Socio - cultural situation in Denmark
In Denmark, as for many other European Countries, the demographic changes cause a great deal of problems for the population. The group of elderly people is getting bigger, because the live longer (the average lifespan is increasing by 6-8 years by year 2100) and the group of young people is getting smaller because of the low fertility rate. As for the nearer future, in 35 years, there is going to be 50% more people over age 60 than there is today. This means that here is going to be more people to support, than there are people to support them, which create worries on the labour market as for lack of workers. In Denmark there is a great need for workers in almost all kinds of jobs, both high and low skilled jobs, all from doctors, engineers to taxi drivers and workmen. Therefore there it is necessary to import foreign workers. Denmark already has a large number of foreign workers, 158.122 workers in 2007, from several different countries but the problem is, that these workers only stay in Denmark for a short period of time and then leave. This means that the lack of workers is an ongoing problematic issue in Denmark. Below the legislative issues and statistics with foreign workers will be clarified followed by examples of initiatives by VIFIN, local and national organizations/institutions.
The Danish Law
The legislation for working in Denmark is different depending on the citizenship the workers have. Citizens from Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark) are legitimate to travel and work in the Nordic countries. EU and EEC-citizens have according to the European law free movement and rights to work in other European countries. There is a special exception for the 10 new EU countries (Bulgarian, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary) if they have a job, that is covered by the agreement of the minimum salary on a specific trade between the union and the employer (overensskomst). Non-western country citizens have to have a work permit visa.
Today Denmark is one of the EU-countries that has the biggest immigration of foreign workforce out of the total immigration into Denmark. In 2005 the share of the immigrants, who came to Denmark to work is 42% of all the immigrants, which was almost an increase of 10% of the numbers from 2003. Norway, Sweden and France made about 30% of the workforce immigration. The foreign workforce is very important to the economical growth in Denmark, the immigrants make 6% of the employment and about 50.000 is from western countries and the rest is from non-western countries.
Below is the number of foreign workers in Denmark in 2007. It shows that Norway and Sweden is the on the second (7.863 persons) and third (7659 persons) highest range and Iceland is on the seventh (3148) range of the western countries. Latvia and Lithuania is in the group of the rest of the western countries.
Den udenlandske arbejdskrafts oprindelse (personer)
As mentioned before the majority of the foreign workers, who come to Denmark, only stay for some years. That could be the reason why Denmark constantly is lacking foreign workforce. The jobs are al from engineering, IT-workers to cleaning jobs and jobs in the health sector. Especially the health sector is going to need staff in the future.
Initiatives by VIFIN
VIFIN has together with some European institutions in Poland, Lithuania, Norway and England made a Welcome Package, which is a part of the Lifelong Learning Programme -Grundtvig, and which has the purpose to expand and make the foreign workforce in Denmark and in Europe ready to the challenges of working in a foreign country. This project focuses on what needs the workers from Poland and Lithuania have concerning general information and education when the look for work in Denmark, Norway and England.
Another project from VIFIN is called "Dansk.nu" which is an online e-learning website, where the foreign workers (people, who are learning Danish as second language) easily can learn Danish in Denmark but also from another country before they come to Denmark.
Vejle municipality and local initiatives
The Job centre from Vejle municipality has together with Fredericia, Kolding and Middelfart municipalities taken the initiative to arrange a conference focusing on the recruiting and hiring foreign workforce. The purpose is to develop the knowledge about the opportunities for the Job centres to help Danish companies, which consider hiring foreign working capacity. The Job centres are able to offer guidance about hiring and having foreign working capacity at the company. The Job centers have EURES-consultants, who are able to advise and guide the companies, which hire foreign workers.
Furthermore Vejle municipality is collaborating with Finland and Germany on an EU project (Grundtvig), ‘Education in Intercultural Mediations related to Public Administration Service’ (EMPASSE), about diversities at a workplace and how to develop the competences of the different people who work in public jobs. Vejle municipality has developed and completed a collaboration with Sønderborg municipality, ’out of min workplace’ (Ud af min arbejdsplads), that creates attention to the obstacles and barriers that exist at work place with diversity.
It can be difficult for foreign workers to come to Denmark and not only work but live. There are different things one has to know, learn and understand. It is therefore important to have different kinds of networks, not only at the place of work, but also in the spare time to integrate into the society. The integration project called HOME TOWN is at project that has the purpose of securing the best integration, physically and socially for international workers outside the working hours. This is a way of attracting more foreigners to come to Denmark to work. The qualified international workers helps Denmark and then Danish employer, therefore it is their job to help the international worker to settle in Denmark, especially outside the working hours.
Locally in Vejle there is a place called Ny Højen (about 350.000 m2) which is one of HOME TOWNs in Denmark. It has 435 residences in areas of natural beauty. Besides the attractive location there is a service centre in the middle of the town, where the residents can receive guidance and advice concerning the Danish legislation, tax-rules etc. Different social activities are also offered her as following:
● SpouseClub (meeting place for partners)
● FamilyClub ( meeting place for families, who want to meet other families)
● ChildrensClub (sports activities and other kinds of spare time occupations)
● SportsClub (place where residents who want to make some kind of tournaments and other sports activities between each other)
● CultureClub ( cultural events)
HOME TOWN has facilities as swimming bath, wellness centre, sports hall, fitness centre, locations to spend some spare time, which has a café and kiosk, and grounds for outdoor activities like play grounds, tennis-, soccer-, basketball-, beach volley grounds and running paths.
The Danish Ministry of Education has a together with the Ministry of Education in Iceland an agreement (2007-2011) concerning teaching Danish as a compulsory foreign language to the Icelandic pupils. The purpose of this agreement is to make the teaching of Danish stronger as for the understanding of the Danish culture in Iceland, what also makes it easier for Icelanders by have the understanding about Denmark and knowing the language if they choose to come to Denmark.
There are some websites on the internet where foreign workers can ’meet’ other foreign workers to create some social networks that makes it easier to deal with barriers of staying as a foreign worker in Denmark and then they have the opportunity to help each other with practical problems in this social network. The website has been created by The Danish Trade (Dansk Erhverv).
DI and the consultancy, Life in Denmark, collaborates on making it easier for foreign workers to settle down in and even stay longer, than they usually do. Foreign workers, who are highly qualified, have a tendency to leave Denmark after some years. The reason to leave after a short period may be cause by several reasons among other, family and lack of integration. It takes about a half million kr. to recruit and hire and high qualified foreign worker, so it is not only a cost for the macro level economy, if the workers leave after a short period, but it is also costly for the companies that hires them. Mostly it is not the job or the salary that makes the foreign workers leave; it is often the cultural barriers and lack of social network in the spare time which affects the workers on their social well-being.
The collaboration between DI and Life in Denmark offers the companies and the foreign workers at the companies guidance and advice on every concern about the work and importantly also about the life outside the work as for social networking etc. The Life in Denmark program offers classes in other cultures, support and social networking trough courses, 24 hours hotline service, panel of experts and not at least social and professional events.