by a large number of people retiring from the labour market in the years to come and a decreasing fertility rate. This means that if we want to expand our supply of labour – and especially highly qualified labour – we need to look elsewhere. This also means that we need to make an extra effort to qualify people already in Denmark for the labour market of tomorrow, but we will also need a highly-skilled work force coming from other countries.
Some may find this statement rather peculiar at a time when we are facing a severe economic crisis and increasing unemployment rates. In their opinion, a more restrictive approach to highly-skilled labour immigration would benefit the national economy more.
I see things differently. I believe that we need to take every measure possible to form the best basis for economic growth. We need to embrace the options that globalisation offers. And although globalisation enhances the fierce competition for investments and jobs, it also undeniably creates new opportunities for growth and prosperity. It is a well-known fact that highly-skilled employees are important for companies’ ability to create growth. Not only are the highly-skilled themselves productive employees, but through their knowledge and innovation and management skills they also contribute to their colleagues’ productivity and thus generate development, new jobs and wealth.
There have been warnings that attracting highly-educated migrants will lead to ‘brain drain’ in certain parts of the world. I prefer to see it as ‘brain circulation’. While the receiving country benefits from expats’ knowledge and labour during their stay, their countries of origin will profit from the new knowledge and experience learned when they return home.
Therefore, we need to realise that people coming to Denmark for work may not stay forever. But in order for Denmark to benefit from the globalisation and for Danish companies to act on global markets, we need to do what we can, not only to attract but also retain highly-skilled knowledge workers and their families, at least for a while.
This may sound a bit odd to some as Denmark, especially over the last ten years, might have become best known for its strict rules on access to the country and a negative attitude towards immigration. The new government, which I am a proud member of, will uphold an immigration policy that is robust, but at the same time fair. And we bring with us a new and much more positive attitude towards those who choose to come to our country, who choose to live their lives here, and who choose to make their contribution to Danish society.
Dear expats, you have a lot to offer Denmark and I believe that Denmark has a lot to offer you and your families. This is a good starting point for a long lasting relationship. Let’s join forces to remove any obstacle to that relation becoming a reality.
The author is the social welfare and integration minister.