Engineers want more foreign colleagues: Case processing presents a problem

2. november 2022 kl. 12:12
Engineers want more foreign colleagues: Case processing presents a problem
New analysis from the Confederation of Danish Industry shows that Danish companies working on the green transition are short of 10,000 employees. Illustration: Industriens Hus / Søren Nielsen.
It needs to be easier to bring qualified workers to the country, a large majority of the engineers believe.
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The problem is palpable. Danish companies, which are working on the green transition, are currently missing 10,000 employees, according to an analysis from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).

This comes with a huge cost. According to the Danish Chamber of Commerce’s calculations, the lack of employees from August 2021 to August 2022 has resulted in a revenue loss of at least DKK 176 billion for Danish companies.

Part of the solution is easier recruitment of foreign workers, according to a majority of engineers and STEM graduates who participated in a survey carried out by Ingeniøren from 9 to 12 September 2022, in connection with the upcoming general election.

71 percent of the 1,521 respondents answered yes to the question: “Should the regulations be relaxed to make it easier for foreign nationals with STEM skills to obtain a residence permit in Denmark?”

Four-month waiting period

The website of the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) says that there is currently a longer processing time when applying for permission to work in Denmark via the Positive List.

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The agency writes that it can be expected to take up to four months.

The issue of long case processing times at SIRI is something that the respondents of Ingeniøren’s study have also pointed out.

Sparshdeep Mouriyas is a mechanical engineer, and he started working for Rambøll in Gurgaon, India in 2015. When he got a job in Denmark, his journey through the “fast track” lasted four months. Illustration: Rambøll PR.

64 percent of the respondents who are working on a daily basis in engineering, IT, or science selected “faster case processing for residence and work permits” as a proposal for a measure that would have the greatest effect in terms of attracting and retaining more foreigners with STEM skills.

Ingeniøren has contacted the business rapporteurs from the three parties with prime minister candidates and asked for a comment, but neither Denmark’s Liberal Party nor the Conservatives have responded to our inquiries.

The Social Democratic Party’s press department has responded by sending us some written comments, for which Minister of Justice Mattias Tesfaye, acting as political rapporteur, must be quoted.

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He does not think there is a need for more relaxed regulations.

“No, fortunately we already have good and well-functioning business schemes for foreign workers, which make it easy to come to Denmark if you have STEM skills. This applies, for example, to the Positive List, which enables anyone who has been offered a job in a profession with a shortage of highly qualified workers to be granted residency.”

Due to the written nature of the answer, it is not possible to ask how there can be such a shortage of workers in the Danish STEM companies despite the “already good and well-functioning business schemes for foreign workers.”

Faster case processing

When it comes to the Moderates, the case processing time at SIRI is also one of the first things parliamentary candidate Jakob Engel-Schmidt mentioned during our telephone call.

How we did it

  • The survey includes 1,521 respondents and was carried out in the period from 9 to 12 September 2022

  • It was administered via Teknologiens Mediehus's web-based survey panel with approximately 10,500 engineers, IT, and science graduates

  • In addition, it was supplemented by a survey sent to selected users from a newsletter and user database in order to target more people with a background in natural sciences

  • The results have been weighted on selected demographic variables, so that the sample best reflects the total population of engineering and STEM graduates

  • The maximum statistical uncertainty for the individual parties is +/-2.5% points with a confidence interval of 95 percent

“First of all, SIRI needs to be allocated significantly more resources. Case processing time has been increasing at a high pace, and this has in many cases meant that foreign workers who are well qualified have chosen other work destinations. We must reduce the processing time to an absolute minimum,” he says.

“I cannot emphasize enough how foolish it is that the regulations have been tightened to an extent where they are unreasonable, and that at the same time the authority that is in charge of examining the applications that do manage to meet the requirements is allocated too few resources.”

SIRI’s processing time is also mentioned on Denmark’s Liberal Party’s website, and the party agrees with the Moderates that a shorter response time is a solution.

“A maximum of 14 days,” Denmark’s Liberal Party writes.

Adjustment of the Pay Limit Scheme

In Ingeniøren’s survey, a fifth of the respondents point to lowering of the Pay Limit Scheme’s threshold as a useful measure.

The threshold of the Pay Limit Scheme, which makes it easier for people who have been offered a job with a high salary to get a residence and work permit in Denmark, is currently an annual salary of DKK 375,000. This corresponds to DKK 31,250 per month.

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The Moderates also want to lower the threshold to DKK 27,500 per month, but Jakob Engel-Schmidt believes that this is less relevant for the STEM companies, where the salary is usually relatively high.

Here, too, the Moderates’s position aligns with that of Denmark’s Liberal Party, whose website states that they are proposing “an improved Pay Limit Scheme” as a measure that should contribute to “increasing the number of workers” in Danish companies.

The Social Democratic Party’s press department writes in its email that it is a bad idea to lower the Pay Limit Scheme’s threshold, which was lowered from DKK 448,000 to DKK 375,000 in June.

“If we lower the Pay Limit Scheme further, it will mean that a great many skilled workers will have to compete with labour from all over the world. It will make it more difficult for local craftsmen to pay their employees the wages they receive today.”

According to the website of the Conservative People’s Party, the party wants to lower the Pay Limit Scheme’s threshold to DKK 325,000.

Lack of a timely response

Jakob Engel-Schmidt says that the Moderates have a third and final initiative, which consists of “developing and formulating Denmark’s strategy for attracting talent”, and he himself believes that there is a real chance that the new party’s three initiatives will see the light of day.

“We may be in a situation where the Moderates can have a decisive position, and foreign labour is one of the areas where we want to make a difference.”

He believes that the acute lack of labour is one of the areas “where one can blame the Danish Parliament for not having acted promptly,” Jakob Engel-Schmidt says.

“The blocs have blocked themselves. The blue bloc has been so afraid of the extreme right wing that they have not dared to bite the bullet, and the government has been so afraid of its own left wing and some trade unions that they have not dared to bite the bullet either. And it is quite sad that these bloc politics cost Denmark welfare and Danish companies jobs and orders every single month.”

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