Danish Commerce: Denmark and Europe need expats
Peter Halkjær

September 18th, 2023

Peter Halkjær, Head of Labour Market Policy in the Danish Chamber of Commerce. Photo: PR

Denmark’s workforce is shrinking. As the population ages in the coming years, we will have fewer persons to solve the many challenges facing us: A climate crisis, upholding good welfare, and much more.

The problem is not just Danish, but European. In ten years, the UN expects that there will be 17 million persons fewer in the age 20-64 in the EU and the Nordic countries.

For years, Danish companies have struggled with a shortage of skilled workers. And with a shrinking workforce, it seems relevant to look for expats from countries outside of Europe. Not just to maintain the potential for economic growth, but also to uphold our welfare system.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has called to action. First and foremost, more people need to go from unemployment to having a job. We need to make sure that the many young people that are currently unemployed or outside the educational system get back on track.

We also need to get better at keeping seniors on the job market for longer. And we need reforms of the labour market.

More welcoming approach

But this alone won’t cut it. We also need to attract more international talent. This calls for fewer rules and regulations to make it easier for companies to hire expat-workers. And it calls for Danish society to have a more open and welcoming approach towards the many skilled expats coming to Denmark to work.

Many European countries are on the move. In Germany, the government is working on partnerships with other non-EU-countries to help balance a shrinking workforce. Likewise, the Italian government has approved a program that will include about 450.000 working-permits to persons from countries outside of EU.

In the Danish Chamber of Commerce, we have suggested that Denmark engages in partnerships with other countries to attract the much-needed international talent. We need to act before it is too late.

Danish salaries are high

This has caused debate, which is more than welcome. Unfortunately, most of the debate is criticism of our suggestions without presenting any realistic alternatives.

A good example of this is Niels Jespersen’s words here in CPHpost. He suggests that Danish businesses should simply raise the salaries. However, Danish wages are already high compared to other countries. If the wages are increased, Danish products will become more expensive, and we will export less.

If businesses need foreign workers, why don’t they pay more?

The result? Denmark will be a poorer country with less money for the welfare system.

And speaking of welfare: What about the labour shortage among the groups that works in the welfare system? Sorry, but higher wages are not a durable solution if we want to maintain both our wealth and welfare in the future.


Peter Halkjær

Peter Halkjær, Head of Labour Market Policy in the Danish Chamber of Commerce www.danskerhverv.dk


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