Alex Rossi, Sky News (UK), July 16, 2010
A bitter row has broken out in Denmark after a politician suggested the country’s immigrants should be paid only half the minimum wage.
Karsten Lauritzen, the immigration spokesman for the ruling right liberal party Venestre, wants migrants to receive just 50 kroner (£5.60) an hour instead of the 100 kroner (£11.20) that native Danes pocket.
He claims it is in the immigrants’ interest to accept the lower pay, arguing that higher wages are stopping immigrants getting work at all.
By capping pay, he says, a two-tier system could evolve which would enable immigrants to get a foothold on the jobs ladder.
“The high minimum wage is a barrier to get immigrants into work. So if we want to get the immigrants out of the ghettos we will have to pay less,” he said.
The idea has been received favourably in some quarters but is also highly divisive.
Within Venestre the proposal is causing ructions, on the grounds that it is discriminatory.
Immigration Minister Birthe Ronn Hornbech has clashed very publicly with Mr Lauritzen over the matter, even though he is the department’s spokesman.
Ms Hornbech says the idea is at odds with national policy because the Danish government has a duty to treat everyone equally.
She went on to call the proposal ‘”disagreeable” and said it stigmatised immigrants and sent the message to the wider society that they were worth less.
There are nearly half a million immigrants in Denmark–many of them are asylum seekers from conflict zones.
Many educated Iraqis for instance–including doctors, scientists and engineers–are currently jobless despite being well skilled.
Immigration is an extremely volatile issue in Denmark.
In 2006 a Danish newspaper published a caricature of the prophet Muhammad–the image sparked protests and riots around the world.