Bureaucracy scares away foreigners and businesses

An exodus of companies from Denmark due to the smothering hand of council and state bureaucracy has politicians scrambling to react

The process of attracting and retaining highly-skilled foreigners to Danish shores is so excruciating and intricate that companies are being coerced to seek greener business pastures overseas, metroXpress newspaper reported today.

Months of waiting for work permits to be issued and documents to be translated – combined with the nation's stringent immigration laws – have contributed to Denmark becoming an inefficient and unattractive environment from which to hire foreign workers. As a result, Denmark’s ability to compete on the international stage is at risk.

One Danish company that has already fled the bureaucratic quagmire in Denmark is the take-away portal Just-Eat.com, who employs 800 people globally, but only 170 in Denmark. One of the prime reasons for their move to London was the inability to attract the top skilled workers, according to Just-Eat's international director, Klaus Nyengaard.

“We have a massive need for talent. I would have loved for our head offices to remain in Copenhagen, but it must be quick and un-bureaucratic to recruit global talent,” Nyengaard told metroXpress. “It makes a huge difference to us that we have to wait several months for an engineer with the desired expertise.”

Industry advocate organisation Dansk Industri (DI) contends that, ultimately, the loser in the dilemma is the Danish society.

“Denmark is competing with the rest of the world for a limited number of highly-skilled people who possess specialised knowledge within their field,” Jannik Scharck Linnemann, a DI spokesperson, told MetroXpress. “There is not enough of a talent pool in Denmark for the required types.”

Some 18 of the largest companies operating in Denmark – including Maersk, Arla, Carlsberg and Novo Nordisk – joined forces in 2010 to form the Consortium for Global Talent (CGT), an initiative that aims to attract and retain global talent in the country.

“It’s very unfortunate that companies leave Denmark because it influences the Danish economy," Tine Horwitz, the CEO of CGT, told metroXpress. "There needs to be more focus on how much the foreign work force contributes to society. There is a political will and comprehension, but a clear strategy and plan to attract highly-skilled workers is regrettably lacking.”

On top of the bureaucratic pitfalls involved in hiring skilled foreigners, dire economic predictions in Denmark have forced many Danish companies to consider moving production elsewhere in an attempt to reduce expenditures.

According to DI and CGT, the five central areas requiring improvement are: quicker processing for work and residence permits; simplifying the process of having essential foreign documents translated to Danish; easier access to international schools; making public services and official correspondence available in English; and special assistance to help foreign workers’ spouses find work.

Copenhagen's mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), has said that he is well aware of the dilemma and has stepped up a campaign aimed at attracting and keeping foreign workers in Denmark.

The City Council initiated an ‘expat-package’ in a bid to address the issues that foreign talent face when coming to Denmark and has also funded the expansion and creation of international schools.

Jensen has also said that he will look at implementing English as a working language of the council so that foreigners receive correspondence in a language that they understand.