Europe

Denmark wants foreigners to work to access welfare benefits

The Danish government presented a proposal Tuesday to get foreigners and people with immigrant backgrounds to work 37 hours a week in exchange for welfare benefits.

The proposal by the minority Social Democratic government said “there are still too many people, especially with non-Western backgrounds, who do not have a job to get up to” in the morning. It claimed that many women of foreign descent remain outside the labour market, especially those with roots in the Mideast, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.

“If you come to Denmark, you have to work and support yourself and your family,” the proposal said. “If one cannot support oneself, one must have a duty to participate and contribute what is equivalent to a regular working week to receive the full welfare benefit.”

The programme will start with those who have some Danish proficiency and skills training will be done by local municipalities.

No date has yet been set for the 179-seat parliament to vote on the proposal. Although the Social Democrats do not have a majority, they would likely get support from centre-right lawmakers to pass it.

Mai Villadsen, a lawmaker with the opposition Red-Green Alliance, called the idea “foolish.” She argued that it could lead to downward pressure on the wages of other workers.

“The foundation of our welfare society is a strong safety net,” Villadsen wrote on Twitter.

Mirka Mozer, head of a Copenhagen-based organisation that helps immigrant women get jobs, said to her, the plan didn’t sound ambitious enough.

“We have lots of women who are willing to take jobs, including jobs that are 37 hours (per week), but there needs to be more 37-hour jobs,” Mozar told The Associated Press.

In 2018, her group, the Immigrant Women’s Center registered almost 13,000 people from 57 different nations. Mozer said it has contacts with dozens of companies that offer jobs to immigrant women, but most were only 4-to-10 hours per week.

“Some certainly fear that their (welfare) benefits will be reduced because they can’t get a 37-hour job,” she said.

Immigrants and their descendants represent 14.1% of Denmark’s nearly 6 million people. The largest groups are from Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

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