Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i In Focus i In focus 2010 i Theme: The hunt for highly skilled labour i Indians discover there's more to Denmark than dairies
Indians discover there's more to Denmark than dairies

Indians discover there's more to Denmark than dairies

| Text and photos: K V Venkatasubramanian

Denmark opened a Workindenmark office in New Dehli in October 2008. Now some Indians are slowly getting to know about this Nordic country. Danish authorities are holding back a larger recruitment campaign until they have more knowledge about what career opportunities exist for Indians in Denmark.

The Danish awakening takes time. But the financial meltdown means qualified workers are looking for greener pastures in more places than the USA. They are realising that there is more on offer than the dairy products in the little mermaid country.

Workindenmark's New Dehli office can take some of the credit, having launched a drive to attract Indians with special skills in certain key areas. Estimates made before the office opened showed Denmark needed 32,000 qualified labour immigrants to fill IT jobs, engineering posts and health sector jobs.

Denmark's conditions for recruiting competent labour are similar to those found in the UK, Canada and Australia. To obtain a Danish 'Green Card' which gives the holder the right to work in Denmark, you need a certain number of points correlating to education, age and language skills. There are other ways of obtaining work permits for those who already have secured a job offer from an employer in Denmark. 

Few curry houses

Despite the lack of curry houses, Denmark is attracting more and more Indians. The Danish embassy in New Dehli receive really good and not so good job seekers.

 Workindenmark shopping

Anders Staffe asking the price for kulcha, a type of bread.

"In 2009 1,700 aspirants had applied for jobs under the Green Card scheme. We expect the same number this year, too," says Anders Staffe, First Secretary, Embassy of Denmark in India and responsible for the Workindenmark office. 

Most of them are between 24 and 35 years old and unmarried. More than 80 percent are men. We asked a group of Indian engineer graduates from the Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, whether they would consider working in Denmark. Several of them seemed enthusiastic about the idea, but admitted they didn't really know much about the country. 

"I would like to work both in the USA and in Europe, and I could also see myself working in Denmark. I believe there is a lot of culture and history there, which makes life more interesting," says Aruda Venkat (22), a newly graduated computer engineer working for a Philadelphia software company.  

"I think there are good opportunities for IT people and programmers in Denmark, and that would suit my choice of occupation well."

Definitely worth thinking about

Pooja S Kapoor a biomedical engineer (22) says she can work in either of these continents.

"My job location would depend on the type of job I get and the money offered to me. I have not considered it till now, but if given a job, I will definitely consider working in Denmark, though I know nothing about this country," she says. 

All of them are unanimous in stressing that better career prospects and a good salary structure would attract them. They are also particular about the presence of other Indian immigrants, “as it will give anyone the sense of belonging even in a foreign country away from the familiar faces. It also reduces the anxiety over understanding and 'fitting in’ in society of that country.”  

There is quite a high level of mobility among Indians, and most people don't mind relocating. The main obstacle is the lack of information about Denmark in India. When we ask students in higher education on media-related courses, they know next to nothing about the Scandinavian countries. Students of engineering and civil economy know a little bit more, but compared to the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the Gulf countries the Scandinavian countries are far down on the wish-list for those who want to work abroad. 

USA rules

Misha Mehta, (third on the left below) also has a biomedical engineering degree from the USA. She is only looking for work in that country.

Photo: Venkat

"There is a good job market for my field in Germany, Spain and Ireland but haven’t considered applying yet. I would apply for jobs in Europe if I don’t get any in the US. " she says. 

"I can’t be certain that Europe will hire me even if I go for an interview all the way to those places; so I am scared to take the chance," she says. 

Vaibhav Mistry, (fifth on the left above) is a Radio Frequency Engineer/Researcher based in USA. He says:

“The place does not matter as long as I am doing the kind of work I would like to do. The US has  very good RF facilities. I don’t know much about Europe but given an opportunity in a good RF based  facility, I can work in Europe as well.”

Vaibhav knows "very little" about Denmark, but suspects it is cold there. 

“The place does not matter as long as I am doing the kind of work I would like to do. I can give it shot….again if I like the job and the place. Right experience is primary, rest everything is secondary. So in order, it would be experience, prospects, place and then salary.”

He says it is important that there are other Indians immigrants. 

“I will get Indian food if Indian people live there. Plus some company from home country is always good.” 

The lack of information about Denmark made Kannathasan Pandian (28) start his own website 

”Welcome to Indians in Denmark, Denmark is a beautiful Scandinavian country" he writes on his homepage.

India Denmark4

Mr Kannathasan works in Copenhagen as a product tester for Nokia. He provides information on everything from Danish history to where to find Indian temples. He feels the cultural differences between the two countries are vast, but does his best to bridge them.

"The first Saturday of every month we hold meetings to to explain and teach Indians about the Danish culture to facilitate their integration with the Danish society," he says. 

Wives suffer

Anders Staffe at Workindenmark's New Dehli office knows all too well about the cultural differences. A 2008 study of how Indian IT experts experienced Denmark showed Indians were struggling to make friends in there.

"Indians have problem making Danish friends. As there are no extended families in Denmark, like in India, they feel isolated. This is mainly so with wives who have to stay alone throughout the day while their husbands are at work. We have set up a task force to deal with cultural impediments.” However, food is not a problem with Indians, he add.

Denmark is a small country most Indians don’t know much about. “Before you embark on the journey, you have a narrow vision but once you start working there it widens,” Staffe says. 

Indians look for good salary and a good working environment. Denmark offers good working culture, a long (six weeks) vacation and 37.5 hours of work a week. But, the taxes are quite high, he informs. 

The other major deterrents are the cold climate, the language (though most Danes speak English fluently), the cost of living (Copenhagen being expensive as compared to many cities in India). Indians in Denmark constitute a miniscule 0.04 per cent of the 5.5 million Danish population. 

Staffe concedes that at present there is no publicity due to the financial crisis. “But once it gets over, we will go the universities and talk to students about job opportunities.”

Anders Staffe

heads Workindenmark's New Dehli office (picture above). He assures Indians who want to move to Denmark they don't have to worry about finding Indian food there.

Indian labour market facts

With 470 million people of working age, in India most figures will be large.

In 2006 there were 375 universities and 17,000 high schools accepting 9.3 million new students every year. The number of engineer students alone stands at 550,000.

But India has become best known for its IT industry. In 1990 56,000 people worked with programming and software development. Ten years later that number has risen to  284,000. There are now two million IT employees in total. 

25 million Indians live abroad, spread over 100 countries. Those with higher education have traditionally moved to the USA, while manual workers look for work in the Middle East, where some five million Indians are working. Two million Indians live in the USA and 1.7 million live in Great Britain.

This is themeComment