Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.
Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.
While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries
Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?
In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.
At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.
In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.
In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.
Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.
As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.
In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers’ rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.
In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about “freedom” and limiting the size of government. Here’s what they really mean.
They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people who die each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!
In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what “freedom” means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.
The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.
They may have the world’s highest taxes, but it’s totally worth it.
1. Many of your favorite pastries come from Denmark. Hello delicious danish!
Ex. The traditional Danish kringle.
2. THE LITTLE MERMAID is Danish.
3. They have one of the oldest and most well-liked Monarchies in all of Europe.
4. They have incredible architecture. Both modern.
The Royal Library
5. They are known for their functional design sensibilities.
Much like their Swedish neighbors (Ikea, anyone?)
6. Co-housing was invented in Denmark and many Danes still live in co-housing situations.
Which means less cooking, cleaning and even childcare. People always say, “it takes a village.” The Danes just actually do it.
7. Their universities are 100% FREE to attend and are absolutely beautiful.
Tietgen’s outdoor courtyard.
Natural light study space.
I mean is this college or a FIVE STAR HOTEL?!
8. In Copenhagen, commuters have a biking super highway.
50% of Copenhageners commute to work via bike.
9. The Danes are ranked number one in the world in terms of life-experience.
In this year’s HPI, experienced well-being is assessed using a question called the ‘Ladder of Life’ from the Gallup World Poll. This asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder they feel they currently stand on.
10. And have consistently been ranked some of the world’s happiest people. Their secret? Realistic expectations.
11. They also have the happiest employees in the world.
Even WORKING is fun in Denmark.
12. Which is probably because they have INSANE benefits. The average maternity leave is 52 weeks and is 100% PAID FOR.
Yes, you heard me right. ONE FULL YEAR OF PAID MATERNITY LEAVE. For comparison, the average maternity leave in the U.S. is just 12 weeks, and is not nationally guaranteed.
13. If you lose your job, the government will continue to pay 90% of your salary for up to 4 YEARS!
I know, it’s truly MIND BLOWING!
14. Finally, VIKINGS are originally from Denmark*. And you can’t get much cooler than Vikings.
*and the surrounding areas
While many western countries are still reeling from the widening economic crisis and some southern European economies are regarded as basket cases, Scandinavia has been weathering the global financial storm surprisingly well.
Economists and governments in other less-favoured economies are now starting to ask why it is that Scandinavian economies have been able to avoid the economic turmoil so successfully.
One crucial factor is that some Scandinavian countries received an early inoculation against the kind of boom and bust that has derailed larger and apparently more robust economies, which are still floundering since the US-led housing crash and subsequent financial crisis.
What can Ireland learn from the Scandinavian model?
“At the beginning of the 1990s, Norway, Sweden and Finland experienced a banking crisis when the housing bubble burst in the same way that other western economies have now been experiencing,” says Steinar Juel, the chief Norwegian economist at Nordea. “Sweden and Finland subsequently implemented good policies in banks together with new fiscal policy rulings.”
However, it is inaccurate to lump all of Scandinavia’s economies together under the assumption that all are equally robust or subject to the same pressures. Norway’s robust economy, for instance, is underpinned by its oil industry, which has benefited massively from the global rise in oil prices.
“The Norwegian economy is showing few signs of weakness and we see no reason to change our optimistic view of the economy going forward,” says Eric Bruce, an economist who also works for Nordea.
“Growth looks set to be high, but with increased labour immigration, an overheating of the economy and sharply rising costs will probably be avoided. Wage growth will be much higher than in neighbouring countries, but not so high as to push inflation above target.”
Strong wage and employment growth, coupled with low inflation, are boosting consumer purchasing power in Norway, with the result that consumption growth in the first half of this year was very high after last year’s weaker-than-expected trend. With an initial high level of savings and a sustained strong labour market, economists and market watchers see consumption growth continuing unabated into the next year.
Even at a time when many of Norway’s export markets are floundering, Norwegian companies continue to expand globally.
Companies in Scandinavia’s other economies are also pressing ahead with overseas expansion. Sweden’s Ericsson, the world’s largest mobile network equipment maker, is working with Mobile Communication Company of Iran to expand its network. Ericsson’s growing investment in Iran comes at a time when many western companies have stopped doing business there because of international sanctions.
But lacking Norway’s buffer of oil reserves Sweden may still be facing tougher times ahead.
Last month, Sweden’s pony-tailed finance minister Anders Borg, announced that he might have to cut the country’s growth estimates following the adverse effect of Europe’s debt crisis on the country’s exports.
According to economists, however, Sweden has been surprisingly resilient to the global turbulence and is significantly strengthened by consumer growth.
“Household finances are generally stable. A low inflation level and pay rises jack up households’ purchasing power,” says Torbjorn Isaksson, an economist at Nordea.
It is expected that real disposable income in Sweden will rise by about 2 per cent a year until 2014.
Economists are also looking towards growth in consumer spending to boost Denmark‘s economy. Danish economists predict that the economy will expand at a rate of 0.7 per cent this year, 1.9 per cent next year and 2.1 per cent in 2014.
Finland, however, is facing a slowdown in consumer spending growth, with economic activity decreasing across the board after the first quarter of this year.
Nevertheless, Nordea expects the Danish economy to gradually return to growth this year.
No one is certain that Scandinavia will continue to weather the global financial storm. But economists remain confident that their social systems will act as a stabiliser.
“When companies face difficulties and lay off staff, the government gives them money to live on and helps them find another job. This is focused to keep the economy on at an even level through difficult times,” Mr Juel says.
Strengthening social networks could be difficult medicine for some western economies to swallow. But it should be remembered that many of the social safeguards existing in non-Scandinavian economies were put in place as a direct response to financial crises in the last century.
Topic Finland Norway Sweden
The facts s to why Finland Norway Sweden re doing ok
Norway Underpinned by high oil prices and exports of related equipment and services, Norway’s problems are those of success. Growth is predicted to be high, but increased labour immigration will reduce the risk of costs rising sharply and the economy overheating. It is predicted that wage growth will be much higher than in neighbouring countries, but not so high as to push inflation above target. However, strong economic growth could mean higher interest rates over the next couple of years.
Sweden Despite a weakening labour and export market since the global financial crisis, Sweden’s economy is proving to be remarkably resilient. The country’s GDP and employment rose again during the first half of this year. Nevertheless, the global economic situation has forced the Swedish finance minister Anders Borg to reduce the country’s growth targets.
Denmark Although Denmark’s economy has been languishing when compared with Norway and Sweden, activity has remained at about the same level since the autumn of 2010. But it is widely expected that the economy will gradually start to grow again this year, accelerating to 2.1 per cent in 2014. The expected reversal of economic trends will be driven by growing consumer spending.
Finland With its economy no longer propelled by mobile phone maker Nokia, which once accounted for half the value of the Helsinki stock exchange, Finland faces difficulties typified by a slowdown in consumer spending, a growing public sector deficit and an export market that is not expected to start to recover until next year. Nordea has lowered its forecast for economic growth next year from 1.6 per cent to 1.2 per cent. In 2014, growth is expected to be 2.8 per cent.
The fact that Scandinavian countries have onerous tax systems and generous state welfare benefits seems to contradict accepted economic wisdom in other parts of the world, such as in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the role of the state is generally being rolled back where possible in response to the global crisis.
“Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all belong to the exclusive club of countries with top ratings from the major credit rating agencies. These countries have status as safe havens in financial markets,” says Helge Pedersen, the global chief economist at Nordea, a financial services group in the Nordic and Baltic region.
Welfare State the Scandinavian model click on the link below
Top 10 Leaders in overall innovation performance as per the Global Innovation Index are:
The list of overall GII top 10 performers has changed little from last year. Switzerland, Sweden, and Singapore are followed in the top ten by Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, and the United States of America. Canada is the only country leaving the top 10 this year, mirroring weakening positions on all main GII innovation input and output pillars. The report shows that the U.S.A. continues to be an innovation leader but also cites relative shortfalls in areas such as education, human resources and innovation outputs as causing a drop in its innovation ranking.
Top 10 Leaders in the Global Innovation Index
Hong Kong (China)
United States of America
5. United Kingdom
8. Hong Kong (China)
10. United States of America
The U.S. slid from the top ten most prosperous nations for the first time in a league table which ranked three Scandinavian nations the best for wealth and wellbeing.
The U.S. fell to 12th position from 10th in the Legatum Institute’s annual prosperity index amid increased doubts about the health of its economy and ability of politicians. Norway, Denmark and Sweden were declared the most prosperous in the index, published in London today.
With the presidential election just a week away, the research group said the standing of the U.S. economy has deteriorated to beneath that of 19 rivals. The report also showed that respect for the government has fallen, fewer Americans perceive working hard gets you ahead, while companies face higher startup costs and the export of high-technology products is dropping.
“As the U.S. struggles to reclaim the building blocks of the American Dream, now is a good time to consider who is best placed to lead the country back to prosperity and compete with the more agile countries,” Jeffrey Gedmin, the Legatum Institute’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The six-year-old Legatum Prosperity Index is a study of wealth and wellbeing in 142 countries, based on eight categories such as economic strength, education and governance. Covering 96 percent of the world’s population, it is an attempt to broaden measurement of a nation’s economic health beyond indicators such as gross domestic product.
The Legatum Institute is the public policy research arm of the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based private investment group founded in 2006 by New Zealand billionaire Christopher Chandler.
The report shows that even amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, global prosperity has increased across all regions in the past four years, although the sense of safety and security is decreasing amid tension in the Middle East and fear of crime in Latin America.
Norway and Denmark retained the pole positions they held last year in the overall prosperity measure, while Sweden leapfrogged Australia and New Zealand into third. Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland rounded out the top ten. The Central African Republic was ranked bottom.
In its sub-indexes, Legatum named Switzerland the strongest economy and home to the best system of governance. Denmark is the most entrepreneurial and New Zealand has the best education, while health is best in Luxembourg and Iceland is the safest. Canadians enjoy the most personal freedom and Norwegians have the greatest social capital.
With President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney tussling for the White House, Legatum said the U.S. economy declined two places from last year to 20th. It found that 89 percent of Americans believe hard work produces results, up from 88 percent last year, and the government’s approval rate dropped to 39 percent from 42 percent.
Plagued by the euro-area debt crisis, 24 out of 33 European nations have witnessed a decline in their economic score since 2009, according to Legatum. On the prosperity scale, Greece recorded the biggest drop in 2012, falling 10 places since 2009 to 49th. Spain held on to 23rd place.
The U.K remained 13th, one place ahead of Germany, and Legatum predicted it will overtake the U.S. by 2014 as it scores well for entrepreneurship and governance. Nevertheless, the status of its economy remains a weakness as it slid five places to 26th on that score and job satisfaction is low.
In Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan all ranked in the top ten for their economies and the top 20 overall. So-called tiger cub economies Vietnam and Indonesia also rose. Indonesia experienced the largest gain in prosperity of any country since 2009, jumping 26 positions to 63rd.
Switzerland, Norway and Singapore topped the economy sub- index, which measures satisfaction with the economy and expectations for it, the efficiency of the financial sector and foundations for growth. In a gauge of entrepreneurship, Denmark ran ahead of Sweden and Finland for the strength of innovation and access to opportunity.
Switzerland also topped the rankings for best government. It was followed by New Zealand and Denmark in a measure determined by the effectiveness and accountability of lawmakers, the fairness of elections, the participation of people in the political process and rule of law. The highest marks for education went to New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
Luxembourg, the U.S. and Switzerland were graded the best for health treatments and infrastructure as well as preventative care and satisfaction with the service. Iceland, Norway and Finland topped the chart for safety and security; Chad, Congo and Afghanistan ranked the lowest on that index.
Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians enjoy the most freedom and social tolerance, Legatum said. Norway, Denmark and Australia had the highest scores for social capital as monitored by social cohesion and family and community networks.
To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Kennedy in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
LEADING ECONOMISTS were told at the weekend about a study that details a separate tax for saturated fat, added sugar and salt, and concludes that a levy on all three could generate €188 million a year for the exchequer.
Authors Maria Murray of Trinity College Dublin and Micheál Collins of the Nevin Economic Research Institute told the gathering including economists attached to government departments that the direct effect on consumers would be quite small. But it could lead suppliers to reduce fat and added sugar and salt in products.
The cash generated could be used for health promotion campaigns. The economists’ warning to Government was: “There will be no effect other than revenue unless you spend the revenue on generating change.”
The tax on saturated fat would cost consumers an average of 93 cent a week, while added sugar would add €1.10 a week to weekly shopping costs. And the levy for added salt would be a humble 15 cent a week.
A tax on saturated fat alone could generate €79.91 million, while taxing added sugar could be worth up to €95.1 million with a salt tax yielding €13.08 million. For individual consumers it would mean a 5 cent increase on a pack of butter, 3 cent on a half kilo of cheddar cheese, 3 cent on a chocolate bar and 5 cent on a two-litre bottle of cola.
Such a tax would follow the example already set by New York state, which introduced a levy on saturated fat, Ms Murray told the Dublin Economics Workshop conference in Galway. Denmark last year imposed a tax on products with more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat. Hungary has introduced a salt levy, she said.
Ibec’s Food and Drink Industry Ireland group last week spoke out against a fat tax when it met the Oireachtas health committee. The group said it was a simplistic solution that would have little impact on diet.
However, Ms Murray said Minister for Health Dr James Reilly had signalled his interest in introducing such a tax in December’s budget, since 61 per cent of Irish adults are overweight or obese and 20 per cent of children likewise. Some 2,000 premature deaths occur annually, costing the State €4 billion a year. Figures from 2003 show in-patient hospital costs for obesity-related illnesses were €30 million.
It would not be a complicated tax, Mr Collins assured a Department of the Taoiseach representative who expressed concern about the burden applying the levy would impose on business: “Either you have saturated fat or you don’t. If you do it is taxed at one level or another level.”