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Employment in Copenhagen

  • ICT, clean tech, and life sciences among others are the main sectors in Copenhagen in which expats can find work.
  • In order to get a work permit, your boss needs to prove that he couldn’t find a suitable Dane to fill the position.
  • Although many expats are initially shocked by the high tax rates in Copenhagen, try to look at the benefits — completely free education and healthcare of a very high standard.

There are a lot of factors in favor of working in Copenhagen: the abundance of opportunities, the flexible working environment, and the beneficial location within Northern Europe, to name but a few. The Danish capital has become an increasingly popular destination among expats in recent years, and each year many Danes decide on working in Copenhagen as well.

Language, Location and Life Balance: An Ideal Destination

Copenhagen is an attractive business location for both international companies and expats. First of all, the Øresund region is well known for providing an excellent economic infrastructure, with its airports, harbors, and its connection to road networks and railways. The Øresund Bridge, opened in 2000, added a new and convenient connection between Denmark and its neighbor Sweden.

Naturally, the fact that any destination within Northern Europe can easily be reached is not the only argument in favor of working in Copenhagen. The area benefits from a highly flexible labor force, dedicated to hard work and a healthy life-work balance. At the same time, the majority of Copenhagen’s population speaks English fluently, which also makes working in Copenhagen easier for expats unfamiliar with the Danish language.

The Job Market: Where to Look

Among the most important sectors for people working in Copenhagen are the life sciences, information and communication technologies, clean tech, as well as the creative and entertainment industry. Expats could try their chances of finding employment in one of these sectors.

Life Science and Clean Tech

With Medicon Valley, Denmark offers many opportunities to locals and expats working in Copenhagen’s life science sector. Medicon Valley is a bi-national center for life science, located partly on Zealand, centered in Copenhagen as well as Sweden’s Skåne Region. This is where international investors in the field of life science chiefly settle. After all, the area represents one of Europe’s strongest life science locations.

For expats who plan on working in Copenhagen’s life science sector, the Medicon Valley is just the right place. The collaboration between hospitals, universities, specialized services providers, and businesses is just one of the things that make for a high-class working environment. The therapeutic areas of neuroscience, cancer, metabolic diseases, allergy, and autoimmune diseases are also particularly strong here.

Many clean-tech companies, too, have decided to establish branch offices in Copenhagen. In terms of research and development in sustainability, Copenhagen is world class, and by 2025, it aspires to become the first CO2-neutral capital in the world.

The ICT Sector

Copenhagen is also among those leading the way in terms of information and communication technologies (ICT). The highly skilled workforce is one of many aspects that make Copenhagen’s ICT industry one of the most innovative in Europe. This sector in particular may offer many opportunities for expats. Copenhagen is an attractive location for international companies, and many of them might just be inclined to transfer some of their employees abroad.

Denmark’s largest IT cluster, unsurprisingly, is located in the Copenhagen area, and over 100,000 people are employed in ICT companies in Greater Copenhagen and the Øresund region. The cluster is in tight cooperation with Skåne and the Øresund IT Academy. Many international companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco have offices in the Danish capital, providing jobs for all the people working in Copenhagen-based affiliates of these companies.

Creative and Entertainment Industry

Copenhagen and the entire Øresund Region can look back on a long tradition of movie making. Carl Theodor Dreyer, Bille August, and Lars von Trier are among the directors who made the region popular. Today, the creative industries make up 7% of the Danish employment and revenue, and these production companies could be interesting for expats thinking about working in Copenhagen as well.

Another branch of this sector is the up-and-coming video game industry. More and more software developers settle in Copenhagen, representing a new branch of the entertainment industry. High technology and innovation certainly combine to make working in Copenhagen an attractive proposition.

Finding Work in the City of Spires

Job Centers and Databases: How to Find Work

Trying to find a job in a foreign country can be incredibly challenging and even more so in a city as popular as Copenhagen. Needless to say, intra-company transfers are by far the most convenient way for expats to find work in Copenhagen. Of course, not everyone is so lucky to work for a company able to send them abroad.

Those who are searching for work on their own need to keep a few things in mind. First of all, it can be a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the Danish language. Although most people in Copenhagen speak English quite capably, having at least a basic command of Danish can be a good help on your job search in Copenhagen.

If you have already spent a few months or years in Denmark and are now on the job search again, you should visit a job center. This is also the place to turn to if you lose your current job, in which case you have to register as being unemployed.

It is always a great idea to activate your expat network, especially since not all positions are openly advertised. Perhaps one of your expat friends knows of a job opening that would be just right for you. You should also browse online job databases, like Jobindex or Workindenmark, and keep an eye on newspaper classifieds and magazine ads. Alternatively, private employment agencies might be able to refer you to companies and help you find exactly the right kind of job, at a price of course.

Getting a Work Permit

If you are not from an EA/EEU country, a Nordic country (Finland, Norway, or Sweden), or Switzerland, you cannot move to Copenhagen and take up full-time employment without a work permit. Before applying for one, however, you should note that your prospective Danish employer first has to prove that there were no equally qualified Danish applicants available.

Additionally, a few different work permit schemes serve to make the application process easier for expats:

  • The Corporate Scheme is designed for expats who transfer to a Danish branch of their company.
  • The Pay Limit Schemeapplies to you if your yearly income exceeds 400,000 DKK (approx. 60,000 USD).
  • The Green Card Schemeallows you to travel to Denmark to search for a job and subsequently take up employment.
  • The Positive Listincludes occupations currently short on labor. Securing a job on this list allows you to apply directly for a work permit.
  • Researchersalso have easier access to the Danish labor market.

These and other schemes apply to nationals of non-EU/EEA countries. Nationals of EU/EEA countries, Nordic countries, and Switzerland will be happy to learn that they do not require a permit to work in Copenhagen. However, unlike their Nordic neighbors, EU/EEA citizens and the Swiss are not entirely free to live and work in Denmark. Nevertheless, all they need is a residence permit, which they should obtain within three months of moving to Copenhagen.

Efficient and Productive: Business in the Capital

The Central Business District

Copenhagen’s central business district is considered one of the newest and most dynamic business areas in Northern Europe. It is also referred to as Ørestad City and located in Ørestad, one of Copenhagen’s newest districts, on the island of Amager. Its infrastructure and connection to Copenhagen’s public transportation system are excellent, and the Øresund bridge, the train station Ørestad, and the Copenhagen Airport can easily be reached.

Many international companies have opened offices here, and many more most likely will as the region is constantly being expanded and developed further. DELL, UCB Pharma Nordics, Nikon, Accenture, and Novo Nordisk Scandinavia are just some of the businesses located in Ørestad.

Aside from Ørestad City, the district also contains Universitetskvarteret (the University Quarter). The various educational institutions allow for excellent research opportunities. All in all, Ørestad aspires to become the main business hub in Northern Europe.

Secure and Protect: Denmark’s Flexicurity Model

Copenhagen’s workforce combined with the entire Øresund region represents the biggest and most coherent labor market in all of Scandinavia. Moreover, the region is extremely efficient and productive. Although the average Danish work week is five days (just 37 hours in total), the Danes put a lot of effort into their work, which expats consequently are also expected to do. This is also partly due to the Scandinavian “flexicurity” model.

Denmark’s flexicurity model is the result of the country’s social welfare system, combined with its active employment policies and the flexibility of the labor market. This model allows for above-average job mobility for Danes, although expats with no proficiency in the Danish language may not enjoy quite the same level of mobility.

In general, the welfare state offers a high level of security and protection. For instance, changing jobs has no effect whatsoever on your pension entitlements. This is particularly prevalent in Copenhagen, where the workforce is incredible diverse.

High Taxes for Excellent Public Services

Expats working in Copenhagen should be prepared to find a letter from the Danish tax authority (SKAT) in the mail twice a year. Your taxes are used to support the country’s welfare programs and are thus rather high — upwards of 50% in some cases. For most expats working in Copenhagen, the high tax rates come as a shock at first, but on the upside, you benefit from excellent health services and public education entirely free of costs.

Aside from your income tax, the welfare state is also funded by VAT (moms), which amounts to 25% of the net price of goods. On so-called luxury items, such as alcohol and petrol, VAT can be even higher. However, VAT is always included in the prices you see in for instance supermarkets, so you needn’t worry about doing any math when grocery shopping.

Tax revenues from goods and services are an important source of income for the government and make up about a third of all tax revenues. For more information on taxes and pensions, please also read our guide on working in Denmark. Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with SKAT’s tax guide for non-Danish speakers.

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