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 have improved in recent years. 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, with eligibility rules including a residence and work requirement. Poverty and inequality rates are low but rising. Tax-financed health care services are available to all citizens. New structural-reform proposals are proving controversial, however.

A robust child-care system allows both parents to work, with generous maternal and paternal leave provided. Recent pension-system reforms have improved sustainability. Immigration tensions have led to the reintroduction of border controls and a reduction of transfers to immigrants, but integration of refugees into schools and the labor market is improving.

Education

#5

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 (Re-accessed 10 October 2018).

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

#2

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
Inequality and poverty is low by international comparison, but has been increasing in recent years.

There is an ongoing discussion concerning various marginalized groups, especially the number of working age people who receive public support (having declined from about one million to about 700,000). It is debated whether this decrease can be attributed to business cycle developments or policy initiatives.

Employment rates are high for men and women, but a distinguishing feature of the welfare model is that most people who are 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 people are unable to work due to various issues (e.g., social problems or a lack of qualifications) that make it difficult/impossible for them to find jobs.

Most social transfers have recently been reformed with a greater focus on employment. 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. The reform of the disability pension scheme implies that the disability pension cannot be granted to individuals below the age of 40 (except for cases of severe or 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 (people below the age of 30). For other age groups, the system now offers more flexibility and individualized solutions. Eligibility for social assistance depends on both a residence requirement (with immigrants needing to have been resident in Denmark for nine out of the last 10 years ) and a work requirement (225 hours paid work within the last year). Moreover, there is an upper cap on total support (social assistance, housing supplement, child supplement). Immigrants not satisfying the residence requirement receive the lower so-called introduction benefit.

Finally, assessed in terms of life satisfaction, Denmark scores very well in various international comparisons, sometimes ranking as the happiest country in the world.

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).

“Stort fald i antal modtagere af kontanthjælpsydelser,” https://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/nyt/NytHtml?cid=25774 (Accessed 7 November 2018).

“10 Most Happy Countries Around the World,” https://www.wonderslist.com/10-most-happy-countries-in-the-world/ (accessed 7 November 2018).

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
There is a universal entitlement for all citizens to health care, 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. Patients now have a “time guarantee,” making it possible to opt for 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, there has been much focus on this area.

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. Nevertheless, the government has proposed a new heath care policy reform, which aims to improve coordination between the systems, as the prime minister explained in his opening speech to the parliament on 2 October 2018. The government has proposed creating 21 new health care communities around some existing hospitals, covering four to five municipalities, although further details are not yet available. A further reform could lead to the abolishment of the regions, which are headed by elected politicians. While abolishing the regions is supported by the Danish Peoples’ Party and has some support in the three-party government, the opposition, including the Social Democrats, see the regions as an integral part of Danish democracy.

While improving cancer treatment was seen as a priority area in recent years, the government is now (October 2018) promising DKK 2.1 billion over the next four years for psychiatry.

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).

The prime minister’s speech at the opening of the Danish Parliament - Folketinget (2 October 2018), http://stm.dk/_p_14747.html (accessed 7 November 2018).

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. Day care centers, preschools and kindergartens allow flexibility for both parents to work. Indeed, female employment in Denmark is among the highest among OECD countries. Comparative research also shows that men 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. About 95% of children aged three to five attended some kind of preschool institution. 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. Many women want to be in work, not only for financial reasons, but also for career reasons. 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, Labor 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 Danish pension system 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 in the top of 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. First, there will be step increases in the retirement age (early retirement and pensions) and the early retirement period will be reduced from five to three years. Then, retirement ages will be linked to developments in life expectancy at the age of 60 such that the expected pension period will become 14.5 years (17.5 including early retirement) in the long run (currently the expected pension period is between 18.5 and 23.5 years). An attempt to phase these changes in more quickly did not get political support.

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

Integration

#15

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. As a consequence, 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.

There is broad political support for 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. Denmark currently does not take so-called quota refugees through the United Nations, even if some municipalities declare that they are ready to receive more.

Another controversial issue is the question of attracting qualified workers from abroad, which is arguably more a labor market policy issue. The rules for this type of immigration is debated in the context of the currently low unemployment rate.

According to various reports integration is actually improving more than one would think given the current political debate. Half of male refugees are in work after three years and children of refugees are integrating into Danish schools faster than in the past. A mix of a strong economy and active integration policies are starting to show improvements.

Citations:
Web site: http://uim.dk/tal-og-statistik/tal-og-statistik-om-integration

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).

Udlændinge- og integrationsministeriet, “Tal på udlændingeområdet pr. 31.08.2018”.

“Regeringen når eget mål om flygtninge i arbejde,” Berlingske. 10 September 2018.

“Forsker: Det går bedre med integrationen end vi tror,” Danmark Søndag, 21. October 2018.

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.
Internal Security Policy
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.

Denmark has opted out of the justice and home affairs cooperation within the European Union (since 1993), a position that was reaffirmed by referendum in 2015. Subsequent negotiations led to an agreement with Europol, which allows Denmark to take part in police cooperation. It remains to be seen how satisfactory the agreement will be, although there is no majority support for re-opening the issue.

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 controls continues to be discussed.

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).

“Iran attempted political assassination in Denmark:PET,” https://www.thelocal.dk/20181030/iran-attempted-assassination-in-denmark-pet (accessed 7 November 2018).

Global Inequalities

#3

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. 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. Denmark’s development aid in 2017 amounted 0.72% of GNI (0.85% in 2011). 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.

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)

OECD, Development Co-operation Report 2018, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/dcr-2018-en.pdf?expires=1539180489&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=D54EE154C2B53F0125F33AFEFF51FEC2 (Accessed 10 October 2018).
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