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Denmark: Combining work and family life successfully

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.

 

Access to adequate resources

Providing for adequate living standards through a combination of benefits 

In 2012, spending on social protection benefits for children and families amounted to 4.2% of the Danish GDP, which is more than any other EU Member State spend on support for families. A 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 amounts to 2,006 kroner (€269) per child per quarter until the child’s seventh birthday. Some types of adoption also qualify for a single cash benefit of 46,214 kroner (€6,203).

Support for parents’ participation in the labour market

The Danish Parental leave system is among the most generous and flexible in the EU with a total of 52 weeks (one year) of leave containing maternity, paternity and parental.  Compensation of the leave depends on the employment situation and the collective agreements acceded by the employer. In certain cases, collective agreements can entail the full level of salary for the full duration of the employees leave. To cover the loss of pay during this absence from work subject to certain conditions, parents may receive the state childcare benefit, amounting to 70 per cent of the maximum level of unemployment benefit. Employers who continue to pay employees during such absence may have the benefit refunded to them. 

The mother is entitled to four weeks of maternity leave before the expected date of birth and 14 weeks of maternity leave after the birth. The father is entitled to two weeks of parental leave after the birth. On top of that, the parents are entitled to 32 weeks of shared parental leave.

The fact that an employee makes use of the entitlement to childcare leave does not constitute a valid reason for dismissal and the period of leave counts towards the employee's continuous length of service. The purpose of the Act is to encourage work-sharing by placing unemployed employees in the jobs left vacant during the periods of leave involved.

Reconciliation of family and working life with day care facilities

Proper day care facilities are a necessity for women’s full time participation in the labour 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 facility. This is referred to as guaranteed day-care availability.

According to a Eurofound surveypdf , 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 mother’s return to employment. Fees are relative to income: lower income families therefore pay at a reduced rate or receive the services free of charge.

Subsidies and parents´ payment

The parents’ payment must not exceed 25 % of the average gross operation cost for the specific type of day care facility in the municipality. Operation cost can vary from one municipality to another.

Aided place subsidy and sibling discount

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 payment, the so called ‘aided place subsidy’. If more than one child in a household is admitted to a day-care centre, full price must be paid for the most expensive place and a 50 % discount is given on payment for all other children in the house hold, including biological siblings, adoptive siblings and children of different marriages living in a household.

Access to affordable quality services

Reducing inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care

Denmark has an established youth-system 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 existed since 2004. The Danish Government’s core objective is to make it easier for young people to make realistic and sustainable decisions about learning opportunities and careers for their own sake and for the good of the society surrounding them.  

Within this framework, 45 youth guidance centres have been set up throughout the country. The centres whose administrative costs are approximately € 70 million yearly are fully funded by the Danish municipalities. The guidance include: discussing each individual pupils plan, having group sessions and providing general information about future education and career possibilities. The guidance centres cooperate closely with primary and lower secondary schools, local businesses and public employment services.

Children’s right to participate

Support for participation of all children in play, recreation, sport and cultural activities: The activity green card

23 Danish municipalities give vulnerable children and young people an opportunity to join different kinds of leisure activities such as sports, music education, scout associations etc. The children and young people with parents who do not have economic, social or personal resources to support their children are assisted in taking part in leisure-time activities. Initiatives are planned to further promote the use of activity green cards as part of the Danish Government’s coordinated effort to ensure early support for vulnerable children.

Conclusion

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.

 

The Activity-green card initiative listed above continues in the municipalities until 2014 with shared financing from the Danish state of DKK 80 million in four years.

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Social policy in Denmark: