Internship, wage subsidies, job

The aim of Danish society is to make as many people independent of public benefits as possible. This is also the desire of the refugees themselves, but many are surprised at how difficult it is to get a job in Denmark.

In recent years, focus has been on getting new refugees into the labour market as soon as possible – which in the long term is not the best solution. Research from among others Hans Lassen shows that education provides more lasting self-sufficiency and a higher level of income. That is why society should invest more in educating refugees in various ways rather than forcing them into unskilled jobs. Unfortunately, after the Paradigm Shift from 2019, things are going in the opposite direction.

Local municipalities are responsible for finding jobs for refugees and integrate them via job centres and integration workers. The efforts vary a great deal, both when it comes to strategies and results.

Company internship programme

If a refugee cannot find a job immediately, or a job with wage subsidies, they will be sent off to do 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 gain some experience of the Danish labour market and hopefully get the opportunity to practise the Danish language. This will improve the chances of getting a job. An internship usually lasts 3 months but can be extended. During the process, you will only receive self-sufficiency and return benefit, and it will be reduced if you don't show up every day.

Internships can have many positive elements but there is also an unfortunate tendency for companies to take advantage of refugees as free labour, and consistently 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 refugee's point of view, 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.

Local job centres can answer any further questions from employers or refugees.

Wage subsidies

Working under wage subsidies means that you can be employed in a regular job for a limited period while the state covers part of your salary. As a refugee, you are trained in the workplace, practice the Danish language and you receive payment for your work like the other employees in the company. The goal is to be transferred to normal employment afterwards, but unfortunately this does not always happen.

The employer receives public subsidies for the refugee's salary, in private companies the subsidy is 50% of the total cost to the workplace of the employee's salary.

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 soon as you have an income, benefits and various subsidies will be reduced. 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 permanent residence, a position with minimum 30 hours per week over several years is required.

As an employee, you sometimes end up working in places with collective agreements, which determines the salary level and a number of entitlements, while other places operate outside of these agreements. 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 a trade union and unemployment insurance fund, but can be a good idea (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 retirement 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 retirement age. Refugees are quite often granted an early retirement pension (førtidspension), which can be due to PTSD, diseases and trauma from the home country.