The Danish welfare state pursues equal opportunities for all citizens through a number of transfer services and cash and in-kind benefits. Most sectors have policies aiming to ensure adequate living conditions for all, through universal and targeted measures e.g. social housing, equality in health policies, prevention of abuse etc. Danish parents are amongst some of EU’s most successful in balancing work and family responsibilities. The Danish family policy is designed in such a way that it prioritizes the principle of a ‘dual-earner’ family and the system thereby supports equal rights between women and men.
The Danish parental leave system is among the most generous and flexible in the EU. Mothers are entitled to 4 weeks of maternity leave before the expected date of birth and 14 weeks of maternity leave after the birth. Fathers are entitled to 2 weeks of paternity leave within the first 14 weeks after the birth. Furthermore, each parent is entitled to 32 weeks of parental leave.
Parents can receive maternity leave benefits from the State for a maximum of 52 weeks per child if they meet the employment criteria set out in the Maternity Leave Act. The total number of weeks with a right to parental leave exceeds the number of weeks with a right to leave benefits. This means, that parents can continue their parental leave beyond the 32 weeks benefit period is they so wish.
The level of maternity leave benefit is the same as unemployment insurance benefits. In 2014, the level of leave benefits was DKK 4.075 per week (approximately USD 680). Leave benefits for a total of 52 weeks amounted to DKK 211.900 (approximately USD 35.500) in 2014. Unemployed parents maintain their social security benefit which may be at a lower level that maternity leave benefits.
Employees may also have the right to pay during all or part of their leave periods. The right to pay from the employer is determined by collective agreements, individual contracts or workplace agreements. This is a cornerstone in the Danish Labour Market Model.
If the employee receives pay during leave periods, the employer will receive the leave benefit as a refund which reduces the expenses to pay during leave.
Employees are protected against dismissal during maternity, paternity or parental leave by a reverse burden of proof. This means, that a dismissal during the leave period is considered unlawful unless the employer can prove that the dismissal is unrelated to the leave. The same protection applies to employees who have announced their intention to use their right to maternity, paternity or parental leave.
In 2012, spending’s on social protection benefits for children and families amounted to 4.2% of the Danish GDP. This is the highest amount spent on support for families by any EU Member state. A major proportion of this, 3.96% of the GDP, is made up of non-means-tested benefits.
Cash benefits include Family allowance paid for each child under the age of 18. It ranges from 1,481 kroner (€198) per month for children under the age of 2 to 923 kroner (€123) for children aged between 7 and 17. In case of multiple births, additional benefit amounts to 2,208 kroner (€296) per child, except the first, per quarter until the child’s seventh birthday. Some types of adoption also qualify for a single cash benefit of 50.871 DKK (€6,824).
An additional ordinary Child benefit can be paid to single parents. The ordinary Child benefit is 1,339 kroner per quarter for each child. As a supplement to the ordinary Child benefit, single parents who have the child living with him/her are paid an extra child benefit. Only one extra child benefit is payable irrespective of the number of children. The extra child benefit is 1,365 kroner per quarter (2015).
Proper day care is a necessity for women’s full time participation in the labor market on equal terms with men. The municipalities in Denmark are responsible for ensuring that all children from the age of 26 weeks up till 6 years are offered a full-time place in a day care. This is referred to as guaranteed day care availability. Respectively 91 % of children at the age of 1-2 years and 97 % of children at the age of 3-5 years are enrolled in day care in Denmark. High quality childcare is an important factor in helping mother’s return to employment.
The parents’ payment must not exceed 25 % of the average gross operation cost for the specific type of day care in the municipality. Operation cost can vary from one municipality to another.
The parental payment is earnings related. Hence, parents with an income below a certain limit may receive an extra subsidy from the local authority to reduce their own payment, the so called ‘aided place subsidy’. The subsidy amount is relative to the parent’s income enabling families with the lowest income to receive services free of charge. If more than one child in a household is admitted to a day care, full price must be paid for the most expensive place and a 50 % discount is given on payment for all other children in the household, including biological siblings, adoptive siblings and children of different marriages living in a household.
The government has allocated total DKK 750 million yearly for better quality and more pedagogical staff in day care on the Finance Acts of 2012 and 2015 respectively.
A national corps of learning consultants offers, among other things, advice and guidance to practitioners and municipalities on how to strengthen and stimulate their work in day care with including child communities and bilingual children’s language. The bilingual effort was established in 2008 on the so called Satspulje Agreement, and in 2012 the Satspulje Parties allocated additional DKK 40 million from 2012-2015 to extend the efforts and widen the scope to also cover bilingual efforts in day care. The inclusion effort was established in 2012 with a grant of DKK 60 million from 2012-2015 and covers day care, schools and after-school facilities. On the Satspulje Agreement for 2015 the inclusion effort within the corps of learning consultants was extended through 2017.
A reform to improve the standards in the public primary and lower secondary school system (the so-called Folkeskole) took effect from the start of the school year in August 2014. It has three principal objectives: 1) the public school system must challenge all students to reach their full potential, 2) the public school system must lower the significance of social background on academic results, and 3) trust in the school and student well-being must be enhanced through respect for professional knowledge and practice.
The key elements in the reform are a longer and more varied school day, more classes and improved quality teaching in e.g. Danish and Mathematics, a new concept of assisted learning, competence development of teachers and school principals, knowledge and capacity building, target setting and monitoring of progress.
The implementation of the reform of the Folkeskole is progressing as planned, but implementing a reform of this magnitude takes time. Thus, it is too soon to draw conclusions as to the effect of the reform. The Ministry of Education follows the implementation through a number of initiatives.
The programme is an extensive development, pilot and research programme in the day care area. The programme focuses on qualifying and changing pedagogical practice, for instance by supporting the pedagogical staff in working more knowledge-based. Moreover the programme focuses on enabling the pedagogical staff in handling the challenges that, according to research findings and results of studies, are present in day cares for instance by providing the staff with useful knowledge and tools. DKK 25 million has been allocated to the development programme which runs until 2017.
The Preventive Measures Package was launched by the government in 2011. The Danish Government has allocated DKK 70 million per year in the period 2014-2017 for a wide range of initiatives that ensure early support for vulnerable children which also includes children with disabilities. The objective of the initiative is to give everyone genuine equal opportunities regardless of their background and to ensure positive development and learning for children and young people.
The initiative aims to strengthen the effort of helping children and young people that are growing up in disadvantaged families, at a much earlier stage. A number of studies indicate that there are significant human, technical and financial gains by investing in prevention – it will help more children and young people to stay within the standard system which will benefit not only the individual but also society as a whole. The Preventive Measures Package consists of the following initiatives:
In June 2014 the Danish parliament passed a bill as part of the initiative “Early Effort - Lifelong Effects on children and young people”. As part of the implementation the Danish Government presented a bill in the Danish Parliament that highlights the importance of early, preventive support. The bill was a part of the initiative “Early Effort - Lifelong Effects” for children and young people. The legislation has been effective from October 2014. The amendment represents a substantial improvement of paragraph 11 in the Social Services, Consolidation act. Paragraph 11 is now an actual “prevention paragraph” that clarifies the municipalities obligations to take precautionary measures against neglect of children and young people.
The initiative “Early Effort - Lifelong Effects on children and young people” includes a number of independent initiatives. Municipalities can apply for funding to test or implement these initiatives. In addition to this the National Board of Social Services has entered into an agreement with a number of municipalities to develop an innovative plan of action to strengthen the effort made for children and young people.
In line with the initiatives outlined above, the Government has appropriated 32.9 million DKK over a four-year period for an intensified effort to combat anti-social behaviour. As one of the steps taken to implement this effort, the Government introduced a bill to Parliament in March 14 2014 where the focus is on young people who have committed serious criminal offences. The legislative proposal will strengthen cooperation between professionals, parents and the young offender to help the young person back on track
The purpose of the project Activity-green card is to give socially vulnerable children and young people, who do not participate in leisure-time activities, an opportunity to join different kinds of spare time occupations such as sports, music education, scout associations etc. The project is anchored in a number of local municipalities.
The socially vulnerable children and young people, that are encouraged to take part in the projects, are characterized by:
The objectives of the project are to expand vulnerable children and young people’s social network and to increase their contacts with peer groups. Furthermore the project aims to increase physical activity among vulnerable children and young people.
Denmark is a society where everyone has equal opportunities. Yet social, economic and health related challenges are still passed on from generation to generation. Initiatives aimed at the prevention of intergenerational cycles of poverty and social exclusion are an important step towards making a positive change for children and young people in Denmark. Therefore, the Government is working to ensure better living conditions for the most vulnerable people whilst creating effective equal opportunities for all children and young people.