Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Denmark: Proposals Aimed at Services to Foreigners

(Apr. 13, 2011) Denmark's welfare state is experiencing stress due to high costs, and the government is considering moving from the current tax-based welfare model, the approach common in Scandinavian countries, to a system in which benefits are related to years of work. According to newspaper reports, the government plan has 28 points, most of them focused on foreigners in the country. (Dann Vinther, Welfare Prescription: Make Immigrants Pay, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Apr. 7, 2011).)

As reported, the proposal includes cost-saving steps focused largely on the immigrant population. It would require an additional five years of residency before a foreigner could qualify for a full state pension, moving the bar up to 45 years. In addition, foreigners would need to be in Denmark for at least two years to receive housing subsidies and during those first two years would have reduced child care benefits. The plan also includes requiring foreigners to pay for doctor visits in their first two years in the country and to obtain private health insurance for the first four years. Rules under which student grants are given to foreigners would be tightened. (Id.)

The role of foreigners in Denmark has recently been the subject of public debate. The country's employment minister, Inger Støjberg, argues that “[t]here's something fundamentally wrong with being able to come to Denmark and benefit without having contributed. … It's important that people earn their benefits. Our current system is vulnerable because it's too easy to benefit from the system.” (Id.)

Other observers argue that the proposed changes, which have not yet been published, will make it difficult to attract skilled workers from abroad. Furthermore, some of the changes would bring relatively small savings while possibly creating social problems. User fees for medical care in the first two years in the country are projected to save only 20 million kroner (about US$3.9 million) each year, while they might result in foreigners ignoring health needs. Similarly, saving 30 million kroner annually by limiting child care benefits might keep some foreigners out of the job market, and their children would miss an opportunity to integrate into Danish society. (Id.)

A March 2011 poll of Danes found that 59% supported limits on benefits for new immigrants, particularly those from outside the European Union. (Foreigners Should Pay Their Own Way, Majority Says, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Mar. 31, 2011.)

In another reflection of some Danish attitudes toward foreign residents, the Danish People's Party, considered to be a right-wing political organization, has argued that it should be easier to deport foreigners who commit crimes. The group would like to see changes in immigration legislation. (Right Wing Wants Criminal Foreigners Deported, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Apr. 10, 2011).)