Denmark: Latest working life developments – Q3 2016

A new tripartite agreement to increase the number of internships and meet future skills needs and the staged approach to tripartite discussions are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the third quarter of 2016.

Tripartite agreement on internships and skills     

Since the beginning of 2016, the government has been involved in tripartite negotiations about skills and the labour market. The negotiations have involved the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) and the union confederations - the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Confederation of Professionals in Denmark (FTF) and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC).

On 19 August, the negotiations led to an agreement about improving the monitoring of the labour market, with a special focus on upgrading skilled labour and providing solutions to the lack of internships. Prior to the negotiations, the declining number of internships offered by companies was the subject of much debate. The unions stated that companies’ unwillingness to take on apprentices would lead to a lack of engagement in vocational education by young people, which would have severe consequences for the balance of skills in the labour market. Thus the unions, as well as DA, welcomed the government’s invitation to tripartite negotiations about the topic. In Denmark, tripartite negotiations/discussions take place on an ad hoc basis.

The agreement involves a redistribution of the Employers’ Education Contribution Fund so that companies that take on more interns receive more money, while those that do not will have to contribute more to the fund. Other measures in the agreement aimed at improving the conditions for trainees skills upgrading include:  

  • a compensation scheme for companies that already train many apprentices and provide extra internships
  • the establishment of priority education schemes targeting businesses that lack certain skills among their employees
  • setting quotas for entry to different vocational schools so that apprenticeships mirror the future needs of the labour market
  • a limit on the use of school-based study as compensation for work-based internships
  • increased wage support to employers who provide internships for apprentices in the periods they are attending school.

The social partners also agreed to increase economic support from 80% to 100% of unemployment benefit for unemployed people who want to study or train in areas where there is a shortage of workers. 

Tripartite discussions take place in stages

The agreement described above on the upgrading of skills and internships was the second agreement resulting from the present round of tripartite negotiations. The first agreement, reached in the spring, focused on how to integrate refugees into the labour market. After the collective bargaining round in early spring 2017, it is likely that the social partners will work towards a third agreement about ways to improve the vocational training and education system.

This is the first time that tripartite negotiations have taken place in stages. This ‘assembly line’ strategy – breaking topics into distinct stages – stems from the former government’s tripartite negotiations in 2012. Then there were several major topics on the agenda, but the Minister of Finance cancelled the negotiations after only a week of discussions about working time because of significant disagreements between the parties. As a result, it was decided to carry out negotiations in separate stages for each main topic.

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