Denmark

   

Social Policies

#2
Key Findings
With a highly developed welfare system, Denmark falls into the top group internationally (rank 2) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

After years of mediocre scores on international tests, results in the 2015 PISA tests showed improvement. Education reforms have lengthened school hours, boosted math and language requirements, and increased funding. Further reforms for vocational and university education are underway.

Most social transfers have been reformed to strengthen incentives to work. Poverty rates are low, and the country is fairly egalitarian. Tax-financed health care services are available to all citizens. Patients stuck on long waiting lists can eventually turn to private providers. A robust child-care system allows both parents to work, with generous maternal and paternal leave provided.

Recent pension-system reforms have improved sustainability, with the three-pillar model providing ample benefits. The refugee wave in 2015 and 2016 prompted measures aimed at reducing immigration, including the reintroduction of border controls and a reduction of transfers to immigrants.

Education

#6

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
7
Education spending in Denmark is among highest in the OECD, but educational outcomes are vividly discussed. Traditionally, Danish pupils have not scored well on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) problem-solving tests. However, Denmark made some progress in the 2015 PISA results, scoring above the OECD average in science, mathematics and reading. This was an improvement over the past where Denmark’s overall score was around the OECD average. Though there remains scope for improvement.

These improvements are partly attributable to recent reforms, including reforms to the primary and lower-secondary school systems. A major reform in 2013 granted more discretionary power to the school principal to allocate teacher resources and keep pupils in school for more hours. Since 2014, school days have become longer, there is more assisted learning, there are more lessons in Danish and math, and the teaching of foreign languages has been strengthened (English made compulsory from level 1, German and French from level 5). To strengthen the continued development of teachers’ competencies the government has allocated one billion DKK from 2014 to 2020.

The government set the target that 95% of young Danes should complete a general or vocational upper secondary education program. According to the most recent forecasts, this goal is close to being reached (the prediction is 93% for the current cohort). However, it should be noted that the goal is formulated in terms of education level achieved 25 years after having left primary school, in which sense the target is not very ambitious.

One problem is the fact that immigrant students score markedly lower than Danish students, a problem particularly pronounced among boys. However, second-generation students do relatively better than first-generation students, especially girls.

Vocational and university educations have also been on the political agenda. In February 2014, a broad political agreement was reached focusing on better and more attractive vocational education and training. In October 2017, the government reached an agreement with labor market stakeholders to allocate DKK 2.5 billion to adult education and training. Universities have been under pressure to shorten the length of study and channel students into educational programs oriented toward business.

Citations:
Ministry of Education, Improving the Public School - overview of reform of standards in the Danish public school,” http://eng.uvm.dk/~/media/UVM/Filer/English/PDF/140708%20Improving%20the%20Public%20School.pdf (accessed 17 October 2014)

Ministry of Education, Improving Vocational Education and Training – overview of reform of the Danish vocational system. http://eng.uvm.dk/~/media/UVM/Filer/English/PDF/140708%20Improving%20Vocational%20Education%20and%20Training.pdf

OECD, “PISA 2012 Results in Focus,” https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf (accessed 7 December 2017).

Udvalg for Kvalitet og Relevans i de Videregående Uddannelser, 2014, Høje mål - fremragende undervisning i de videregående uddannelser, København.

“Aftale til 2,5 milliarder til voksen- og efteruddannelse,” https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/politik/aftale-til-25-milliarder-til-voksen-og-efteruddannelse-paa-plads (Accessed 7 November 2017).

Social Inclusion

#3

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
8
Measured in terms of inequality and poverty, Denmark has a high degree of social cohesion and the country is fairly egalitarian.

There is ongoing discussion on various marginalized groups, especially the number of working age people who receive public support (about 700,000 to 800,000 persons) is attracting attention. Measured in terms of employment rates, Denmark is among the top performers in the OECD area. An important distinguishing welfare feature is that most people not in employment are entitled to some form of social transfer. Somewhat simplified, the debate is split between those arguing that the welfare state is creating a low incentive to work and those arguing that most unemployed are suffering from various problems (from social problems to lack of qualifications) which make it difficult/impossible for them to find jobs.

A government appointed expert group proposed a new poverty line based on a relative poverty definition operationalized using the median-income method (2013), but this was abolished by the new government (2015). Though discussions on the issues are ongoing and the poverty line is being used by various organizations.

Most social transfers have recently been reformed with a greater focus on employment. Thus, the disability pension scheme has been changed such that, for people below the age of 40, the disability pension has been suspended (except for cases of severe and permanent loss of work capability). Instead, the focus has shifted to using and developing an individual’s remaining work capabilities. Likewise, the social assistance scheme has been reformed with a particular focus on improving the educational attainment of young workers (below age 30). For other age groups, the system now offers more flexibility and individualized solutions. Moreover, there is now a cap on total transfers as well as a work requirement (225 hours paid work within the last year) for full social assistance. Immigrants from outside the European Union are required to have been resident in Denmark for seven out of the last eight years to qualify for normal social assistance, otherwise a lower level of assistance is offered. The aim of these reforms is to strengthen the incentive to work, but it may result in poverty for those failing or unable to respond to these incentives.

Overall, policy debates have focused on how to strengthen the economic incentives for recipients of social assistance to be in work. A 2015 report from the Council of Economic Advisers found that most unemployed persons obtain an economic gain from work; their discussion centers on whether this gain is large enough.

Citations:
John Campbell, “Note to Denmark: Don’t Change a Thing,” http://www.dartmouth.edu/~vox /0506/0417/denmark.html (accessed 19 April 2013).

“Det betyder kontanthjælpsreformen,” http://www.stakato.dk/det-betyder-kontanthjaelpsreformen/ (accessed 19 April 2013).

Ekspertudvalg om fattigdom, 2013, En dansk fattigdomsgrænse - analyser og forslag til opgørelsesmetoder, København.

Økonomisk Råd, 2015, Dansk Økonomi (efterår) København.

Økonomisk Råd, 2016. Diskussionsoplæg 11 oktober. http://www.dors.dk/files/media/rapporter/2016/E16/E16_DISK.pdf (assessed 21 October 2016)

Health

#7

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
8
The main principles of health care in Denmark are as follows: universal health care for all citizens, regardless of economic circumstance; services are offered “free of charge;” and elected regional councils govern the sector. Because financing through taxes depends on the state budget, regional authorities depend on annual budget negotiations with the Ministry of Finance.

Although health care spending in Denmark is high, the OECD considers its performance “subpar.” In 2016, health spending in Denmark was 10.4% of GDP (11th highest among OECD countries), of which 8.7% is public (fifth highest among OECD countries). There has been an upward trend in health care expenditures, mainly driven by a policy shift from a top-down system to a more demand-driven system. This shift has been motivated by a concern about long waiting lists; to address this, the government has moved to offer a “time guarantee,” where patients in the public health care system can turn to a private provider if a public hospital can’t meet a specified wait time limit for treatment.

The 2007 structural reform shifted the responsibility for hospitals and health care from the old counties to the new regions. Health care is financed by a specific tax, however, which is part of the overall tax rate and over which regions have no control. This governance structure is creating problems, with regions having difficulties in meeting the objectives formulated for the health care system.

Life expectancy in Denmark in 2016 was 80.8 years, slightly above the OECD average, but below the level in comparable countries. Life expectancy is on an upward trend. There has been a marked decline in smoking in Denmark in recent years, but obesity rates have increased. The social gradient in health remains strong.

Recently, there has been much public debate about the quality of Danish hospitals. Increasing medicine prices are putting pressure on the financing of health care. The government’s program puts emphasis on a right to swift diagnosis and treatment as well as special efforts targeted at elderly medical patients. Since Denmark lags behind neighboring countries when it comes to cancer treatment, the government plans a new cancer strategy.

The current government is optimistic about the health care sector, claiming that one extra doctor and one extra nurse per day have been employed since the beginning of the decade, and that waiting times have been halved.

Citations:
OECD, Health at a glance 2017,” (accessed 7 December 2017).

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s Opening Address on 3 October 2017,” http://www.stm.dk/_p_14597.html (accessed 21 October 2017).

Families

#3

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
9
Denmark scores well on family policy in international comparisons. The country’s system of day care centers, preschools and kindergartens allow flexibility for both parents to work. Indeed, female employment in Denmark is among the highest in OECD countries. Comparative research also shows that men in Nordic countries do more household work than men in many other countries. Danes regard day care and preschool facilities as an indispensable public service. The system of parental leave, in connection with childbirth, is relatively generous and men also have parental leave rights.

Municipalities are in charge of day care facilities which may be either public institutions or private. These facilities contribute to better family policy. Social parties and business play a role too.

The great majority of children attend day care facilities in Denmark. In 2014, 66% of children aged two and under were in day care, the highest rate in the OECD – the second highest rate is about 40%. About 95% of children aged three to five attended some kind of preschool institution, the OECD average is about 85%. There is a user payment (means tested) for day care, but it does not cover the full cost, and the system is thus tax subsidized. There has been a large increase in the number of preschools in recent years.

Danish family policy is continuously debated. A primary policy aim is to facilitate labor market participation for women. For many women, returning to work is a financial necessity, and many women want to have a career. Others would rather take care of their small children for some years, which might actually not be bad for the children, but few actually do so. Recently, concerns have been raised on the quality and flexibility of day care due to strained finances in the municipalities.

Citations:
OECD, 2016, Enrolment in childcare and preschool, OECD – Social Policy Division – Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/PF3_2_Enrolment_childcare_preschool.pdf (accessed 7 Demceber 2017).

“Denmark: Combining work and family successfully,” http://europa.eu/epic/countries/denmark/index_en.htm (accessed 17 October 2014).

Pensions

#2

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
9
The pension policy in Denmark is well-structured in accordance with the World Bank’s three-pillar conceptual framework. Concerning the first pillar, Denmark has public pensions in the form of a universal base pension with means tested supplements. For the second pillar, labor market pensions are negotiated in the labor market but mandatory for the individual. The contribution rate has been increased over the years and is now 12% or more for most employees. As for the third pillar, it is comprised of both tax-subsidized pension arrangements (tied until retirement) offered by insurance companies, pension funds and banks as well as other forms of savings (for most households in the form of housing wealth).

The combination of the different pillars of the pension scheme creates a pension system that both protects against low income for the elderly (distributional objective) and ensures that most have a pension which is reasonable in relation to the income earned when the pensioner was active in the labor market (high replacement rates). The Danish pension scheme has for several years ranked first in the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index. The division of work between the public and private pension systems, however, has its problems. The means testing of public pension supplements implies that the net gain from additional pension savings or later retirements can be rather low (high effective marginal tax rates) for a broad segment of income earners. Moreover, the system is very complicated. In addition, there is the problem of citizens outside the mandatory labor market pensions (the “residual” pension group).

Statutory ages in the pension system (in public pensions for early retirement and age limits for payment of funds from pension schemes) are established by legislation. Recent reforms – the 2006 welfare reform and the 2011 retirement reform – will increase these ages considerably to cope with the aging population. The first elements of these reforms include a discrete increase in the early retirement age from 60 to 62 years over the period 2014-2017, shortening the early retirement period from five to three years over the years 2018-2019 and 2022-2023 (implying an early retirement age of 64 in 2023), and increasing the pension age from 65 to 67 years over the period 2019-2022. The second element is an indexation of the early retirement age and pension age to the development in life expectancy at the age of 60, in order to limit the expected pension period to 14.5 years (17.5 including early retirement) over the long term (currently between 18.5 and 23.5 years).

Citations:
Pensionskommissionen, 2015, The Danish Pension System – Internationally Praised but not without Problems (Det danske pensionssystem – international anerkendt, men ikke problemfrit), Copenhagen.

Integration

#11

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
7
On 1 January 2016 there were about 700,000 immigrants and descendants of immigrants living in Denmark, or 12% of the population (7% immigrants, 5% descendants). Roughly two-thirds of immigrants are from non-western countries. After the tightening of immigration policies introduced by the liberal-conservative government in 2002, immigration from non-Western countries fell, but net immigration from Western countries rose. More recently there have been increases from both groups.

The employment rate of immigrants and their descendants (ages 16 to 64) is low compared to other groups, though it had been increasing from the mid-1980s until the onset of the financial crisis. There is a substantial employment gap, taking into account the age distribution, immigrants from non-western countries have an employment rate (2015) which is 23% lower than that of ethnic Danes (for descendants the gap is 17%). The gap is higher for women (25%) than for men (21%). For immigrants from western countries the gap is about 11% (for descendants about 6%). The gaps in employment rates should be viewed in light of high employment rates in Denmark for both men and women, high qualification requirements to find a job and high minimum wages.

Concerning educational achievements, immigrants and their descendants – especially girls – are making progress. For the 2014 cohort, 95.4% of women with Danish ethnicity and 92% of women with a foreign background, and 92% of men with Danish ethnicity and 80.8% of men with a foreign background are expected to complete secondary education.

The 24-year-old rule for family reunification introduced in 2004 has allowed fewer immigrants and their descendants to bring spouses to Denmark from abroad. The percentage fell from 61% in 2001 to 31% in 2008. Instead, immigrants increasingly marry other immigrants already living in Denmark as well as native Danes.

Since these reforms have gone into effect there have been improvements. Indeed, an increasing number of immigrants say they feel more integrated and have more Danish friends, and fewer say they experience discrimination. In addition, many more immigrants speak Danish than ever before.

In 2015 and 2016, there was a sudden influx of refugees and asylum-seekers from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. This increased revived political debates about immigration and was a key issue in the electoral debate in June 2015, with most parties wanting to limit immigration. The high number of asylum-seekers that arrived over the following summer forced the government to adopt stricter immigration policies. Various measures were introduced to reduce immigration (also for family unification) and recently the government proposed a temporary stop to refugees arriving under the U.N. quota system. The conditions of temporary residency permits are being reassessed and the scope for temporary residents to return is being discussed. These measures should be viewed together with changes to the social safety net and reduced transfers to immigrants.

The current government plans to maintain the temporary border control until control over the Schengen Area’s external borders is improved. Special initiatives to tackle the creation of parallel societies, which have high rates of crime and promote anti-Danish values, have been announced. Rejected asylum-seekers will be returned.

As in most other European countries the inflow of asylum-seekers has recently declined significantly. The first eight months of 2017 saw 2,254 people apply for asylum in Denmark, the lowest number in six years. Of asylum-seekers, 25.7% were from Syria, 10.3% from Morocco, 6.3% from Eritrea and 6% from Afghanistan.

Citations:
Danmarks Statistik, “21.000 har søgt om asyl i Danmark I 2015,” http://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/NytHtml?cid=20613 (Accessed 21 October 2016).

Udlændinge og integration,” https://www.regeringen.dk/regeringens-politik-a-%C3%A5/udlaendinge-og-integration/ (accessed 21 October 2017.

“Hvor mange kommer, og Hvorfra?” http://refugees.dk/fakta/tal-og-statistik/hvor-mange-kommer-og-hvorfra/ (Accessed 21 October 2017).

Safe Living

#13

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
8
The security forces and police are responsible for internal security (falling under the Ministry of Justice). Cooperation between the police and defense intelligence services was increased after 9/11. International cooperation has also increased among Western allies.

Denmark is not a violent society. The homicide rate is low and Danes normally trust the police. However, burglaries are not uncommon and crimes related to drug use, especially in the bigger cities, have increased. Recently incidences of gang-crime have increased, including shooting incidences. Terrorist events at home and abroad have increased tensions.

According to the Eurobarometer, Spring 2015, Danish responses to the question “What do you think are the two most important issues facing [your country] at the moment?” were: immigration (35%), health and social security (30%), unemployment (25%), and terrorism (15%).

Denmark has opted out of the justice and home affairs cooperation within the European Union (since 1993). In December 2015, there was a referendum on the Danish opt-out. The proposal called for Denmark to adopt an opt-in model, implying that the country would take part in 22 EU legislative directives and regulations concerning criminal law and police cooperation as well as civil, family and commercial law. Denmark would still not take part in 10 other legislative directives and regulations concerning asylum and immigration. Voters turned this proposal down. Subsequent negotiations led to an agreement with Europol that allows Denmark to take part in police cooperation from May 2017, when Denmark would have had to leave if an arrangement had not been found. It remains to be seem how satisfactory the agreement will be.

Following the great influx of refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015 the government reintroduced border control. Opinion polls in September 2015 showed that about 60% of the Danes supported this step. In an opinion poll in January 2015, 63% of the Danes supported Denmark joining a common EU agreement on the distribution of refugees. The question of continuing national border control is currently under discussion.

In an opinion poll in November 2015, 27% answered very likely and 54% answered likely on the possibility that a terror attack will occur in the next few years. The same poll showed that an overwhelming majority thought that such attach was likely to be committed by a fundamentalist Islamic group.

Citations:
Murder plot against Danish cartoonist, http://jyllands-posten.dk/uknews/EC E3923645/murder-plot-against-danish-cartoonist/ (accessed 18 April 2013)

DIIS, “Opinion Polls,” http://pure.diis.dk/ws/files/563878/Yearbook_2016_Web.pdf (accessed 22 October 2016).

Eurobarometer, Spring 2015. http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/archives/eb/eb83/eb83_first_en.pdf (Accessed 21 October 2017).

Global Inequalities

#4

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
9
Assisting developing countries has broad support in Denmark. Indeed, according to the Center for Global Development’s Commitment to Development index, Denmark is ranked first in respect to overall commitment to development, first in respect to fostering institutions and third when it comes to reducing the burden of poverty. When it comes to efficiency, Denmark sits in the middle among OECD countries. Nearly all political parties support Denmark’s development efforts and want the country to remain highly ranked in comparison with other countries.

Denmark is one of only five countries in the world to contribute more than the U.N. target of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to development assistance. In 2011, Denmark contributed 0.85% of GNI to development aid. The new Liberal government, which came to power in June 2015, decided to reduce Danish development aid but will still live up to the U.N. recommendation of 0.7% of GNI. However, some of the funds have been redirected to address the increasing inflow asylum-seekers. There will be increased focus on the regions in the Middle East and Africa from where many refugees come. Denmark’s humanitarian aid will not be reduced.
The priority areas of Denmark’s development strategy are human rights and democracy, green growth, social progress, stability and protection. About 30% of Danish aid is provided through multilateral channels.

In May 2016, 40% of the Danes felt that it was very important to help people in developing countries and 49% felt that it was fairly important. At the time of the great influx of refugees in September 2015, 30% of the Danes supported giving more development aid, 35% the same amount, 28% less. Overall, there is still relatively strong support for development aid in Denmark.

The government’s current development strategy for 2018 prioritizes: increased efforts in areas close to war and conflict; increased focus on migration, including the return of illegal migrants to their home countries; increased development financing by mobilizing private capital; and increased support for multilateral efforts for women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. About 70% of Denmark’s official development aid (ODA) is bilateral, the remaining 30% is multilateral.

Citations:
OECD, Development Assistance Committee (DAC), Peer Review Denmark 2011. http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/development/oecd-development-assistance-peer-reviews-denmark-2011_9789264117082-en#page1 (Accessed 18 October 2014).

Foreign Ministry, “Øget fokus på nærområderne og den humanitære bistand.” http://um.dk/da/nyheder-fra-udenrigsministeriet/newsdisplaypage/?newsID=78F621ED-7A6B-4A89-B307-591316D6FCEE

Regeringens udviklingspolitiske prioriteter 2018, http://um.dk/da/danida/strategi%20og%20prioriteter/prioritetsplaner?sc_mode=normal (accessed 21 October 2017).

DIIS, Yearbook 2016. http://pure.diis.dk/ws/files/563878/Yearbook_2016_Web.pdf (Accessed 22 October 2016)
Back to Top