A 2011 study by the Centre for Economic and Business Research indicated that approximately 20 percent of all expats leave Denmark again within the first two years of arriving. In order to stop that trend, national and local authorities have passed a number of initiatives in recent years aimed at keeping highly skilled foreigners in Denmark for as long as possible.
The latest of those initiatives is the City Council’s expat package, which was unanimously passed last month as a continuation of efforts to make it easier for foreigners to transition to life in Denmark.
Begun in 2011 and running until at least 2014, the agreement focuses on improving the integration of immigrants in Copenhagen through job programmes and professional and social networks.
In all, some 18 million kroner has been set aside to fund the city’s integration efforts in 2013.
Claus Aastrup Seidelin, an advisor with Dansk Industri, the nation’s largest business lobby, agreed that the efforts were a step in the right direction, but said much still needs to be done to help foreign professional and their families settle and find work.
“One problem is that many immigrants leave Denmark because their spouse has trouble finding a job or is experiencing difficulties settling in,” Seidelin said.
Another focus area, according to Seidelin, should be foreign students. He argued they should be given more time to find a job after they complete their studies.
“Right now, they get six months and then they have to leave. We think they should automatically be handed a green card.”
Under the green card programme, foreigners with certain professional skills are permitted to live and seek work in Denmark. One of those taking advantage of the programme is Nadezhda Matveeva, who recently arrived in Copenhagen from Australia.
She applied for a green card in order to work in the finance industry here. She felt that the expat package could be of great assistance.
“I think it addresses some key issues that foreigners face when relocating to Denmark,” Matveeva said. “I think meeting Danes can be a bit daunting, and it seems difficult to create a network in the job market as a foreigner. The package is a good start in tackling these dilemmas.”
And while the city is making efforts to keep foreign workers who are already here, Seidelin called on the national government to take steps to make it easier to attract the employees companies say they will need in the years to come.
“Our need for highly skilled foreigners is not going to wane. How attractive we can be to them as a country has become a measure of global competiveness,” Seidelin said.
Factfile | Expat package
The expat package focuses on four strategies for fostering inclusion in the labour market and is described as contributing to helping non-ethnic Danes finding employment, getting off the unemployment benefits and generally making Copenhagen a more diverse, open and attractive city for foreigners to live in.
1. First Job in Denmark
First Job in Denmark seeks to keep highly qualified foreign professionals in Denmark and utilise them as a resource in the labour market. The programme offers six-week courses in Danish and a two-day orientation module in English. In 2011 First Job in Denmark ran 215 courses and 85 percent of course participants are either working or enrolled in studies six months after completing the course. Cost: 2 million kroner a year between 2013 and 2016.
2. Copenhagen Host Programme
The ‘Copenhagen Host Programme’ matches up new arrivals with Danish volunteers to better integrate them into the social and professional network. The target group incudes temporary and long-term residents. By December 2012, the Copenhagen Host Program will have matched up 150 new arrivals with a volunteer host. Programme organisers are seeking to make more formal agreements with partner organisations, while external funding is being looked at for after 2013. Cost: 1 million kroner a year up until 2013.
3. Copenhagen Career Programme
The Copenhagen Career Programme seeks to ensure a better reception and retention of expats by focusing on their accompanying spouses and students. By working with educational institutions, unions, companies and other public authorities, the two target groups will be kept informed of services for job seekers. Cost: 1 million kroner a year between 2013 and 2016.
4. Job counselling for green card holders
A 2010 study by Rambøll, a consultancy firm, indicated that 28 percent of green card holders are unemployed and 43 percent work in unskilled positions, while only 29 percent use the skills they brought with them. Drawing inspiration from Canada’s Community Bridging Programme, the new plan will provide good and updated information in foreign languages about the labour market, good transition programs and aid for qualifying educational documents, information about courses, as well as enlightening employers about the benefits of having a diverse workforce. Cost: 500,000 kroner a year between 2013 and 2016.