Denmark to Make Migrants Work 37 Hours a Week to Earn Benefits
Government report finds many women of foreign descent do not have jobs
Denmark is introducing new measures that will ensure migrants must complete a minimum of 37 hours of work per week before they are given any taxpayer-funded benefits.
The new proposal from the Danish government states that "there are too many [migrants], especially with non-Western backgrounds, who do not have a job."
The proposal was introduced by the country's minority Social Democratic government - a traditionally left-wing administration that has adopted right-wing anti-immigration policies.
Under the new rules, migrants who have been on benefits for at least three years would be required to find work or lose the handouts.
It said the program was necessary because many residents of foreign descent do not work.
The largest numbers of foreign residents on unemployment benefits are women with roots in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey.
"If you come to Denmark, you have to work and support yourself and your family," the proposal states.
"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."
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has claimed the policy is intended to help migrants integrate into Danish society, with plans to encourage them to learn the language, but the proposal has been widely criticized as unfair.
The program would start with those who are able to speak some Danish and they would be given skills training by the local government.
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 be likely to get support from center-right politicians to pass it.
Though traditionally left-wing, Frederiksen's party adopted right-wing anti-immigration policies when she took power in 2019 and is now targeting zero asylum claims.
Frederiksen has blamed the crackdown on immigration on the need to protect Denmark's welfare system so it can continue to accommodate migrants already in the country.
But the proposal has been widely criticized as unfair, with Mai Villadsen, a member of the opposition Red-Green Alliance, branding 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," Ms. Villadsen wrote on Twitter.
Mirka Mozer, head of a Copenhagen-based organization that helps immigrant women get jobs, said the plan did not sound ambitious enough.
"We have lots of women who are willing to take jobs, including jobs that are 37 hours (per week), but there need to be more 37-hour jobs," Ms. Mozar said.
In 2018, her group, the Immigrant Women's Centre had registered almost 13,000 people from 57 different nations.
Ms. Mozer said it had contacts with dozens of companies that offered jobs to immigrant women, but that most were only four-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 percent of Denmark's nearly six million people.
The largest groups are from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.