The aim of Danish society is to make as many people independent of public support as possible. This is also the desire of the refugees themselves, but it surprises many how difficult it is to get a job in Denmark.
In recent years, there has been much focus on getting new refugees on to the labour market as soon as possible – which in the long term is not necessarily the best solution. Research from Hans Lassen shows that education provides more lasting self-sufficiency and a higher level of income. That is why we should probably invest more in getting refugees educated in different ways than getting them quickly into unskilled jobs. Unfortunately, with the new paradigm shift, things are going in the opposite direction.
Many municipalities are actively working to get refugees into jobs and integrated, see, for example, the activities of the municipality of Copenhagen for businesses and refugees themselves , as well as volunteers.
Company internship programme
If a refugee cannot find a job immediately, or a job with wage subsidies, they can get an internship, in other words, unpaid work experience in a company, often combined with language school. During the course of the internship, the refugee learns the company's tasks and the company has the chance to get to know the potential new employee before any employment is offered. As a refugee, you can also gain experience of the Danish labour market and have the opportunity to practise the Danish language. In this way, you will improve your chances of getting jobs, even elsewhere in the future. An internship usually lasts 3 months but can be extended. During the process, you will typically receive integration benefit (now called self-sufficiency and repatriation benefit). The number of refugees in company internships has risen in recent years, as well as the numbers in wage subsidised employment.
There can be many positive elements in an internship, but there is also an unfortunate tendency for companies to take advantage of refugees as a free labour force, and then simply say 'no thanks' to hiring them after the end of the period. Municipalities have a duty to activate their refugees, and therefore all too often accept a company tasking a refugee with duties from which they do not learn anything, repeatedly extending the internship period without offering regular employment.
From the point of view of the refugee, it can seem pointless and humiliating to do a real full-time job plus transport time without getting a penny for it. Neither can you threaten to speak up or get help from your trade union, as an ordinary employee can. It can also be very difficult to get your work/life balance in order if you have both a full-time internship, language school, transport time for both, and perhaps also children on top of this.
Among the companies participating in the government's initiative "Together for Integration", the number of those in internships has risen from 553 to 2,578 people since September 2015 (figures from 2018). Get answers to all your questions (as business owner or refugee) at your local Jobcenter.
Working under wage subsidies means that, as a refugee, you can be employed in a regular workplace, as a starting point for a period of three months – with the possibility of extending the employment by 12 months. As a refugee, you are trained in the workplace and at the same time train the Danish language. During wage subsidized employment, you receive payment for your work, on an equal footing with the company's other employees. The idea is that you will then be transferred to normal employment, but unfortunately this does not always happen.
The workplace receives subsidies for the employed refugee's salary, in private companies the subsidy is 50% of the total cost to the workplace of the employee's salary. However, the grant may not exceed more than 75.09 kr per working hour.
The municipalities have a number of collaborations with companies and workplaces that have opened up for refugees to get an internship or to be employed in wage subsidized positions with them.
As a result of the government's initiative "Together for Integration", among the companies involved in the cooperation, an increase in the number of refugees in wage subsidized employment rose from 52 to 319 people (2018) was recorded.
As soon as you have an income, integration benefit and various subsidies are offset. But even if you can only find a part-time job, it's a good idea to accept it as it gives you experience, looks better on the CV and benefits your self-esteem. However, when it comes to obtaining the right to unemployment insurance (a-kasse), Permanent Residence, etc., a full-time (30-37 hours per week) position is required for a prolonged period.
As an employee, you sometimes end up working in places with collective agreements, which can determines the salary level and a number of entitlements, while other places operate outside of this agreement. There is no statutory minimum wage in Denmark. Read more about pay rates for different jobs at the Job patrol. It is optional to join the trade union and unemployment insurance fund (read more here).
Many refugees start their own businesses, and this can be counted as full-time work in relation to permanent residence. For example, you can open a shop, a hairdressing salon or a car workshop – or work from home as a freelancer, e.g. as an interpreter or accountant. Both require that you obtain a CVR number and possibly register as VAT liable. It is important to understand how to pay taxes and calculate VAT. Both private companies, trade unions and some municipalities offer courses in entrepreneurship as it is called, and SKAT also offers info meetings.
Many refugees are never entitled to full old-age pension because they have not been 40 years in the labour market in Denmark. They will then receive a fractional pension and individual subsidies when they reach pensionable age. On the other hand, invalidity pensions and early retirement are often granted to many refugees, often due to PTSD, diseases and trauma from the home country.