A new era of Danish immigration policy is coming

Labor shortage is a big challenge for Denmark. Could it spell the demise of the harsh immigration policy that has dominated the political scene for years?

You have most likely experienced this for yourself: it is not always easy to be a foreigner in Denmark. Yes, we might seem to be reserved, culturally speaking – but that is not what I mean in this respect. 

For the past two decades, the main drive in Danish politics has been to reduce the number of foreigners coming to the country.

For most political parties, this hasn’t meant all foreigners; the aim has been to restrict the inflow people from the Middle East and to reduce the number of unskilled eastern Europeans on the Danish labor market. 

With immigration at the top of the government agenda, wielded as a tool to swing voters, political rhetoric about foreigners and Danish immigration laws have both become harsher over the years.

That environment has not been easy to navigate in as a new citizen. I know because I am married to one myself.

But this could be about to shift. A wind of change is blowing in Christiansborg as more political parties address Denmark’s new challenge: labor shortage.

Political wind of change 
In 2022, a survey by the business association Dansk Industri found that 40 percent of its members perceived the lack of labor as the number-one challenge to future growth.

Some labor unions have also begun to express public concern about the lack of skilled labor. 

That this concern is finding its way into the political system is new. Meanwhile, we see interest in the immigration issue declining among voters quite significantly.

According to our data in Rud Pedersen Public Affairs, only 13 percent of voters want to reduce immigration. That figure is historically low.  

Altogether, these figures may illuminate the contours of Denmark’s future immigration policy.

For instance, the government party Moderaterne just proposed that Danish businesses who are part of a collective bargaining agreement should automatically be granted access to employ non-EU workers.

The Prime Minister, who has a history of being hawkish on immigration, has also expressed the need for more foreign labor in Denmark.  

A path to softer immigration policy?
Soon, the government will present its much-anticipated 2030 Plan, detailing its economic and political strategy.

The plan will show us how the three parties in the government coalition will deal with the challenge of a shrinking workforce, caused by the replacement of the larger, older generation by the smaller, younger generation.

This nut must be cracked. If it is not, there will neither be enough labor to operate the welfare sector, nor to pay taxes to welfare. 

The government’s strategy remains to be seen, but many paths seem to point to a solution that includes a softening of the country’s tough immigration policy.

People in the political system are talking about initiatives like fast-track hiring processes for internationals and concrete policies to retain foreign talent.

If these policies come to fruition, they will not only impact the lives of many readers here, but will also constitute a new era for Danish politics.