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Peter Hummelgaard: aims to secure early retirement for tired workers
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Peter Hummelgaard: aims to secure early retirement for tired workers

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: Steen Brogaard

The Danish labour market is facing major changes if Minister for Employment Peter Hummelgaard manages to get support for his plans. He wants to fight for fairer conditions for people with lower levels of education and for those in low-paid jobs.

He became Denmark’s new Minister for Employment in June 2019, and describes himself as the son of a porter and a cleaning lady, who learned at an early age that it is important to secure proper conditions for people with low levels of education and those on the lowest level of pay. A fair labour market is not a given.

That is why he ran for the Social Democrats and accepted the post as Minister for Employment in Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s government. His task will now be to create a political majority for a crucial Social Democrat election promise: to secure early retirement for worn-out workers. 

One of the key issues during the election campaign was how to give tired concrete workers and bus drivers the opportunity to retire before their bodies start to give in. This is also a central issue for the trade union movement. It will not be easy to keep this promise, however. Before the general election, the government coalition partner The Danish Social Liberal Party had entered into a retirement agreement with the centre-right opposition which has little in common with the Social Democrats’ model.    

Peter Hummelgaard agrees he faces a challenging task, but says he is doing all he can to find a solution, and that helping worn-out workers is a question of justice. He uses the word “justice” a lot, also in his 2018 book “Den Syge Kapitalisme” (Sick Capitalism). In it, he describes what he calls a new social contract between different groups in society, which would fight injustice and work for a more just society.

His first act as a government minister was to start talks to secure help for the most needy families with small children, who receive integration support and unemployment benefitsHe has also flagged labour market reform aimed at moving more people off benefits and into jobs. The reforms will follow three main strands. First, to make sure people without jobs – including refugees and immigrants – get the right skills. Then, better work environments to reduce the number of people who get sick from going to work. And finally, it should become more pleasant and easier for senior citizens to choose to stay in work after reaching retirement age. 

The Minister for Employment has been very clear in his opposition to a central element of the former government’s employment policy: to get more people into work by cutting welfare benefits for people like the unemployed and refugees, in the belief that this would make working a more desirable goal.   

 

Denmark’s Minister for Employment since June 2019

Name: Peter Hummelgaard

Age: 36

Grew up in the Amager area in Copenhagen, a working class neighbourhood, where he still lives with his partner and young daughter.

  • Has represented the Social Democrats in parliament since 2015.
  • Was a political consultant at the 3F trade union.
  • Author of “Den Syge Kapitalisme” (Sick Capitalism) from 2018, about the finance crisis and its consequences.
  • A trained lawyer.
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