Skilled workers streaming into Denmark

Young, well-paid foreign workers put money into state coffers and place little burden on services

Female students are predominant on five out of the six Copenhagen University faculties (photo: iStock)
February 18th, 2013 7:15 pm| by admin
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The number of educated workers coming to the country for jobs has increased fivefold since the early 1990s. 

The stream of skilled workers is largely due to special clauses in the immigration laws that allow for educated workers who already have jobs to enter the country easier. Between 1991 and 1995, figures from Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) show that just over 3,000 workers were in the country under special job schemes. Between 2006 and 2010, that number spiked to over 15,000 and the trend continued in 2011 and 2012, with more than 8,500 permits being issued to highly-skilled foreign workers over those two years. If the trend continues, over 20,000 workers from outside of the EU will be adding to the country’s brain power by 2015.

Business leaders called the growing numbers good news for the Danish economy. Industry advocacy organisation Dansk Industri (DI) said the foreign workers make Denmark more competitive in the world marketplace.

"Many of the highly-skilled foreigners come with some very specific skills that contribute to the competitiveness of Danish companies and help to create jobs," DI consultant Claus Seidelin told Politiken newspaper.

A 2011 study by the Centre for Economic and Business Research in Copenhagen showed that an average highly-educated immigrant with a family stays in Denmark for about eight years and contributes nearly two million kroner to the public purse.

"Highly-skilled immigrants who come to the country under special schemes are very often earning high salaries,” Rasmus Højbjerg Jacobsen, a co-author of the study, told Politiken. “Since many of them are in their 30s or 40s, they rarely get sick and put a strain on society. They also often leave before they get old and become a burden.”

The increase is partly the result of policy initiatives taken in recent years to attract highly-skilled workers, such as the green card scheme that allows highly-skilled foreigners to come to Denmark. Foreigners who have been offered a job with an annual salary of at least 375,000 kroner get very easy access to the labour market.

The increasing influx of foreigners is also seen as proof that Denmark is still perceived as an attractive country to live and work in, at least for a few years.

"It may well be that we have a high tax rate and have been hit by the financial crisis, but compared to other countries, things in Denmark still look pretty good,” Chantal Pohl Nielsen, a senior researcher at the Danish National Centre for Social Research, told Politiken.

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