CPH Post


Eastern Europeans haven't brought down wages

Salaries of manual laborers have risen by 22 percent since 2005

There might be Eastern Europeans willing to work for less, but Danish labourers still enjoy good salaries (Photo: Colourbox)

December 13, 2013

by PS

The salaries of manual labourers in the construction industry have not been suppressed by either cheap eastern European labour or the financial crisis.

New figures from Statistics Denmark show that the salaries of builders, painters and carpenters have actually increased by 22 percent since 2005.

“Despite a tough crisis, low demand, and ten to 15 percent of labourers being foreign, salaries have not dropped,” Lars Storr-Hansen, the managing director of industry lobby group Dansk Byggeri, told DR Nyheder.

READ MORE: Easter European workers flocking to Denmark

No minimum wage
There is no minimum wage in Denmark and salaries are normally agreed upon through annual collective bargaining agreements between unions, employers' associations and the government.

Cheap eastern European workers have been portrayed as a threat to the ‘Danish model’ by bypassing these negotiations and accepting lower salaries than Danish workers are prepared to take.

Germany will soon introduce a minimum wage, which labour market researcher Henning Jørgensen from the University Aalborg says could indirectly affect the Danish labour market.

“The development in Germany will force union leaders at home to start a discussion about which method of regulating salaries and employment conditions Denmark wants,” Jørgensen told Ugebrevet A4.

READ MORE: Business prefer eastern Europeans

Unions happy with current model
Germany was forced to introduce the minimum wage due to the low salaries that large numbers of people were forced to take in order to earn a living.

Jørgensen argues that Denmark may have to follow Germany’s lead, as the salaries of fewer and fewer Danes are being set according to collective bargaining agreements.

But Harald Børsting, the chairman of the trade organisation LO, argues that the Danish model is working perfectly fine.

“We don’t need a politically determined minimum wage in Denmark. The political system should not interfere in fundamental wage and employment conditions. If they start interfering in the minimum wage, where do you set the limit of their meddling?” he asked Ugebrevet A4.

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