Denmark opens doors to foreign talent

Expat news
  • companies in Copenhagen, Denmark
Published on 2023-02-08 at 11:48 by Asaël Häzaq
Denmark is heavily relying on immigration to counter the acute labor shortage in certain sectors. The Danish government has come up with a special scheme to attract qualified foreign talent and created a list of jobs that are under pressure. So what are the opportunities that are currently available in Denmark for prospective expats?

Which sectors are hiring in Denmark?

On January 1, the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration published two new lists of sectors in demand. The first list includes 40 positions that are open to foreigners with a higher education, called the “Positive List for People with a Higher Education”. The second, the “Positive List for Skilled Work”, has 36 positions intended for foreigners with experience and professional qualifications. Both lists will be valid until June 30, 2023. In both cases, foreigners will need to have a job offer before applying for their visa.

Eight sectors in tension require foreign professionals with higher education

Among the "higher education" list, 8 sectors are particularly in demand. They are: 

  • Management in production and services that urgently require biologists, chemists, urban planners, product managers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, environmental engineers, electronics engineers, natural science engineers. Applicants must have a professional or non-professional master's degree. The Danish government only requires a bachelor's degree for the product manager. Engineers can choose between a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.
  • Health care, which currently has an acute need for hospital doctors, medical doctors, veterinarians, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists. Applicants must have a master's degree and a license issued by the Danish authorities to practice. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists must have a vocational bachelor's degree, with permission from the Danish authorities.
  • Teaching and education, especially with assistant professors (university college), teachers for vocational upper secondary, upper secondary, teachers (primary), social workers in education, etc. Candidates must have the vocational baccalaureate and, depending on the case, an official recognition from the state.
  • Economics, administration and sales are urgently in need of accounting controllers, financial analysts and auditors. Auditors must have a master's degree. For the other two professions, a bachelor's degree is required.
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT) is another sector facing a skills shortage. It is looking for computer engineers, computer architects, programmers and system developers, computer consultants, computer project managers or system administrators. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree.
  • Law, social sciences and culture with lawyers, social workers, priests, psychologists, singers, and instrumentalists. Applicants must have a master's degree, except for social workers (professional license), singers and instrumentalists (license level). 
  • Science, engineering, navigation, aviation. The Danish government is, in fact, looking for architectural and construction technology managers with a professional bachelor's degree. 
  • Health care technology and assistance. The Danish government is looking for dental hygienists. These professionals will need to have a bachelor's degree and a license from the Danish government.

Eight sectors in tension requiring qualified workers

There are also 8 areas of high demand in the "professional qualifications" list. In this particular case, there is no longer the requirement for a specific degree level from the Danish government:

  • Science and engineering are in need of plumbers, foremen, machine builders, geotechnicians, and laboratory assistants.
  • Business and administration are looking to recruit shipping agents, sales consultants, sales and account managers, import and export employees, building managers, legal secretaries, medical secretaries, and logistics, sales and purchasing employees.
  • Legal, social, cultural and related occupations with a need for kitchen managers, parish clerks, office assistants, senior office clerks, general clerks and secretaries.
  • Numerical and physical recording clerks who lack bookkeepers, payroll accountants, bookkeeping and accounting clerks.
  • Personal care attendants where there is an acute demand for landscape gardeners, skilled market-oriented agricultural workers and nurserymen, and social and health care assistants (Danish government approval required).
  • Construction and related trades (including electricians) are urgently looking for bricklayers, carpenters, house painters and decorators.
  • Metalworks, machinery and other related trades are looking for sheet metal workers, welders, blacksmiths, industrial technicians, CNC operators, crane mechanics, agricultural and industrial machinery mechanics, and passenger car and van mechanics.

Other skilled occupations facing shortages are personal services, electrical and electronic workers, food processing, wood processing, garment production, and other artisanal trades.

How is the Danish labor market faring?

"The Danish miracle", that is, the Danish social model, is based on "flexicurity ", or the combination of flexibility and security. This concept helped the country to half its unemployment rate from 12% in the mid-1990s to 6.2% in 2004. However, this social model has been put to the test by the health crisis, and the country is now looking for a new impetus to get its economic expansion back on track.

A win-win situation for employers and employees?

This model aims to adapt to the evolution of both the labor and the economic markets, which at the end of the day, implies more flexibility from businesses. Thanks to “Flexicurity”, they can lay off more easily, and make greater use of temporary employment and flexible working hours to improve responsiveness and adaptability. In Denmark, such flexibility in the work organization is viewed positively, as it is accompanied by real guarantees. While companies can dismiss more easily, employees enjoy greater social security. They benefit from longer and/or more substantial compensation in the event of dismissal, are entitled to training, apprenticeship, and job-seeking schemes, and enjoy the same social protection rights, regardless of the nature of their contract.

The Danish labor market amid the global crisis

Is the Danish social model crisis-proof? Economists have been questioning themselves during the health crisis, especially since this system can prove to be rather expensive. In 2021, the OECD published a positive report, stating that the Danish economy is among the fastest rebounding ones, with +4.9% in 2021, after a drop to 2% in 2020 and +3.1 in 2022. Unemployment remains low (4.5% in 2021), despite a slight rise in 2022 to 4.7%. Denmark is deemed more resilient than its European neighbors, as the unemployment rate stands at 7.2% in Sweden, 7% in France and 6.7% in Finland. Still, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Ireland are doing slightly better than Denmark, with unemployment rates between 3 and 4.4 percent. 

According to economists, this can be considered the success of Denmark's flexicurity strategy. The ease of layoffs has allowed companies to keep their head out of the water during the crisis, namely with part-time work, partial unemployment, and remote working. The high level of social security coverage and the active support measures for returning to work have helped workers to find a job quickly. In fact, economists believe that this is the major reason for Denmark's low unemployment rate. But inflation, which peaked at 8.9% in 2022, is weighing on people's finances and threatening the country's growth, while the job market is under pressure. Companies need to recruit to expand further, and helping them is the main purpose of the government's plan to allow the recruitment of more foreign professionals.

Useful links:

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI): apply for a work permit

Danish Ministry of Employment (Beskæftigelsesministeriet)

Work in Denmark