University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Non-Danish academics forced to clean floors, drive taxis

One out of three non-Western immigrants who have completed a Danish education, have jobs that require skills below their educational level, shows study. City of Copenhagen reaction is to create more academic jobs by a new job scheme

Getting a degree from a Danish university will not guarantee that you get a job in Denmark afterwards that matches your level of education. At least if you are a non-Western immigrant.

35 per cent of [ non-Danish ] immigrants who have completed a Danish education work jobs that require skills below their educational level, a new study commissioned by the City Council of Copenhagen shows.

The same is true for only 22 precent of highly-educated ethnic Danes.

Read the report (in Danish) here.

Better things to do than… make beds

A whopping 63 per cent of immigrants with non-Danish degrees presently living in Copenhagen work below their attained educational level.

‘Over-educated’ immigrants are typically employed in jobs perceived as lower status, in the cleaning, catering and transportation industries.

»It may seem to be a paradox that the Danish politicans want to attract more highly skilled foreigners to come to Denmark and at the same time we have a group of immigrants who can’t make use of their education. There must be better things for them to do than scrub floors or make beds,« Chantal Pohl Nielsen, Associate Professor at the Danish Institute of Local and Regional Government Research (KORA) says.

Language is a challenge

She is one of the researchers who have conducted the survey. A survey that also reveals that ‘poor Danish-language skills’ is the main reason why many immigrants with a non-Danish education fail to find a skilled job.

But the language challenge does not necessarily apply to foreigners who hold a Danish degree.

In fact, the study shows that it is more common for immigrants in a job matching their education to be able to manage using English at work compared with those who are in a job they are over-educated for.

Chantal Pohl Nielsen emphasizes that being good at English is not a solution for all, because nine out of ten immigrants employed in, for example, public administration or the health sector answer in the questionnaire that they would not be able to manage with just English on the job.

City Council has a job plan

The City of Copenhagen is ready to help with a new job scheme aiming to create more academic jobs in the capital.

DKK 44.5m has been earmarked by the City Council for it in the budget for 2013.

The largest portion of the money will be used to offer subsidies to small businesses that hire academics. 250 graduates have already been employed on these terms and the
budget agreement from the 17 September means that the number will be extended to 500 academics a year for the next three years.

Understanding the job market

The City Council-commissioned study offers some clues to what the immigrants can do themselves to get a foothold in the Danish job market, Chantal Pohl Nielsen explains.

The analysis shows that the problem getting a job matching your education is biggest among the youngest immigrants who have lived the shortest period of time in Denmark.

This tells her that it is important, as fast as possible, to learn the formal and informal rules of the game at the Danish job market.

Read the report (in Danish) here.

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.