According to a Eurobarometer survey, Danes are among the happiest in Europe with their family life. Flexible working hours, universal childcare coverage, extensive leave rights and generous individual benefits are the main elements of the Danish policy mix aimed at supporting families. These favourable conditions are reflected in a high level of gender equality in employment and the highest proportion of working women in the EU. At 1.75 children per woman in 2011, the fertility rate was high compared to other EU countries and UNICEF rated Danish children among the happiest in the world.
At 70.4% in 2011, the female employment rate was the second highest in the EU and just 5 percentage points lower than that of men. In addition, according to the OECD, the employment rate of mothers of children under six, at 79%, is the highest in the EU. Women and men in Denmark work shorter hours per week than the EU average: 32.1 and 37.9 vs. 37.5 and 44.1 respectively, so the difference in working hours between women and men is smaller than for the EU as a whole.
Flexible forms of employment are widely used by both women and men. In 2011, 37.6% of women and 15.3% of men worked part-time – above the EU averages of 32.1% and 9% respectively. In 2010, the gender pay gap was about the same as the EU average of 16%.
Since 2002, the right to part-time work applies irrespective of any provisions laid out in collective agreements. Employees are also protected against dismissal for making a request to work part-time.
The Danish parental leave system is among the most generous and most flexible in the EU. A total of 52 weeks (one year) of leave (maternity, paternity and parental) are available to parents. Compensation of the leave depends on a worker’s employment situation and collective agreement conditions: in certain cases it can reach the full level of salary for the full duration of the leave.
Four weeks of maternity leave before childbirth and 14 weeks after childbirth are available to mothers. In 2008, the average period of maternity leave was 7.4 months. All parents with new born children are also offered a health visitor and approximately 6-7 maternity health visits until the baby reaches 18 months. In addition, fathers are entitled to take up to two weeks off work after the birth of the child. Nearly all fathers make use of paternity leave, but this leave constitutes only 8% of the combined leave (maternity, paternity and parental) taken by mothers and fathers
Each parent is entitled to 32 weeks of parental leave with benefit rights, and a further two weeks without. Employees may extend the initial 32 weeks to 46 weeks at a reduced rate of pay and unemployed persons to 40 weeks. If the employer agrees, the parents are entitled to share the leave so both parents are able to work part-time.
Parents of children born before 27 March 2002 can use childcare leave to care for children under nine and for up to 52 weeks, whether they are employed or unemployed. During childcare leave the parent is entitled to a benefit amounting to 60% of the highest unemployment benefit rate (3.625 kroner per week (€486) in 2008). This system was currently phased out (since 2011) in favour of a system whereby parents can postpone 8-13 weeks of their parental leave to take care of their child before his or her ninth birthday.
According to a Eurofound survey, 79% of Danish mothers who take parental leave resume work to the same extent as before. High quality childcare arrangements in place are an important factor helping mothers return to employment. Fees are relative to income: lower income families therefore pay at a reduced rate or receive the services free of charge.
In 2008, 78% of children under three and 90% of children between three and compulsory school age were enrolled in formal childcare. 68% and 75% of children of each age group were enrolled for 30 or more hours per week. These figures are well above the EU Barcelona targets for childcare provision and the EU averages of 28% and 83% respectively.
In 2009 spending on social protection benefits for children and families amounted to 4.2% of the Danish GDP, which was more than any other EU Member State spends on support for families. The major proportion of this, 3.96% of GDP, is made up of non-means-tested benefits.
Cash benefits include general child benefit paid for each child under the age of 18 – ranging from 1,408 kroner (€189) per month for children under two to 880 kroner (€118) for children aged between seven and seventeen. In case of multiple births, additional benefit is paid at 2,006 kroner (€269) per child per quarter until the child’s seventh birthday. Some types of adoption also qualify for a one time cash benefit at 46,214 kroner (€6,203).
At 10.9% in 2010, the child poverty rate in Denmark was the lowest in the EU. In 2007, UNICEF rated Denmark among the top three countries in terms of child well-being.
Improving the work-life balance of parents remains high on the political agenda.
In 2005, awareness of these issues led the Danish government to set up the Family and Working Life Commission charged with identifying barriers to Danes achieving a good balance between family and working life.
The Danish government has followed up a number of the Committee’s recommendations. These and other major initiatives included:
The information in the country profile was last updated in December 2012.
Denmark has set up a youth guidance system primarily designed to help young people up to the age of 25 make the transition from compulsory school to youth education, or alternatively, to the labour market. The system has been running since 2004. The Danish government’s core objective is to make it easier for the young people to make realistic decisions about learning opportunities and careers for their sake and for the good of society as a whole.
Within this framework 45were set up throughout Denmark. The centres, which cost around €70 million per year to run, are all funded by Danish municipalities.
Guidance activities include discussing each individual pupil’s plan, holding group sessions and providing general information about future education or career options. The guidance centres cooperate closely with primary and lower secondary schools, local businesses and public employment services (job centres).