Denmark: Latest working life developments Q4 2018

A significant increase in the use of temporary agency workers and a campaign to raise the profile of working environment representatives are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Rise in use of temporary agency workers

An analysis by the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (STAR) of temporary agency workers between 2008 and 2017 shows a significant increase in the use of such workers in Denmark. In 2017, 4.5% of all employees were temporary agency workers (120,000 in total). In 2008, the number was 100,000, while the lowest recorded level was 70,000 in 2010.

The analysis indicates that the employment levels of temporary agency workers is cyclical and that these workers act as a buffer for parts of the labour market. The fall in employment levels for temporary agency workers in the years following the 2008 economic crisis was therefore significantly greater than the fluctuations in general employment levels.

According to the analysis, the cyclical nature of temporary agency employment is the likely consequence of companies hiring temporary workers to address labour shortages and ensure flexibility during economic upturns, while letting them and other casual employees go during economic crises (before dismissing permanent staff).

The cyclical aspect of this form of work means that temporary TAW employment is a supplementary indicator in the monitoring of developments in the Danish labour market, which is the main task of STAR.

Table: TAW employment in 1st quarter of 2017

 

Percentage of TAWs

Percentage of permanent employees

Work as manager/executive

1.5%

5.6%

Roles requiring high level of knowledge and skills

7.7%

30.6%

Roles requiring medium level of knowledge and skills

6.6%

12.7%

Routine office and customer service work

12.4%

9.2%

Service and sales work

23.7%

17.6%

Roles in agriculture, fishery and forestry

1.2%

0.3%

Craftsmanship

14.0%

8.6%

Operator, assembly and transport worker roles

3.4%

6.1%

Other manual worker roles

29.3%

8.3%

Military work

0.2%

0.9%

Total

100%

100%

Source: STAR

The increase in the number of temporary agency workers was distributed relatively equally between different job roles in 2017. The largest increase was in the broadly defined ‘other manual worker roles’, which made up 29.3% of all temporary agency work. STAR sees this as an indication that temporary workers tend to have a relatively low level of education.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce believes that the boom in the number of temporary agency workers is due to economic recovery and the desire for flexibility among companies. In response to the analysis from STAR, Jakob Tietge, Head of Business Services at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that an increase in the number of temporary agency jobs naturally follows economic recovery: ‘There will always be a certain share of temporary workers, such as temporary agency workers, to allow flexibility in relation to incoming tasks’.

He also pointed out that temporary agency worker roles do not just benefit companies: ‘You also have to see them as advantageous for employees in the workplace, because resources are provided that can relieve the burdens of those who are already permanently employed’.

The union organising temporary agency workers, the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F), disagreed with this last statement, despite acknowledging that temporary agency workers give companies the flexibility they need in the short-term. 3F expressed concern about the over-reliance of companies on this type of work contract. If the number of such contracts increases, this could indicate that employers will reduce the number of permanent contracts available to employees. Tina Møller Madsen, Chairman of 3F’s Private Service, Hotel and Restaurant group, said ‘more temporary agency workers means fewer full-time jobs. If you have fixed expenses, then you need a fixed full-time monthly income – it’s that simple’. [1]

 

Focus on working environment representatives in 2019

In December 2018, the new joint Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH) announced that 2019 will be the year of the working environment representative (AMR – formerly the health and safety representative). In a press release, Morten Skov Christiansen, Vice-President of the FH, explained that the purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness of the crucial role of representatives in improving the working environment. The campaign will highlight the daily efforts of AMRs to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. [2]

In Denmark, enterprises with more than 10 employees must have a working environment organisation (AMO). The AMOs consist of representatives of both management and employees. The AMRs are elected from among the employees and are key figures in daily tasks within any company relating to the working environment. The AMRs are protected and are obliged to observe confidentiality, which enables them to present work environment-related problems to management without the risk, for instance, of being fired.

The campaign began on 8 January 2019 and one of the first activities was a large conference that brought together 1,500 AMRs from across disciplines and industries to share their experiences and support each other. Following the conference and throughout the year, a number of local events will be held across the country involving various sectors, regions, federations and member organisations.

Commentary

The FH, which officially started its activities on 1 January 2019, is the result of a merger between three trade union confederations: the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Confederation of Professionals in Denmark (FTF) and the Confederation of Professional Associations in Denmark (Akademikerne). The new confederation has 79 member unions, which represent 1.4 million members.

 


Footnotes

  1. ^ Avisen.dk (2018), Virksomheder ansætter vikarer som aldrig før , 8 October
  2. ^ FH (2018), 2019 står i arbejdsmiljørepræsentanternes tegn , 27 December

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