You´re Still Here | Should foreigners have access to the same welfare payments as Danes?

Foreigners from the European Union have been allowed limited access to some of the welfare services available.

For example, they can claim unemployment money for three months while they look for a job if they have temporary residence. They may also send child benefit out of the country to their children in other EU countries.

Perceived as unfair
There is a feeling that this is topsy-turvy. That foreigners are fine to come into Denmark to pay tax and contribute, but they should not be able to claim anything in return.

Or they should be allowed to claim, but they must be long-termers and not just passing through. Or they should be allowed to claim if they are long-termers, but they should not own any property in the old country.

Even though a Dane must work for 52 weeks over a three-year period to gain access to unemployment benefit, a foreigner from the EU only needs to work in Denmark for three months.

And if a foreign labourer drives home a few times a month, the tax deduction can mean that no tax is due, but they may still access the welfare system. This is perceived as being very unfair. As is the idea that child benefit or unemployment benefit can ever leave the country.

But would change be fair?
Proposed changes have been to increase the time a foreigner must live in Denmark before they are entitled to financial support, the means-testing of foreign assets and insisting on residence in Denmark to receive unemployment support.

Not much is made of child benefit money from other European countries entering Denmark. Or eastern Europeans who pay way over the odds in tax, without claiming any sort of benefits or entitlement.

Politicians and the media concentrate on the most extreme cases as a basis for making decisions. This is reactionary politics at its worst. And the situation is not as simple as presented.

It’s a two-way street
For every Pole sending Danish child benefit to their children in Poland, there are more Danes sending Swedish child benefit to their children in Denmark.

While there are individual cases of certain workers having travel deductions wipe out their tax bill, they are not the norm.

Eastern European immigrants paid more in tax between 2009 and 2011 than they received in welfare payments. And more than twice as much in 2011.

Where is this all going? It is not fair that Danish citizens can enjoy full rights of free European movement, while Denmark makes it harder for EU citizens to do the same. It’s not fair that eastern Europeans are vilified after they contribute so much.

How convenient for politicians that they do not have to talk about getting Danish people into gainful employment when they can talk in terms of outsiders taking more than their fair share.

Eastern Europeans are targeted because they are newcomers with a smaller network and less experience with the language.

This is bullying, not reasoned political debate. And another opportunity squandered.