Denmark to focus on integrating non-Western workers

Recent immigrant 27-year-old Manjot Singh walks around Copenhagen City Centre on Mar. 4, 2020. Taken by Caroline Kleine-Besten

Denmark can benefit from skilled immigrants from around the world – but how easy is the process of finding work in the country?

By Vanessa Balintec and Caroline Kleine-Besten 

As a professional chef, Manjot Singh travels to different parts of the world in search of learning new cuisines and techniques. Born in India, raised in Italy, off to London, then to Australia – in this profession, it’s not uncommon to go through the long process of finding a job in a foreign country, which Singh has done many times just to be faced with obstacles at every step.

After bad working conditions in London and no further career prospects in Australia, he decided to go to Denmark, where the process took a month and a half to find a job. Equipped with an Italian passport, immigrating proved to be easier than it would for a non-Western, non-EU citizen.

Local job centers are tasked with helping foreign workers integrate into Danish work life while government branches like Workindenmark employ a variety of different strategies, such as online advertising and presenting at job fairs online and onsite, to assist companies in finding skilled and highly educated foreign workers. The government prioritizes foreign workers in professions where there is a lack of qualified Danes. Currently, highly skilled workers in sectors such as information technology and engineering are wanted by the government and sought after by companies.

“If a company is looking for special qualifications that Denmark can’t find, they don’t really care if they’re from Germany of whether they’re from Argentina,” said Gitte Grønlund-Møller Workindenmark centre manager. “The perspective is, the worker from Europe, he can easily move to Denmark and start working, whereas the worker from Argentina needs to get permission to move to Denmark. Companies, they don’t care – it’s the skills. But entering Denmark is different. You sometimes have to separate it a bit.”

As an EU citizen, Singh only has to file an EU residence document within six months of entry, whereas non-EU workers would have to pay a fee, wait to be approved or denied, have their biometrics taken, and register with local authorities. After permits expire, depending on the circumstance, a non-Western worker has the opportunity to look for more work or claim retirement or residence under strict conditions – or face having to leave.

Singh went door to door to restaurants, trying to find a willing employer to hire him. Although going through multiple interviews – both for accommodation and for employment – he says the culture is a big difference compared to what he’s used to.

“Denmark is an expensive country, so you have to come with high reserves, especially if you don’t have a job in the beginning,” said Singh. “Many things have to be sorted out at the same time. It is difficult to decide if you want to invest the money, because if you find out that the job is not good enough, then you have lost the money. You have to find a house and a job, otherwise the state does not guarantee you can stay. It’s harder than in other countries. Here you really have to try to get all the documents together as soon as possible –  the longer it takes the more your budget shrinks.”

Despite the high cost of living and competitive housing market, Singh is looking to bring his fiancé from India to Denmark. To ensure he’s in the country long enough for that to happen, Singh is starting to learn Danish to also help advance his career.

“They said to me that they wouldn’t actually give me the job because I don’t speak Danish,” said Singh. “But they saw what experience I have and they couldn’t say no, because they knew they would lose someone good.”