Mayor aims to draw more foreign workers

A visit to Microsoft was the mayor’s first stop on a tour of area businesses with lots of foreign employees

Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) met with foreign workers last week at the Microsoft Development Centre in Vedbæk to discuss what the city can do to attract and retain skilled workers from abroad.

The visit was part of an initiative that will see Jensen, along with representatives from the Copenhagen Business Task Force, travel around the area to similar companies in the coming months. Copenhagen, according to numerous rankings, is among the most desirable cities to live in for foreigners, but Copenhagen hopes to use the lessons it’s learning to identify how to make it easier for companies to attract and retain foreign workers. “We have approximately 1,000 new residents coming to this city every month, so there is strong growth potential here,” Jensen said.

Microsoft was chosen as one of the first stops on the mayor’s tour due, in part, to its high percentage of foreign employees. About a third of the 500 people working at the company’s Vedbæk campus come from other countries.

One of them, Ed Martinez, from the US, said that Denmark needs a more bi-directional focus: “In the queen’s New Year’s address, she asked, ‘What can you do for Denmark?’ I would like to see her add, ‘What can Denmark do for you?’”

Martinez emphasised the need to create more incentives for Danes to join expat groups. His point being that it can be hard to break into the tightly knit Danish society. Linda Wendelboe, the spokesperson for the Microsoft Development Centre, said the company is aware of the challenges its foreign workers face, and it tries to help them by providing information about international schools, expat groups and other support networks.

She added that the company continuously reviews the services it provides foreign employees, and was considering whether it needed to provide more company information in English. Another Microsoft worker, Bogdana Botez, from Romania, had similar sentiments about receiving important information in Danish as opposed to English.

“I always receive healthcare check-up reminders in Danish. More foreign women would take advantage of the service if it was in English,” she said. Botez added that it was important to represent nationalities like hers in a positive light. “Most Romanians here are highly qualified people who want to make a difference, but a few bad apples spoil our reputation. We need initiatives in place to help those Romanians who aren’t as fortunate as I am, so they don’t end up living on the street because they can’t find employment.”

Started last year, the Copenhagen Business Task Force was created as a way to shore up the city’s reputation as a good place to do business. In contrast to its strong placing in quality of life surveys, Copenhagen lags behind competing cities when it comes to attracting new investments. Task Force chairman Leif Beck Fallesen, the former editor-in-chief of the financial daily Børsen, said the mayor’s initiative was a good way to build on the Task Force’s efforts.