Unskilled male workers will still be in demand

Recent statistics suggest that unskilled male workers will still have a place in the Danish labour market in the near future. A high take-up of further vocational training courses by this group of workers is believed by employers and trade unions to be the main reason.

Recent statistics from Danmarks Statistik, the official statistical office, show that unskilled male workers' share of total employment in Denmark has remained unchanged at 18% over the period from 1980 to 1996. Overall, the share of all unskilled workers dropped from 23% in 1980 to 20% in 1996. The largest change has occurred for unskilled female workers, whose share dropped from 26% in 1980 to 21% in 1996. Out of a workforce of 2.8 million, approximately one million workers are categorised as "unskilled" or "lower-skilled" in Denmark.

Both the Confederation of Danish Industries (Dansk Industri, DI) and the General Workers Union in Denmark (Specialarbejderforbundet i Danmark, SiD) single out further vocational training as the key reason for the positive employment development among unskilled workers. Although unskilled workers do not have a formal education, by participating in further vocational training courses many have specialised their qualifications to a level that can be compared with the formal qualifications of skilled workers. Earlier surveys showed that 60%-70% of the unskilled male workers in industry had participated in vocational training.

The gender-related differences in unskilled employment can partially be explained by the sectoral differences in employment. Whereas unskilled male workers are employed in all sectors, women are over-represented in a small number of branches, characterised by mass production. It is these sectors especially which are undergoing rationalisation and thus adjusting the number of people employed.

A 1995 training agreement between the social partners in industry - DI and the Central Organisation of Industrial Employees in Denmark (Centralorganisationen af Industriansatte, CO-industri) cartel, of which SiD is a member - recommends that systematic vocational planning be undertaken for employees. The agreement, which covers approximately 200,000 workers, also established a vocational training committee, with the task of analysing demand for qualifications and planning vocational training activities and vocational plans. With a view to advancing and developing continuing training in industry, a Vocational Training Fund was established in 1973, to which employers pay a contribution equal to DKK 0.27 per hour per employee. Employees who have been employed for nine months are entitled - taking into account the company's situation (eg in economic or staffing terms) - to two weeks' company-relevant vocational training per year. Freedom for employees to participate in vocational training of their own choice is subject to agreement at company level.

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