Foreign students want to stay but report difficulty finding work

New study shows that three quarters of international graduates are interested in staying in Denmark — if they can find a job

Foreign students are by and large interested in remaining in Denmark after completing their education, but many of them feel that Danish employers arenÂ’t interested in hiring them.

A new study conducted by Momentum – the newsletter of the association of local councils, Kommunernes Landsforeging – and the career centre at CBS surveyed 334 students from 52 different countries.

A whopping 77 percent said they could imagine staying in Denmark after their studies. But that, of course, would require finding a job, and the respondents weren’t very optimistic about their chances. Some 37 percent said that Danish businesses were uninterested in hiring qualified foreign workers, while 40 percent believed the opposite.

Despite the number of foreign students in Denmark skyrocketing in recent years, the difficulty of finding work often results in the students leaving the country.  

According to figures from the Agency for Universities and Internalisation (Styrelsen for International Uddannelse), the number of foreign students rose from just 793 in 2000 to 3,028 in 2009. A total of 17,306 international students were educated in Denmark between 2001 and 2009. Of those, just half remained in Denmark after their education, and of those that choose to stay, 74 percent have jobs.

The ability to find meaningful work is key to getting the students to stay, said Finn Kjerulff Hansen, a career councillor at CBS.

“If the students don’t find a job within six months, most of them go back home,” Hansen told Momentum. “Not least of all because Copenhagen is a very expensive place to live if you don’t have a job. The job market needs to be much more open to international students.”

The students in the study pointed to that fact, saying that it is very rare to find job openings posted in English. Some 59 percent said that they “rarely” or “almost never” saw job postings in English. Not surprisingly then, 78 percent of the respondents agreed that learning Danish was necessary in order to find work in Denmark.

The studentsÂ’ perception that finding work in Denmark is difficult was greeted with concern by Dansk Industri.

“It’s unfortunate that the foreign students have that impression,” DI’s research director Charlotte Rønhof told Momentum. “Not only does that weaken Danish companies’ opportunities to attract the most talented candidates, it is also factually incorrect. Danish companies to a great extent hire foreign specialists and will need them more and more moving forward.”

The large number of students that expressed their interest in staying in Denmark pointed first and foremost to CopenhagenÂ’s appeal. Over three quarters of the respondents specifically mentioned Copenhagen as one of the main appeals for staying in the country. The second most-popular reason was that students felt there was a better life-work balance in Denmark than in their home countries. While 70 percent of the respondents said they were not bothered by the countryÂ’s high level of taxes.

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