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How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?

A centre coalition government is now a reality in Denmark, with new policies and a ministerial team confirmed and in place. How could the left-right coalition change things for foreign residents?

How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?
How might Denmark's new government change things for foreigners? Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

We took a closer look at the agreement between the Social Democrats, Liberal (Venstre) and Moderate parties – the three partners in the new government – to see which policies are most likely to affect foreigners who live in the country.

Skilled foreign workers

New policy could make Denmark more accessible for skilled foreign workers.

Skilled foreign labour is mentioned as part of a broader plan for “good conditions for growth and competitiveness for businesses and to promote foreign investment in Denmark”, in the agreement between the government parties.

The government says it will “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

This means making an existing deal to boost international recruitment permanent, and taking measures to prevent social dumping so foreign workers are given the same working conditions as Danes, it states.

“In addition to this, the government will introduce a scheme with lower pay limits [beløbsordninger, ed.] for certified companies which are encompassed by controlled wage and working conditions,” it says.

An annual quota of work permits will be released under the scheme, which will be reviewed every two years, according to the plan.

“This will, under controlled conditions, give access to additional labour,” it says.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

International students

Government policy in recent years has made Denmark less attractive for international students, but that could change under the new government.

“The government wants to establish 500-1,000 new study places on English-language vocational Master’s degree programmes, targeted at areas with high demand for labour,” it says in the agreement text.

A “dialogue with universities” will “seek to increase the number of international students within defined areas where Danish companies need highly educated labour,” it adds.

Possible adjustment of immigration and asylum rules 

Existing asylum practice in Denmark has received stern criticism, not least for repeated reports of cases in which Syrian refugees, often young women, have had their residence in Denmark revoked because it is considered safe for them to return to the Damascus area.

Older people and children are often also impacted by the rules, but not young men who could face being forced into the military. This has resulted in families being split up in some cases.

READ ALSO: Denmark reverses residence decisions for hundreds of Syrian refugees

The new government states that it will “address the problem we have recently seen where young women from Syria have lost their residence permit despite having shown they want to be part of Denmark”.

“The government will therefore give continued residence for certain foreigners who are educated in areas where there is a labour shortage,” it adds.

There is some suggestion in the agreement that immigration rules in general – and not just asylum rules – will be looked at in this context.

“We want immigration laws that are strict – but at the same time, don’t mean that unintended rules trip up ordinary families,” the government states.

Residence permit agency to get investment

As part of the plan to improve companies’ access to skilled foreign labour where there is demand (see above), the government says it wants to “ensure faster and more efficient case processing at the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI)”.

Money will be set aside for this in the budget, it states.


Family reunification

The incoming government could ease up on years of strict practices by easing family reunification rules.

Specifically, the new government wants to change language criteria applied in family reunification cases.

It also wants to halve the so-called “bank guarantee” (bankgaranti), a requirement which demands couples deposit a large sum of money with municipalities while the foreign partner is granted residence.

READ ALSO: What do we know so far about Denmark’s plan to relax family reunification rules?

Plans for Rwanda asylum facility reworded

The former Social Democratic minority government had a long-term objective of moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda.

The new government platform states that it will go ahead with the plan but would prefer to work in partnership with the EU or other European countries. There is little enthusiasm for the idea within the EU at the current time.

However, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said this week that that such a centre could “ultimately” still be the result of a bilateral agreement between Denmark and Rwanda.

READ ALSO: Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?

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Finance minister hints at payrises in Danish care sectors

Denmark’s Minister of Finance Nicolai Wammen has hinted that more professions than the four care sectors currently slated for wage increases could be given a payrise in upcoming negotiations.

Finance minister hints at payrises in Danish care sectors

The government has stated it wants to give higher wages to public employees who work in the social care (SOSU in Danish), child care (pædagoger), nursing and prison officer sectors.

The so-called lønløft or payrise for these groups is a stated aim of the government in upcoming tripartite talks (termed trepartsforhandlinger in Danish) between the government, employers and trade unions.

Additional sectors could also be recipients of the 3 billion kroner the government wants to spend boosting wages, Wammen said on Wednesday.

“We want to make an extra effort [for the sectors explicitly named],” he said ahead of initial meetings ahead of the negotiations.

“But we are not saying with this that other groups can’t come in, but this is our starting point,” he said.

Labour market representatives of both employees and employers – in other words, trade unions and employer confederations – can both push for changes to the government proposal during the tripartite talks.

“We are now setting up for negotiations. We’ll know how the final model is going to look once we’ve reached an agreement,” Wammen said.

The proposal for higher wages in the four areas was announced by the government earlier this week, with one of its stated goals being to attract more staff to address shortages.

The proposed payrises could amount to 2,500 kroner per month for people working in the sectors, provided they meet with the government’s demands related to conditions such as working hours.