Danish government sues EU over minimum wage

Denmark’s government on Wednesday brought a case requesting annulment of the EU’s minimum wage directive.

Danish government sues EU over minimum wage
Denmark will seek to have the EU's minimum wage directive annulled by the EU Court. File photo: JOHN THYS / AFP

The Danish lawsuit was confirmed by the Ministry of Employment in a press statement.

The case was expected as it was part of the policy agreement for the coalition government, signed in December. The deadline to bring the case against the EU Court in Luxembourg was Wednesday.

An annulment suit is an attempt to have the directive revoked on the grounds that it is in breach of the EU Treaty.

An EU directive on minimum wages was adopted in October last year but Denmark and Sweden are both opposed because of the established labour models in those two countries, by which wages are set through negotiations between trade unions and employers.

The EU Commission has stated that it will respect the Danish model and will not force the country to code a minimum wage into law, but the Danish government wants the directive to be removed completely.

READ ALSO: Why is Denmark opposed to an EU minimum wage law?

“It’s important to underline that the directive does not force Denmark to introduce a minimum wage,” Employment Minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said in the statement.

“But despite that, this is a case of legislation without precedent, which makes it a principal case. We insist that wages must be set in Denmark and not the EU,” she said.

“The government has therefore decided that the EU Court must rule on this case,” she said.

The ministry said the process could take up to two years. The date on which the case will be taken up by the EU Court is yet to be set.

The directive sets an EU-wide minimum wage. The intention is that workers are given a fair minimum wage either by law or through collective bargaining.

The directive includes a requirement for member countries to produce an action plan if collective bargaining agreements cover less than 80 percent of working terms in the relevant country.

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Denmark issued 40 percent more non-EU work permits in 2022

Denmark issued over 21,000 work permits to non-EU nationals in 2022, an increase of over 40 percent compared to the previous year.

Denmark issued 40 percent more non-EU work permits in 2022

Preliminary figures issued by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration show that the number of work permits issued to non-EU nationals in 2022 was 21,553.

That represents an increase of more than 40 percent compared to 2021, when 15,167 permits were issued.

The number of work permits issued by Denmark has seen steady growth over the last four years, according to ministry figures.

In 2019, some 13,713 work permits were issued to non-EU citizens. The number dropped during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to 10,333 in 2020 before rising significantly in 2021 and 2022.

For work permits issued to EU nationals under the EU’s free movement rules, the numbers tell a similar story. Numbers released by the ministry show 18,578 such permits released in 2019, falling to 15,681 in 2020.

EU nationals were given 22,080 and 25,842 Danish work permits in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

It should be noted the British nationals would be registered under the EU category in 2019 and 2020 and the non-EU category in 2021 and 2022.


“In a time with low unemployment it’s hugely positive that so many foreigners are choosing Denmark and contributing to our labour market,” Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek said in a statement.

“That’s a huge benefit for Denmark and the Danish economy. We currently need hands in both the public and private sectors and the many people who come here through business [permit] schemes contribute to growth and better service,” he said.

“I am very pleased we are doing well on attracting labour from outside while also having rules that take good care of Danish wage earners,” he said.

Despite the growth in permits and Bek’s positive view of them, businesses have called for more to be done to increase foreign labour and there is also some demand in the opposition.

The Confederation of Danish Industry said in August that Danish businesses are finding it harder than ever to recruit staff and could hire 38,000 new workers immediately if they were available.

The Social Liberals, a centre-left opposition party, in November said it wants Denmark to increase its foreign workforce.

“It is still far too difficult for Denmark’s businesses to bring foreign labour to Denmark. There are trip wires everywhere, and we have a whole catalogue of proposals,” Social Liberal leader Martin Lidegaard said at the time.

In its coalition policy agreement, the government, formed in December, said that it would “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

READ ALSO: What do we know about Denmark’s plans to relax work permit rules?