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Tackling youth unemployment in Denmark

Young unemployed persons can receive economic support as well as help through mandatory activation and improvement of skills.

Although the term “youth guarantee” is not commonly used in Denmark, a de facto national guarantee has been in place for almost two decades since the introduction of the special “youth initiative” for young unemployed people in 1996.

The measures entailed early activation for young unemployed people and a stronger focus on motivating young unemployed people without a vocational education to enter one.

The relatively low levels of youth unemployment and NEETs are related to the active labour market policy which has been developed in Denmark over the past decades and is based upon early intervention and a widespread use of mandatory activation, especially for young unemployed persons, who are generally subject to earlier activation than adults. In addition, interventions are in place that, target young people who are inactive on the labour market but who are not registered as unemployed.

For unskilled young unemployed persons, the focus is furthermore on improving their formal skills through vocational education, based on the fact that unskilled young people are at greatest risk of unemployment and unstable employment.

The active measures directed at young unemployed persons are as follows:
Young unemployed persons who are members of an unemployment insurance fund
For young unemployed persons who are members of an unemployment insurance fund, the following rules apply:

  • They are initially subject to the same offers and obligations as older unemployed persons, including the obligations to actively seek work and attend regular interviews at their local job centre.
  • Young persons under the age of 30 are furthermore subject to mandatory activation after only three months of unemployment, compared with six months for older unemployed persons.
  • In the case of young unemployed persons who do not have a vocational education, the job centre places a special emphasis on guiding them towards general or vocational education in the regular educational system.
  • In the case of young unemployed persons aged 24 years or less, the unemployment benefit will furthermore be reduced by 50% after six months with the aim of giving them a stronger incentive to take up a regular programme of education; the rationale behind this is the fact that the state student grant is significantly less than normal unemployment benefits.
  • Young unemployed persons under the age of 25 who have not completed secondary education are furthermore always tested as regards their skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. If the test reveals shortcomings, the young person in question is obliged to participate in a relevant training programme.

Young unemployed persons who apply for means-tested cash benefits

Young people under the age of 30 without an education who are in receipt of education benefits are the focus of special attention following the cash benefit reform of 2014. Young unemployed persons are obliged to take part in education or other active measures to improve their skill set. If they refuse to do this they will face economic sanctions.

Unemployed persons who are not members of an unemployment insurance fund can apply for means-tested cash benefits. If they qualify for these benefits, the following rules apply:

  • Unskilled young unemployed persons under the age of 30 who are assessed as being able to take part in regular programmes of education are obliged to do so and will receive a special benefit, which is similar to the state student grant.
  • If the young unskilled unemployed person is not able to attend a regular programme of education he or she must take part in active measures, such as participation in a pre-course at an educational institution ('bridge building to education'), courses to upgrade basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills, wage subsidies, or job training in private businesses.
  • If the young unemployed person already has a vocational education, he or she will have the same status as an older unemployed person aged 30 years or more and is obliged to look for work and also take part in mandatory activation after three months of unemployment.
  • Those young unemployed persons who face multiple challenges are categorised as ‘ready for activation’, which entitles them to receive additional support. The measures implemented for this group include the provision of a coordinating caseworker at the job centre and for example job training or ‘building bridge to education', and as a very minimum a mentor support. In this way, the young person will receive more coordinated and intensive support via a partner-based approach.

Measures for the age group 15-17 years

Those aged 15-17 are obliged to be in education, employment or another activity in accordance with their personal education plan. The aim is that those aged 15-17 will sooner or later complete vocational or upper secondary education or gain a foothold in the labour market. When a young person leaves primary and lower secondary education to begin vocational or upper secondary education, the youth guidance centre must assess whether the young person in question possesses the requisite educational, personal and social skills to do so. In the case of young people who are assessed as not yet being ready to move into further education, the municipality must provide training or any other assistance needed in order to help them achieve a positive assessment in this regard.

The youth guidance centres provide guidance services for young people up to the age of 25, focusing in particular on the transition from compulsory to upper secondary education or to the labour market. There are 53 youth guidance centres distributed across the 98 municipalities in Denmark.

Last updated: 26-10-2018