Immigrant women from non-Western countries make up 25 percent of long-term cash welfare benefit (kontanthjælp) recipients. According to PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), this is unacceptable. At her weekly press conference on Tuesday, she expressed her concern and stressed the urgency of a solution.
Thorning-Schmidt said that the problem is that these women have not been met by any clear expectations regarding their presence in the labour market. But if they are to benefit from Denmark's welfare system, the PM said, it is necessary that they start contributing to the Danish society.
“It is not fair to them. But it is not fair to the rest of the society who are paying for it either,” said Thorning-Schmidt.
She stressed that it is unacceptable for someone to receive kontanthjælp for ten years.
“We have to find a way of getting these particular women back on the labour market,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
She acknowledged, however, that it is going to be difficult and maybe even impossible to rectify the situation, and placed the blame squarely at the feet of the former Venstre-Konservative government.
“It is a problem we have inherited,” Thorning-Schmidt said, adding that it would be addressed in the upcoming kontanthjælp reform.
Eyvind Vesselbo, a spokesperson for Venstre, directed the blame back at the current coalition government, saying that the immigrant women are not receiving the help they need.
“It seems more that there is an unwillingness to do something about it because large parts of the government consider these women weak, and see them as people who can't speak Danish and as people with no qualifications,” said Vesselbo.
Vesselbo said that the women should be forced into the labour market and that councils should explain to the women, and their husbands, that cultural differences over gender roles are not an acceptable excuse for not working.