Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite a relative slow recovery from post-crisis troubles, Denmark’s economic-policy scores place the country in the top ranks (rank 3) internationally. Its score in this area has improved by 0.2 points since 2014.

Growth rates remain low, and are predicted to remain so for some years. Unemployment is largely structural, and modest by EU standards. Newly announced reforms will increase financial incentives to work, especially for low-income groups.

The country’s “flexicurity” model affords high labor-market mobility, with training and assistance provided to the unemployed. The transition rate from unemployment into employment is the EU’s highest, while social assistance seeks to ensure more people receive labor-market-relevant educations.

The tax burden is high, with income and VAT taxes dominant. Marginal income-tax rates have decreased, as have corporate taxes. Budget balances are sustainable, with debt levels moderate. R&D funding is robust.

Social Policies

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, 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 the focus on employment. 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. Though integration-policy reforms have made marked improvements, efforts to limit immigration were undermined by 2015’s wave of refugees. International development aid is declining from very high comparative levels.

Environmental Policies

With ambitious targets for phasing out fossil-fuel use, Denmark falls into the top ranks worldwide (rank 2) with regard to environmental policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.6 points since 2014.

Denmark is an environmental leader, with very strong climate policy in particular. The share of renewable-energy use is fairly high, and water usage restrained. Direct emissions have fallen substantially, though this masks a rise in imports from less CO2-friendly countries.

Coal use is expected to be phased out by 2030, with some suggesting that 2025 may even be possible.

The country plays an active role in shaping international environmental regimes, working through the EU, the UN and other bodies. Civil society actively pressures politicians to treat environmental protection as a global issue.



Quality of Democracy

With free and fair electoral procedures, Denmark falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 3) in the area of democracy quality. Its score in this area has fallen by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parties receive public support, but private contributions lack transparency. Citizens living permanently overseas cannot vote. Referendums are primarily used for EU-related issues.

The media are largely independent, with a high degree of pluralism. Newspapers’ political-party affiliations are diminishing. A revised information-access law has been criticized for reducing public access to policy-preparation documents.

Civil rights are widely respected. Ethnic and gender-based discrimination is an occasional labor-market concern. The new government is intent upon reversing a recent relaxation of immigration rules. Adherence to the rule of law is strong. Courts are independent and powerful, and corruption very rare.



Executive Capacity

With a strongly consensual system, Denmark falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Strategic-planning capabilities are strong. Seconded line-ministry officials enhance sectoral-policy review capacities in the Prime Minister’s Office. Ministries are fairly autonomous, with policy coordination taking place in cabinet and coordination committees. Decision-making is consensual, with informal coordination playing a critical role.

RIAs are required, and are generally of high quality. Experimental programs are sometimes used to test new policies. Interest groups are consulted throughout the policy cycle. A strong e-government push has resulted in tax reporting and most government communications taking place online.

Municipalities levy income tax, with equalization formulas assisting poorer regions. However, many local governments currently face financial difficulties. Ongoing discussion on improving public-sector efficiency and productivity periodically leads to major institutional changes.

Executive Accountability

Marked by mature and well-functioning oversight mechanisms, Denmark’s executive-accountability score places it in the top ranks internationally (rank 2). After a slight dip last year, its score on this measure is now unchanged relative to 2014.

Citizens have good knowledge of domestic and EU policies, with new mandatory digital mailboxes making it easier for the government to communicate with the public. The media covers domestic policy more thoroughly than it does international issues.

Parliamentarians have modest resources, but reasonably strong formal oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are independent and well respected.

Political parties show a significant degree of internal democracy. Economic and noneconomic interest organizations are typically sophisticated, and often have a strong influence on policy. The use of expert commissions has somewhat undermined traditional corporatist committees, but the administration still values continuous dialogue.
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