Danes once again discuss who is a Dane

Denmark’s long-running, some might say exhausting, debate on just what it means to be ‘a Dane’ has flared up again thanks to the wording of a declaration approved by parliament.

Danes once again discuss who is a Dane
Who is a Dane? Don't ask the Danes, because they can't agree. Photo: Colourbox
The Danish People’s Party (DF) last week introduced a statement expressing formal concern over the number of residents in Copenhagen suburb Brøndby Strand who have an “immigrant background”. 
“Parliament notes with concern that today there are areas in Denmark where the number of immigrants from non-Western countries and their descendants is over 50 percent. It is parliament’s opinion that Danes should not be a minority in residential areas in Denmark,” the statement reads
The official declaration was approved by a vote of 55-54, with government coalition parties Venstre, Liberal Alliance and the Conservatives joining DF. 
All opposition parties voted against it, with many taking issue with the use of the word ‘Danes’ in the second sentence. Critics argued that by approving the statement, parliament essentially told Danish citizens who are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants that they aren’t really ‘Danes’. Under their reading of the statement, only someone whose parents are Danish, or at least Western, would be considered one of the Danes. 
Back and forth debate
Even before the statement was approved, opposition parties slammed the wording of the text as divisive and discriminatory. 
“This is one of the most extreme groupings into ’them and us’ that I’ve seen in a long time. And to pass it with votes from a so-called liberal government. That’s too much,” Pernille Skipper of the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) wrote on Facebook. 
Morten Østergaard, the political leader of the Social Liberals (Radikale), also took issue with the wording. 
“How will we ever achieve good integration if it is stated in advance that your ethnic background prohibits you from being considered Danish? This isn’t just trivial hair-splitting, this is alarming!” he wrote. 
As the debate over the wording took off, government coalition party Venstre seemed to express regret, or at least internal disagreement. 
“It’s being read as if we believe that you cannot be a Dane if you’re not born in Denmark or if your parents aren’t born in Denmark. We obviously don’t mean that. There are a lot of people who come here and embrace Denmark, and who are Danes, and that is wonderful,” party spokesman Jan Jørgensen said on Sunday morning, adding that the wording was “foolish”.  
However, later in the same day Jørgensen’s party colleague Marcus Knuth said that Venstre stood by the wording. 
Danish People's Party no stranger to this topic
DF’s Martin Henriksen steadfastly defended the formulation.
“I think that most Danes are outraged that there are places in Denmark where the Danes are obviously a minority,” he said in a heated TV2 debate with Skipper
“If you look at the official statistics, there are places where immigrants and the descendants of immigrants from non-Western countries are the majority. We in the Danish Peoples’ Party think that’s a problem and we need to talk about it,” Henriksen added. 
It was also Henriksen who spurred a previous round of national hand-wringing over who should be able to call themselves ‘Danish’ when he refused to say whether an 18-year-old man participating in a political talk show – who was born in Denmark, went to state schools and speaks fluent Danish – is “a Dane”. Henriksen said he couldn't say whether Jens Philip Yazsani, whose mother is Danish and father is Iranian, is a Dane because he “[doesn't] know him”. 
Yazsani said it was the first time in his life that someone had questioned his Danishness and the much-discussed televised exchange was followed by endless posts on social media on what makes one Danish. In the midst of that debate, things took another turn when Queen Margrethe told Der Spiegel that Denmark is “not […] a multicultural country”
'Danishness' was 2016's hot topic
A few weeks later, the queen caused the ‘Danishness’ debate to flare up again when she said that “it’s not a law of nature that one becomes Danish by living in Denmark”. 
All of this followed another protracted and heated debate over the summer as a result of DF’s ‘Our Denmark’ campaign that was criticised for lacking diversity. That controversy only intensified when DF spokesman Søren Espersen defended the ad by using a word that many in Denmark find racist
“Personally, I'm colour blind so I don't even know what colour they [the people featured in the campaign] are. …We could have inserted a Negro [into the campaign], and so what? What would that change?” he said in an interview with TV2. 
There were in fact so many debates about ‘Danishness’ in 2016 that it was selected as the word of the year.
Seven weeks into 2017, and it looks as if the Danes are no closer to deciding who’s a Dane. 
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Which regions in Germany need foreign engineers?

Germany’s worker shortage is hitting the engineering sector hard, and there are huge differences in worker shortages between the regions. The Association of German Engineers (VDI) is calling for Germany to be more welcoming to foreign engineers in order to fill the gaps.

Which regions in Germany need foreign engineers?

What’s going on?

Germany is currently facing a worsening shortage of skilled workers, with employers struggling to fill around 630,000 job vacancies in various industries. The engineering sector is particularly affected and saw a 21.6 percent increase in vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

According to the latest figures from the Association of German Enginners (VDI), there are currently 170,300 vacancies for engineers.

READ ALSO: ‘600,000 vacancies’: Why Germany’s skilled worker shortage is greater than ever

There’s a particular shortage of civil engineers, computer scientists and electrical engineers which is leading to hold-ups in public construction and digitalisation projects.

Which regions are particularly struggling?

Though there are shortages everywhere, there is a widening gap between the numbers of foreign engineers in large cities and those in rural areas.

In Munich, for example, foreign nationals make up almost 13 percent of the total number of engineers. In the Stranberg district of the city, more than one in four engineers are foreigners.

The employment of foreigners in engineering professions is highest in Berlin where they make up 18.6 percent of engineers, followed by Hamburg with 13.3 per cent and Bavaria with 12.7 per cent. Schleswig-Holstein has the lowest proportion of foreigners out of the western German states with a share of 4.9 per cent.

Employees of the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin Brandenburg work on a production line of a Model Y electric vehicle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

In eastern states like Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt, foreign engineers are few and far between, despite being desperately needed.

There are also differences between the states in terms of the types of engineers needed. For example, in the last quarter of 2022, the total number of vacancies in information technology jobs in Hesse increased by 49.7 per cent, in Baden-Württemberg by 45.2 per cent and in Berlin/Brandenburg by 40.1 per cent, while the number in Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland decreased by 23.5 per cent.

READ ALSO: Germany sees ‘over 550 percent increase’ in Indian IT workers over decade

The demand for civil engineering jobs, however, decreased significantly in Berlin/Brandenburg (-3.8 per cent), Saxony (-7.7 per cent) and Saxony-Anhalt/Thuringia (-7.8 per cent).

According to the VDI, the huge differences in the proportion of foreign engineers mainly depend on which universities and companies there are in the region.

If there are technical universities with lots of foreign students, this increases the proportion of engineers with foreign passports in the region.

The presence of factories or international corporations has a similar effect. For example, the proportion of foreign engineers in the Oder-Spree district in Brandenburg was stuck at two to three percent for a long time. But at the end of 2020, that figure tripled within a few months – thanks to the car manufacturer Tesla opening a factory there.

Germany needs to be “more welcoming” to foreigners

Head of the VDI, Dieter Westerkamp has said that without a strong influx of foreign skilled workers, Germany will not be able to close the gap in the labour market for engineers and that this could ultimately slow down Germany’s economic development.

READ ALSO: IN DEPTH: Are Germany’s immigration offices making international residents feel unwelcome?

The VDI is now calling for Germany to make itself more attractive to foreign engineers. The German government recently published a new draft law which aims to plug its skills gap by adapting its immigration laws. Amongst other things, the proposals aim to loosen the requirements for Blue Card applicants and to bring in a points-based job seekers visa. 

However, Westerkamp complains that some immigrants wait months for a visa appointment at the German embassy and that staff shortages at the foreigners’ offices lead to delays.

A recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Skilled Migration Monitor also found that managers increasingly complain about bureaucratic and legal hurdles as well as difficulties in the recognition of qualifications for foreign workers. 

Westerkamp said that Germans must understand that their standard of living can’t be maintained without more immigration and said that, people must “give foreigners the feeling that they are welcome in this country”.