Government takes steps to lure and retain foreign talent

Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg and the Minister for Employment Troels Lund Poulsen have presented a new government strategy to strengthen the recruitment of the international workforce in Denmark.

The measures will make it easier for Danish universities to attract top researchers, and will include a more flexible route to the workforce for international students and other steps to improve retainment of international students after graduation.

Key changes proposed include a reduction in the minimum income level for entry.

The government said that in 2017 there were 130,000 full-time international workers from European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries and 12,500 from ‘third countries’. In total foreign workers contributed DKK6 billion (almost US$1 billion) to the public finances in 2015.

"Today, third country citizens are contributing more to growth, welfare and public finances because of their higher competence level," noted the government.

But the bar for citizens of third countries is high – they must be earning a minimum annual salary of DKK417,792 (US$65,000) in their job in Denmark. The proposal is to lower that threshold to DKK300,000 per year (US$46,500).

Two other significant challenges are the extra bureaucracy involved in recruiting citizens from third countries, as opposed to from the EU/EEA; a requirement that payment of salary for an international citizen has to be sent to a Danish bank; and the over-restrictive fast-track certifying arrangement.

The new strategy will cut down on red tape, remove the Danish bank account requirement and ease restrictions on the fast-track arrangement.

It will also involve the publishing of a list of positive categories of employment where talent is needed to plug gaps in the workforce and make it easier to change jobs. There will be more flexible rules for working time and faster processing of data for family members accompanying recruited staff.

A list of favoured or ‘positive’ source countries has been drawn up, based on which countries sent most international experts to Denmark in 2017. In addition to the EU/EEA countries it includes the United States, Singapore, China (including Hong Kong), Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Mexico and Russia.

Head of International Staff Mobility at Copenhagen University (UCPH) Vivian Tos Lindgaard told University Post: "This makes it easier for UCPH to attract big names in research. A good example could be if we want to recruit a top researcher from the US, who would like to bring over his or her research group.

“The lowering of the payment limit can make it possible for us to employ people in research-support positions, like secretaries and laboratory assistants who are not researchers themselves."

Organisational innovations

Meanwhile, Danish stakeholders for international talent recruitment are staffing up their organisations and intensifying their recruitment campaigns with workers and students in order to recruit and retain them. A positive experience from their stay in Denmark, both for the expert and their families, is the new approach taken.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) has hired five people to run its office for 'DI Global Talent', headed by Linda Duncan Wendelboe, to secure international talent for the 10,000 member companies, and to publish "A guide to international recruitment".

A particularly successful mentor programme offered through International House Copenhagen is the Greater Copenhagen Career Programme, run by Business House Copenhagen in cooperation with Copenhagen Capacity. It works to retain international students and helps them to find employment in Denmark upon graduation.

It is a six-month mentoring and networking programme for full degree international students in the greater Copenhagen region and candidates who have graduated from a Danish educational institution within the last six months.

The purpose of the programme is “to help international students gain insight in the Danish labour market, to provide them with tools for their job search, to give them an understanding of how to use networking in their career strategy and to match them with the Danish companies through different activities”, according to its website.

The international graduates are able to meet with a professional mentor once a month to discuss job applications, CV writing and networking, and there are matchmaking events in different settings such as private companies and unions.

Since 2015 approximately 300 students have participated, the news agency Ritzau reported.

“In general we are short of people in most sectors and international students might hence make a difference and heighten the level of competence in knowledge branches, engineering sciences and in the IT sector," Peter Halkjær, chief labour market consultant at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, told the Danish broadcaster DR.

International House Copenhagen, established in 2013 as a public-private partnership, specialises in the reception and retention of international talent.

Jesper Langergaard, director of Universities Denmark, the Danish rectors’ conference, said its objective is to “provide international citizens with the best possible start to life in Copenhagen by giving them the comfort of a one-point entry”.

International House Copenhagen’s 27-member advisory board includes representation from the City of Copenhagen, Novo Nordisk, American Chamber of Commerce, Copenhagen Capacity, the Confederation of Danish Industry Global Talent, University of Copenhagen, Invest in Denmark at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Workindenmark, Danske Bank and SYBO Games.

Several of these companies have established their own international talent recruitment programmes, such as the Novo Nordisk international post-doctoral fellowship programme, established in 2013 and fully funded by Novo Nordisk with post-doc employment at Danish universities.

Danske Bank has established a ‘Talent Box’ programme at its development centre in Aarhus, staffed by two ‘talent coordinators’. International students may compete for the 25 places on the programme each term, writing their thesis in collaboration with Danske Bank, notably on digitalisation.

This report was been changed on 22 October to reflect that the Greater Copenhagen Career Programme is run by Business House Copenhagen in cooperation with Copenhagen Capacity and not by the association 'Young Professionals in Denmark', as previously stated.