Living in an Expat World: Adjust the tone, please

The tone in the political debate concerning international employees in Denmark has been shrill for quite some time. During the recent Danish election it became even worse and, as a result, six high profile employers from large Danish and international corporations stood forth in a national newspaper and asked for a more welcoming tone. “We need them,” was their message.

Black and white view
Politicians and the media are guilty of a black and white view on international labour. The debate focuses on social dumping, welfare tourism, eastern Europeans taking low-paying jobs, foreigners taking jobs from Danes and so on – instead of focusing on the need for international employees that the Danish companies experience.

In particular, the need for engineers, IT specialists and doctors is well-documented, but often neglected in the media, whereas many politicians focus on restrictions for recruiting international labour instead of making the process smoother.

More than workforce
Generally, the business community in Denmark agrees that international employees bring great value to Danish companies and that businesses depend on them in order to develop. At the same time, international labour is not only a solution to the workforce shortage, but also a great contributor to a thriving multicultural society and the Danish welfare state.

A recent survey found that international labour represented an 85 billion kroner net gain for Denmark in 2013. In short, international employees lift Denmark and are a vital prerequisite for development and growth.

Serious consequences
Personally, I love Denmark and have lived here for 17 years. However, the tone of the debate makes me feel unwelcome at times – and if I feel that way, so must many other internationals here. And how about the ones who consider coming to Denmark to live and work in the future – they will probably think twice about coming here. So it’s not just a question of the tone, it is also a question of being attractive to the future workforce in Denmark.

If nothing changes, companies will most likely experience that current employees leave and that it will be even harder to attract the much needed internationals in the future – so adjust the tone, please!