The government claims that there are too many refugees who don’t have a job and is proposing to make them work.
Denmark has proposed making migrants work 37 hours a week in exchange for welfare benefits. The minority Social Democratic government’s proposal would force migrants on benefits for at least three years to find work.
The proposal says “there are still too many people, especially with non-Western backgrounds, who do not have a job to get up to” in the morning.
Employment minister Peter Hummelgaard says that immigrants who have been on benefits for between three to four years will be expected to complete 37-hour week jobs, including removing litter from beaches.
The Danish government said that 60% of women from foreign heritage, particularly those from the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey do not participate in the Danish labor market.
“If you come to Denmark, you have to work and support yourself and your family,” the proposal reads. “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 program would start with those who had some Danish proficiency, and skills training would be undertaken by the local government.
The proposal has yet to be put to a vote in the 179-seat parliament. Although the Social Democrats do not have a majority, they would be likely to get support from center-right politicians to pass it.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen added the policy, which still needs approval from parliamentarians, was targeted at “non-Western background” women who were claiming welfare.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the policy aims to help immigrants take part in Danish society, with plans to encourage them to learn the language, but the proposal has been widely criticized as unreasonable.
The new rules have been criticized by the country’s left-wing party Unity List.
“I’m afraid this will end up as state-supported social dumping, sending people into crazy jobs,” Mai Villadsen, Unity List spokeswoman told broadcaster TV2.
She called the idea “foolish” and 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 tweeted.
Mirka Mozer, head of a Copenhagen-based organization that helps immigrant women get jobs, said that the plan doesn’t sound impressive. In 2018, her group, the Immigrant Women’s Centre had registered almost 13,000 people from 57 different nations.
“We have lots of women who are willing to take jobs, including jobs that are 37 hours (per week),” Mirka told the Associated Press. “But there need to be more 37-hour jobs.”
The proposed plan states it intends to incorporate 20,000 people by forcing them to find some form of work, through local government “labor exchanges”.
In June, the Scandinavian country passed a law enabling it to process asylum seekers outside Europe, drawing anger from the United Nations and the European Commission.
The new law will allow Denmark to move refugees arriving on Danish soil to asylum centers in a partner country to have their cases reviewed and possibly obtain protection in that country.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned last month that Denmark’s move could trigger a “race to the bottom” if other countries followed suit.
The number of refugees seeking asylum in Denmark dropped steadily to just over 1,500 applicants last year from a peak of more than 21,000 in 2015 when more than a million refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa made it to the EU.
Official statistics show that 11 percent of Denmark’s 5.8 million people are immigrants and 58 percent of those come from countries that Copenhagen classifies as “non-western”.