Denmark Relaxes Green Cards Rules to Address Labor Shortages

(Bloomberg) -- Denmark wants to attract more skilled workers from non-EU countries such as China, Russia, India and the U.S. by relaxing its green card rules in order to address labor shortages.

The government on Wednesday published a list of 12 countries whose nationals will be able obtain a work permit more easily. Specifically, workers from those countries will now need to earn gross annual salaries of 330,000 kroner ($51,000) to qualify, lowering the previous limit of 418,000 kroner. The government is also extending these provision to a broader category of workers and allowing applicants to start working while their paper work is still being processed.

Wednesday’s move represents another sign of a shift in the immigration policy of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s center-right government, which has in recent years grabbed international headlines and ended up dissuading skilled workers from moving to Denmark.

Integration Minister Inger Stojberg, who is seen as one of the cabinet members closest to the nationalist Danish People’s Party, recently irked the government’s key ally by saying she favored extending apprenticeship schemes for refugees beyond the current expiration date of 2019.

“If you want a well-functioning welfare state you need to ensure there’s enough labor available,” Finance Minister Kristian Jensen told Bloomberg in Copenhagen. “That’s why we’re launching this proposal, even though we know political views differ.”

With the economy in its ninth year of growth and unemployment down to 3.5 percent, a growing number of businesses, especially in construction and IT, are complaining about a lack of skilled workers. As much as 40 percent of all new jobs created over the past five years have gone to foreign workers, the government says.

Wednesday’s measures will need the approval of parliament, where the ruling coalition cannot be certain of a majority. The Danish People’s Party, which lends its external support to the minority government, is generally skeptical about policies that encourage immigration from outside the EU. Another potential source of support could come from the opposition Social Democrats. But Denmark’s biggest party says the government should prioritize the training of unemployed Danes instead.

Jensen could not say how many new workers the policy would attract.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.