Denmark: Collective bargaining and continuous vocational training

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 11 February 2009

Carsten Jørgensen

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

CVT in Denmark is mainly provided and paid for by the state, whereas the collective agreements establish the right to take up CVT. The social partners are deeply involved in all bodies at all levels concerning the content and the development of CVT.

Main features of the national Continuous Vocational Training system

THE LEGISLATIVE framework for the CVT system is the Act on open education, the Act on universities and the Act on adult vocational basic and further training (CVT in Danish is ‘Voksen- og Efteruddannelserne, VEU – or Adult and Continuing Training. It is thus a little broader than ‘vocational’) There are no special provisions in the legal system that establish CVT as an individual right. Individual rights to CVT are, however, established through the collective agreements.

Main actors are the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Employment on the government’s side and on the other the employees’ and the employers’ organisations. The social partners are represented in all public councils and committees that deal with CVT. The providers, i.e. the private companies, the schools and the centres, should also be considered as actors.

There are public as well as private providers. The private providers could be divided in two: commercial providers and private institutions/organisations (for instance the employees’ and employers’ organisations). In general, privately provided CVT is not formally qualifying. Only very few privately provided educations are entitled to public reimbursement. The public sector is the main provider of CVT. (source: Ministry of Finance, Report of Tripartite Committee on ‘Life long learning and education for all at the labour market. Vol 1: The future adult- and continuing training effort’ – Den fremtidige voksen- og efteruddannelsesindsats ).

A single national system that, with the participation of the social partners, establishes the continuing training programmes (called ‘Adult- and Continuing Training – Voksen- og Efteruddannelsen, VEU) along sectoral/occupational lines. The system of CVT consists of a basic programme (Labour Market Educations: AMU, Prepatory Adult Education: FVU, Generel Adult Education: AVU, Initial Adult Training, GVU) and post-secondary education and training programme for adults (Post-secondary training for Adults, VVU, Diploma, Masters)

Target groups (the users) of CVT are the employed as well as the unemployed. The types can either be AMU (labour market educations), where the programmes offered is based on 139 work functions within all sectors or CVT/VEU based on 12 entrances of the Vocational Training Programme (Erhvervsuddannelserne, EUD): Car, plane and other means of transport; Construction; Buildings and Service; Animals, plants and nature; Body and style; Food for people; Media production; Mercantile; Production and development; Electricity and IT; Health, care and child and youth teaching; Transport and logistics.

There are 5,000 private providers. However, the majority are small providers with less than 5 employees and maximum 500 course participants a year – or 4% of the total number of course days provided. Companies or organisations with more than 100 employees provide 43% of the total number of course days but only provide for 9% of the total number of private training providers.

The report of the tripartite committee on life long learning (mentioned above) concludes, with respect to the methodological problems of the user survey, that in 2004 54,000 full-time students attended the public CVT, 33,100 – 43,600 full-time students attended the privately provided CVT, and 31,400 – 41,300 full-time students attended internal courses in the companies. In relation to the employees the survey shows that more than 60% of all employees participated in CVT.

Participation is relatively low among employees in SMEs – as well as in the construction sector and in hotel and restaurants. The participation is highest in companies subject to competition. Not surprisingly innovative companies within technology have a high degree of CVT.

According to a survey from Eurostat LFS 2003, 56% of employed Danish women and 50% of employed Danish men participated in CVT in 2003. And furthermore:

Employed with low education:

Women: 37.3% – Men: 37.2%

Employed with medium education

Women: 52.% - Men: 45.9%

Employed with high education

Women: 67.2.% - Men: 63.9%

The tendency shown is that employees with a low education (and in unskilled jobs) participate much less in CVT than the well educated.

The funding of the CVT system:

THE SYSTEM is mainly financed by the state and supplemented with user payment. The total expenses in 2004 of the public CVTs was DKK 5 billion (€ 667 million). Hereof operation costs amounted to DKK 2.7 billion and reimbursement covered DKK 1.6 million, of which the employers contributed around 1 billion. This amount stems from AER (Arbejdgivernes Elevrefusion, the the Employers’ Student Reimbursement). Besides, 0.7 billion is financed via user payment.

In 2004 AMU covered 42% of the total public supplements to operation costs of CVT, while the activity corresponded to 18% of the total CVT-activity.

The presence of public incentives to support private investment in CVT.

A certain amount of private investments in CVT can be reimbursed by the state (and the Employers’ Student reimbursement).

The role of the European Social Fund.

Plays only a limited role.

The role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in the CVT system

IN GENERAL the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in the CVT system in Denmark is substantial.

THE SOCIAL partners have a central role in devising programmes and initiatives and setting guidelines concerning the CVT system. They normally take active part in the pre-legislative work and they are active in bipartite and tripartite bodies concerning CVT at all levels: They are part of the national, regional, sectoral, and company level ‘vocational committees’ (faglige udvalg; uddannelseudvalg- og råd). They are also present on the boards of the AMU-centres and the Technical Schools that offer CVT.

The main development since 2002 in the area of CTV was the creation of a tripartite committee in the field, on the initiative of the Prime Minister. The official tripartite committee on 'lifelong learning and education/training for all groups on the labour market' was set up in September 2004 for the purpose of mapping and analysing present programmes and activities in the field of adult and continuing training in Denmark. In February 2006, the results of its work were published in the report mentioned above of more than 1,000 pages. On the basis of its analysis, the committee strongly recommended a strengthening of activities and programmes in the field of adult and continuing training. The committee in particular recommended a strengthening of measures in relation to the most disadvantaged groups on the labour market, including people with inadequate literacy and/or numeracy skills.

The social partners take active part in the governance of the CVT system. They are managing initiatives at sectoral and company level and most sectors have bipartite ‘competence development committees’, as in the state sector, or ‘vocational training committees’ as in the private sector. At company level the CVT activities are discussed and planned in the local co-operation committee, which consists of a parity of members from the A and B side.

A fund for educational purposes (a CVT fund) was introduced in the collective agreement in manufacturing industry (the Industry Agreement) 2007 – 2010

The Danish CVT system is overall based on both legislation and social dialogue, including collective bargaining. The relationship between the two links of the system in relation to the legislative provisions is two-fold. The government determines the economic framework, for example the degree of user payment within the training programmes. The content and maintenance of the programmes, which is settled by law, is most often the result of a prior tripartite social dialogue. The relevant social partners’ organisations manage and form the vocational training programmes, e.g. for loco drivers, in bipartite committees set down by law after consultation at tripartite level. The social dialogue is thus the basis of the legislative framework of the content of the training programmes. The most important levels are the national, sectoral and the company levels. Collective bargaining as such does not have direct influence on the legislative provisions.

It can be said that the state is the provider of CTV while the collective agreements establish the right to take up CVT. The latest change is the introduction of CVT-funds in the agreements of 2007.

Please consider all the following levels, as long as they are relevant for CVT in your country:

Social dialogue and intersectoral agreements at national level.

Ad hoc social dialogue at confederation level with the government. The dialogue is not institutionalised, i.e. not following a fixed pattern

Sectoral level.

The right to take up CVT is established in the sectoral agreements. Latest also the introduction of CVT-funds

Territorial and local levels.Professional level.Company level, if possible, differentiating between larger firms and SMEs. If relevant, also refer to multinational companies with/without European Works Councils.

The sector agreements are framework agreements which are further ‘filled out’ at company level. This means that practical steps towards setting up and planning CVT take place in the cooperation committee of the single company. The sector agreement (in Industry for instance) further recommends that a ‘education committee’ is set up.

Collective Bargaining on CVT

It is normally accepted among practitioners and scholars that CB covers 100% in the public sector and 77% in the private. This means that 85% of Danish employees are covered by CB on CVT. The agreements are sectoral.

The workplaces involved in collectively-agreed CVT initiatives ( number of workplaces, percentages), specifying the type of the relevant collective agreements (intersectoral, regional/territorial, sectoral, professional, company).

Data not available

By focussing on the collective bargaining level which is most relevant in your country (intersectoral, regional/territorial, sectoral, professional, company – see section II.3 above), please provide the following information on the features of collectively agreed CVT initiatives and try to highlight whenever possible changes and trends since 2002:

The beneficiaries of CVT initiatives regulated by collective bargaining: all employees or specific groups (like women, unemployed, part-timers, fixed-term workers, temporary agency workers, full-timers, older workers, new recruits, managers, white-collars, blue-collars, low-qualified, young, apprentices/trainees, immigrants).

In principal all employees under a collective agreement are beneficiaries of CVT initiatives regulated by collective bargaining. The AMU (the labour market educations) was, and still is, basically directed towards un-skilled workers, but also encompass skilled workers.

The type of CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining: on the job/off the job, courses, workshops, training leave, training plans, specific actions, etc.

Types are: on the job training by mentors, e.g. for immigrants, off the job courses, which for some part can be individually chosen, workshops in connection with collective redundancies, short two-weeks training leaves, special on the job training plans, etc.

Actually the sector agreement in Industry recommends that ‘a systematic education plan for the employees of the company is accomplished’. The specific types of CVT that is needed will be decided the ‘education committee’ which is set up as a joint committee between the A and B side.

The training content of CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining: high/low skills, general/specific skills, etc.

The training content of the CVT initiatives depends on the sector combined with the special needs of the companies within the sector in order to stay competitive.

The compensation of time spent on CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining: paid vs. non-paid.

Time spent on CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining is paid.

The integration in the national CVT system of CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining: (i) the accreditation/certification of learning processes (awarded/non awarded and the link with relevant bodies/institutions); (ii) certification of learning outcomes (certified/non certified - please specify type of certification and the link with relevant bodies/institutions).

Publicly provided CVT is certified by the AMU-centres and the Technical Schools after the is ended.

The introduction of an ‘individual right’ to training by collective bargaining and how this right is ensured.

This right is not highlighted in the agreements in the public sector, whereas it is stipulated in the private sector agreements. All employees have the right to one week of paid training. After 9 months of seniority an employee has the right to two weeks of paid CVT (Industry Agreement § 45). The basic principle is in fact that the collective agreement secure the right to take time off which is reimbursed in order to take up training as offered by the state.

The presence and characteristics of joint committees to monitor and follow up the CVT initiatives introduced by collective bargaining.

The most important joint committee in this case must be the ‘education committee’ in the company. If the employer covered by a collective agreement is not showing interest in taking initiative the local union can claim that the employer are not following the agreement in force.

Main positions of the social partners on the CVT

Both the employer associations and the trade unions assess CVT and upgrading of skills as such as necessary means in order to keep the good position of Danish economy in the world market. Training is our most important resource in relation to the effects of economic globalisation. This is among the reason why Denmark is the country in EU that spend most money on CVT and also have the highest number of users combined with the best opportunities to take up further training.

Where the social partners disagree is about the question ‘who pays?’ The trade unions want a higher degree of employer involvement and basically saw funding CVT as a matter for the state and secondly for the employers. This has slightly changed after 2002 especially with the creation of the tripartite committee on life long learning. The Prime Minister invited to the social dialogue also with the aim to discuss a further involvement of the social partners in the funding of CVT. He drew parallels to the ‘success story’ of the labour market pensions. In 1989 they were introduced to be negotiated in the collective bargaining and paid two-thirds by the employer and one-third by the employee. The percentage in industry to be set a side is currently 12% on top of the gross wage. The current Prime Minister would like to this successful experiment transferred to the area of CVT. The social partners are not dismissive but so far no concrete steps have been taken to this end.


CVT is an important issue in the social dialogue in Denmark. A developed CVT-system is viewed by the social partners and the government as a necessary resource if Danish companies shall stay competitive under the impact of economic globalisation. CVT is viewed as part of Danish flexicurity where job mobility plays a strong part. Unskilled jobs are often replaced by skilled jobs, for example, when a company relocate to a low wage country. CVT is paid by the state, but it is a very expensive task. Therefore a change in the institutional framework in the direction of more involvement by the social partners (and CB) in the financing of CVT can be expected. The ‘Competence development fund’ in Industry is a beginning.

Carsten Jørgensen, FAOS

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