A Danish politician has suggested paying immigrants half the current minimum wage. The idea has gone down well with center-right parties, but it's opposed by the left -- and the far right. Right-wing populists fear low wages for immigrants could take jobs away from "regular Danes."
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Now, in the middle of the summer holidays, a bitter new has broken out in Danish politics. Karsten Lauritzen, integration spokesman for the ruling right-liberal party Venstre, has proposed that immigrants be paid far less than Danes. His idea is that migrants should work for around 50 krone an hour (around €6.50 or $8.40) instead of the current minimum hourly wage of around 100 krone. There is no official legal minimum wage in Denmark, but pay is regulated by a series of wage agreements negotiated by labor unions.
Lauritzen is selling his idea as in the interests of the immigrants: he says that the high wages are preventing "immigrants and new Danes" from getting jobs. If you want to get migrants out of their ghettos and into the labor market then new ideas are required, Lauritzen argues. The politician told the Berlingske Tidende newspaper that he envisages a situation where an immigrant would get just half the minimum wage for the first six months. After all, he argued, some immigrants now take unpaid work to gain a foothold in the labor market. He assured the paper that he had his party's backing on the issue.
Migrants working for a pittance -- the suggestion may seem absurd, but it's shared by many in Danish politics, and it is not as easily dismissed as, say, a recent suggestion in Germany that immigrants be subjected to intelligence tests. Danish Labor Minister Inger Støjberg, also a member of the governing Venstre party, said he thought the suggestion was interesting and hoped it would be seriously examined. His party's coalition partners, the Conservatives, also claim to be interested in the concept, including the party's controversial spokesman on integration Naser Khader, himself the son of immigrants.
Khader said the introduction of lower wages for immigrants would of course have to be accompanied by several conditions. The low pay would only be for those who come to Denmark without any knowledge of the language, and whose training or qualifications were not recognized in Denmark.
But there are, for example, many Iraqis -- educated earlier in Eastern Europe to be engineers or dentists -- who now drive taxis in Denmark, says Khader. These people would certainly jump at the chance to work for a lower wage, as long as they could be sure of having a steady job.