Integration policy in Denmark

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DENMARK General context The total population of Denmark is just 5,416,000. The employment rate in 2005 was 75.9 per cent


BME population - groups

BME employment

The labour market in Denmark operates a 'flexicurity model' which combines labour market flexibility (including giving employers flexibility to hire and fire), generous social protection and insurance for the unemployed, and active labour market policies that focus on upgrading the skills of the unemployed. It was introduced as an attempt to reinvigorate the sluggish Danish labour market and has been credited with the reduction in Denmark’s unemployment from 10 per cent in 1995 to 4.5 per cent at the end of 2006. Those out of work are entitled to benefits equalling nearly the full amount of their previous salaries for up to four years. Recipients of benefits are required to participate in mandatory job activation programmes after 12 months being unemployed.

Discussions of ethnicity in Denmark are framed around distinctions between ‘immigrants’ and the ‘native-born’. In no other OECD country are the differences between the employment rates of native-born and immigrants as large as in Denmark, and unemployment is more than twice as high among immigrants as among the native-born. These poor employment outcomes have to be seen in the context of a doubling of the immigrant population over the past twenty years, with particularly high immigration in the second half of the 1990s. Prior to the 1980s, immigration to Denmark was a very marginal phenomenon. Despite the rapid growth since then, Denmark still has one of the smallest immigrant populations in Western Europe, at 7 per cent of the population.

Labour market outcomes for immigrants have been significantly below those of the native-born for more than two decades (with employment gaps between the native born and foreign born population being consistently above 10 per cent). This is partly attributable to the fact that immigration to Denmark has been strongly dominated by refugees and family reunification – groups whose labour market outcomes tend to be not as good as the native-born or economic migrants, particularly in the early years of settlement. What is especially striking in the Danish context is the fact that employment gaps relative to the native-born are across-the-board – they are longstanding and they are found for both OECD and non-OECD immigrants and even for offspring of immigrants from both OECD and non-OECD countries, at all attainment levels. Legislative context

It is stated in the Danish Constitutional Act (as of 1849, present wording as of 1953), section 70, that nobody can be deprived of any civil or political rights on grounds of faith or origin, whilst section 71 states that no Danish citizen can be deprived of personal liberty, on grounds of political opinion, faith or origin. Apart from these general provisions, there are no specific anti-discrimination provisions in the Danish Constitution.

In 1971, the Act on Racial Discrimination was passed by Parliament, stating that a person commits a punishable offence if, while performing occupational or non-profit activities, he refuses to serve person on the same conditions as others, due to that persons race, colour, national or ethnic origin, or creed. The only area that was not covered by this anti-discrimination legislation was the labour market.

In 1996 the Act on the Prohibition of Differential Treatment on the Labour Market was passed and includes prohibition against direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation or national, social or ethnic origin. In terms of immigration law, the 1983 Aliens Act was a comprehensive reform of the immigration framework and led to Denmark been seen as a country with a humanitarian immigration policy. Family reunification legislation has been amended several times since the mid-1980s. In 1992, for example, a regulation was introduced which generally denied family reunification for immigrants who had not been in Denmark for at least five years. Since 1 July 2005, applicants for a residence permit on family reunification grounds must sign a declaration of integration. Under this provision, the applicant has to commit to making active integration efforts, including learning the Danish language and becoming self-supporting through gainful employment. In 1999 the Integration Act was passed. Relevant sections on labour market measures in the Integration Act mirror the general Danish active labour market policy tools, and through the employment services, the Ministry of Employment is in charge of unemployed immigrants after the initial three years of settlement.

In 2002, the government introduced a seven-year qualifying period for access to full cash benefits (i.e. only persons having resided in Denmark for at least seven of the past eight years – both foreigners and Danes – are entitled to regular assistance).

In 2004, a new Integration Act entered into force, which introduced a stronger focus on labour market integration, mainly by enhancing municipalities’ incentives to integrate new arrivals rapidly into the labour market. Within about two months after the granting of the residence permit, municipalities are obliged to offer all newcomers (with the exception of EEA nationals) an introduction programme. These plans should account for the immigrants’ characteristics and the needs of the labour market and generally comprise language lessons as well as activation offers.

The details of language courses are laid out in a special 2003 Act on Danish Language Courses for Adult Aliens. When this new Act came into force in 2004, all foreigners above the age of 18 – regardless of their permit category, their length of their stay in Denmark and of any prior language training – became entitled to participate in such a three-year language course.

The Danish approach to integration

Considering the recent nature of most immigration, and the relatively small size of the immigrant population, the overall framework for integration in Denmark is highly developed and a significant amount is invested in integration efforts. Denmark has a separate Ministry for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs, in which immigration and integration policies are considered together (created in 2001).

The Ministry is in charge of all matters relating to work and residence permits, naturalization, for the teaching of Danish as a second language and for labour market initiatives with a special immigrant focus. This includes funds for special projects for ethnic minorities, but also more general measures such as the removal of barriers to the employment of immigrants and refugees and the creation of a more open labour market for immigrants. It also provides grants for job-related Danish lessons at workplaces. In addition, the Ministry supports urban policy initiatives aimed at improving living conditions and social integration of immigrants.

In May 2005, the government released its plan “A new chance for everyone”, which is aimed at immigrants and their offspring who have already been living in Denmark for several years and who are thus not subject to the formal integration programme. The plan, which passed the legislative process in early 2006, contains a series of measures relating to education and employment.

Under the programme, receipt of cash assistance for young people aged 18 to 25 is made conditional on participation in education activities – a measure which applies equally to persons of Danish origin. There are also a variety of measures in place to ensure municipalities to contribute actively to the integration of those who are no longer in the period of initial settlement. The municipalities have to activate all recipients of cash benefit who have not been activated during the previous year and start providing help. The municipalities are afterwards obliged to provide activation regularly for all recipients of cash benefit. Foreigners granted residency in Denmark must sign a special integration contract clearly specifying their obligations.

In June 2006, the Danish government and various parties concluded an agreement on a reform aimed at reforming the Danish welfare system for the future. This includes a variety of measures aimed at improving employment among immigrants and their descendents, such as providing targeted job training to the long-term unemployed, partnerships between companies and the State or the municipalities, and extra job advisers in the municipalities to improve the guidance to jobseekers and to match jobseekers to companies. Activation measures are also an option for hose who do not receive benefits, but who are in need of such measures. Case Study 2: Municipal integration activities

Under the 2004 Integration Act municipalities are obliged to offer newly-arrived immigrants an introduction programme, which consists of language courses and a range of labour market integration measures and is expected to last three years. They are also in charge of the housing facilities, payment of financial aid, and the organisation of Danish language courses. There is a relatively complex refunding scheme in place, which assures that all expenses are reimbursed by the state. There are strong financial incentives for municipalities to achieve rapid labour market integration of recent arrivals, and these will be strengthened by a further reform of the financing system, to be implemented on 1 January 2008.

One example of municipal integration efforts is the city of Århus, which established a formal municipal integration policy in 1996. Self-sufficiency of immigrants through better labour market integration is considered, along with language mastery, to be the most important prerequisite of integration. The city formulates clear, measurable two-year objectives to reach its integration goals in five main areas (employment, language skills, attitudes, residential issues, leisure and culture).

As many smaller municipalities have had only limited experience with integration in the past, the Ministry of Integration has established a special integration consulting service for municipalities to disseminate experiences and advise on good practices.

Denmark is currently undergoing a fundamental reform of its public administration. As of January 2007, the number of municipalities will be reduced from 271 to 98. Along with this move, the decentralised levels of the public employment service will merge with the municipal labour market administrations to form local job centres in order to provide job seekers and companies with one single contact point. Municipalities and the State will be in charge of these local centres. Under the new system, municipalities will be in charge of the entire labour market integration process, from the introduction programme to the integration of long-term residents. This should facilitate a more coherent and systematic integration approach at the local level.

Mentoring programmes

In most cases, mentoring programmes in Denmark are rather small-scale and confined to a certain municipality or region. A remarkable exception to this is the Kvinfo mentorship programme, which is run nationwide through four regional branch offices and co-ordinated by Kvinfo, an independent institution under the Ministry of Culture aimed at the dissemination of knowledge on gender issues. The project is mainly financed by the Integration Ministry, with further funding being provided by the municipalities involved.

The approach taken by the Kvinfo mentoring programme, which started in 2003, is to bring immigrant women, in particular refugees, together with native-born women who have experience in the labour market. In order to achieve an appropriate match, interested potential mentees and mentors are first interviewed and their name subsequently filed in a database. With the help of this database a matching between mentors and mentees is done according to the mentees’ needs and wishes, with a view of contributing to the integration into the Danish labour market.

The mentor is expected to share her experiences, to advise the immigrant and open her network to the respective mentee. The primary objective is to get the mentees into employment. Accordingly, among the issues discussed in the mentorship relation are the writing of job applications, information about job interview practices, and establishing contacts with potential employers and professional networks. As there are generally a variety of barriers to be overcome until labour market integration is achieved, further education – assisted by the mentor’s advice – is often a first step towards the more distant goal of adequate employment. The mentorship relation is originally established for a fixed period of time by means of a formalised agreement, generally lasting from six months to one year. After that, the formal mentorship period ends, although the relation often continues as an informal friendship. There are currently about 900 mentees and a roughly equal number of mentors involved in the project, and the programme has become so popular that a waiting list for the preliminary interview had to be established.

‘We Need All Youngsters’ == The Campaign We Need All Youngsters was launched in 2003 by the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs with the aim of fostering equal opportunities in the education system and in the labour market. The main objective of this large-scale, nation-wide campaign is to improve the integration of young immigrants and the second generation into the labour market by promoting their educational attainment, in particular with respect to vocational education. In order to ensure a lasting integration, a second objective is to encourage them to pursue training in areas where future labour shortages are perceived and where young people with a migrant background are underrepresented. The campaign is due to end in 2008 and has been co-funded by the European Social Fund since 2006.

Among the initiatives taken by the campaign is the creation of a team of young role models with a migration background. These role models have been successful in the education system and the labour market. They travel around the country to discuss with other young people with a migrant background about their experiences and give advice on how to choose and successfully complete educational programmes. 320 visits around the country have been conducted so far. In the same spirit, a team of so-called “parent role models” was set up to share experiences among parents. There are also activities concerning homework support, which are carried out with the help of about 1,000 volunteers.

Another initiative in this framework was a recruitment campaign for training courses in the social and health care services, two areas where there are shortages which are expected to increase in the future. This initiative targeted first and second-generation migrants in the age group 16 to 20 years to promote enrolment in social and health-care-oriented programmes. A similar campaign was conducted with the aim of recruiting youngsters for the police, armed forces, emergency and security services. Several education fairs have been conducted under the initiative. There are also supplementary courses for teachers on how to deal with diversity in the classroom.

Impact on employment of immigrants

Denmark provides a wide-ranging suite of policy initiatives to aide the integration of immigrants. The frequent and substantial changes in the introduction programme make it somewhat difficult to assess its overall effectiveness and some measures have been introduced only recently, meaning that it is too early to evaluate their long-term impact. Analysis of the effect of active labour market policies shows that private job training and wage subsidies are very effective in getting both immigrants and the native-born into jobs. There is some indication that current policies are having the desired effect, as labour market participation and employment of recent arrivals have increased (although the unemployment rate for this group has also increased). The offspring of immigrants are now gradually entering the labour market in larger numbers.

Impact of the municipalities integration activities

An elaborate benchmarking system is in place to monitor municipalities’ integration performance and facilitate the mainstreaming of effective policies. It is a continuous monitoring of the municipalities’ success with respect to the economic integration of immigrants during the first 36 months of settlement There are two indicators used to assess performance, one with respect to the duration until new immigrants become self-supporting (or in education), and one with respect to the duration until an immigrant is in employment (or education). The benchmarking works as follows: For both indicators, the actual average duration until self-sufficiency/education or employment occurs is being measured. This is then compared with the average expected duration, accounting for the immigrants’ characteristics (i.e. gender, country-of-origin, age, marital status, number of children, duration in Denmark, migrant category, health status, qualifications) and the municipalities’ structural conditions (i.e. local unemployment rate, structure of the immigrant stock, the share of high-skilled jobs). The indicator measures the deviation between actual and expected duration in weeks, with 0 weeks being the normalised overall average. Both indicators have two sub-indicators to account for the sustainability or self-sufficiency of employment: they measure whether the job lasts for at least eight or at least 26 weeks.

Benchmarking is not always a straightforward exercise, and it is often difficult to pin down why there are differences between municipalities. The relatively short time-span covered by the indicator does not capture the long-term impact of integration measures. Furthermore, due to data availability, the analysis lags about two years behind. Given the fact that integration policy in Denmark has undergone substantial changes in recent years, the effect of recent initiatives may thus not show up in the indicator. In summary, the benchmarking appears to be a tool for discussion, experience-sharing, programme evaluation and subsequent mainstreaming.

Impact of Mentoring

An assessment of the outcomes of Mentoring Programmes is currently under way. Available figures show that about 160 previously unemployed women (including some women working in jobs that did not match their education level) have gained employment through the network activities in the first three years of establishment, but it is not yet possible to analyse the programme’s effectiveness on the basis of these preliminary figures.

Lessons for the UK

The case of Denmark shows how efforts to improve education and employment outcomes for immigrants can be delivered in a coordinated and joined-up way that could be applicable to ethnic minorities in a UK context, although it is important to note the difference in the scale of the ethnic minority populations in the two countries, with Denmark being a much smaller country than the UK.

As the UK pilots the Cities Strategies approach to delivering locally integrated services to improve employment rates for a range of disadvantaged groups including ethnic minorities, it could learn from the municipal integration approach in Denmark, particularly in terms of the rigorous benchmarking of outcomes. Mentoring programmes in Denmark could prove a useful model for tackling particularly low employment rates among some groups of ethnic minority women, as they have been shown to be an efficient way of creating networks. Similarly, approaches using role models for young people and matching them to occupations where there are skill shortages could be a useful approach. Denmark has increased employment of ethnic minorities by decreasing the ethnic minority employment gap by using programmes such as these. In comparison, the UK ethnic minority employment gap has been stable at 15 per cent, despite a number of government initiatives and assistance from the voluntary and community sector.