Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

The International Commitment for Foreign Aid SpendingCurrently, there is an international commitment among developed countries to spend 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. The goal for this aid is to assist the world’s poorest countries in developing sustainably. However, the majority of the richest countries in the world have not met this commitment. In fact, the United States ranked last in 2018 (27th) on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) after only spending 0.18 percent on foreign aid. While the U.S. is reducing foreign aid spending, four countries are choosing to invest even more into developing countries than international commitment. They are doing so not only for humanitarian reasons but for strategic reasons as well.

Here are the four countries exceeding the international commitment for foreign aid spending.

4 Countries Exceeding the Commitment for Foreign Aid Spending

  1. Denmark – In 2018, Denmark allocated 0.72 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The majority of this amount took the form of bilateral aid, which means Denmark provided aid directly to foreign governments rather than international organizations. With its commitment to foreign aid spending, the country seeks to enhance its soft power and to reduce immigration to Denmark. Development Minister of Denmark Ulla Tørnæs stated, “Through our development work, we create better living conditions, growth and jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries and thereby help prevent migration.”
  2. Norway – Norway spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Although the country directed a higher percentage of its GNI to foreign aid than Denmark, Norway’s quality of foreign aid is not as strong. According to the Center for Global Development, the country’s aid score has declined due to struggles in the transparency and learning categories. According to Børge Brende, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, foreign aid spending enhances Norway’s soft power and national security interests. Additionally, the promotion of business development in foreign countries “is a good example of how aid can be used as a catalyst to mobilize other, larger flows of capital.”
  3. Luxemburg – Luxemburg spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Luxemburg’s aid score is quite high, ranking fifth out of 27 among CDI countries. As explained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), efficient bilateral foreign aid spending “enables Luxembourg to maximize its visibility, impact and international influence.” Currently, Luxemburg focuses its foreign aid spending in sub-Saharan Africa due to its particularly high rates of poverty.
  4. Sweden – At 1.01 percent, Sweden ranks first amongst developed nations for the highest percent of GNI directed towards foreign aid. Foreign aid has become a primary focus for Sweden due to the high influx of immigrants Sweden has taken in within the past few years. Like Denmark, Sweden sees foreign aid as an opportunity to reduce the inflow of immigrants by improving the economic conditions and overall wellbeing of developing countries. This high level of foreign aid spending is one of the main reasons why Sweden ranked eighth in the world in terms of soft power in 2018. In that sense, foreign aid spending is a long-term investment for Sweden because it helps Sweden manage immigration flow, build up the global economy and increase its influence on foreign countries. Since Sweden views foreign aid as an investment, the country heavily focuses on learning about the effectiveness of its foreign aid spending in order to maximize results.

Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg and Sweden all demonstrate that foreign aid spending is in the national interest of developed nations. Since these countries do not perceive foreign aid spending as a mere charity, they have become more incentivized than most other developed countries to provide high-quality aid.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Denmark
The scientific world has highlighted six lifestyle values that a country needs to be happy: high income, trust, social support, freedom, healthy life expectancy and generosity. Based on these metrics, Denmark has consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the world. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Denmark.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Denmark

  1. Denmark’s average household income is $28,950 a year which is slightly below the OECD average. However, 75 percent of the working populations have a paying job, which exceeds the OECD average of 67 percent.
  2. Denmark is a civically engaged country and the government shows concern for citizens’ needs. While 86 percent of the registered population votes, the government extended inclusivity by creating programs like MindLab. MindLab works with the Danish government to receive feedback from citizens on newly adopted procedures to make them convenient and more efficient.
  3. Denmark’s biking culture makes the country an environmentally-friendly place to live. In Copenhagen, Denmark’s largest city, about 35 percent of adults bike to and from work and 55 percent of children bike to and from school. Cycling policies, lanes and bridges have made it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world.
  4. College-aged students do not have to worry about student loans. College students are provided with a stipend of $900 a month provided that they are currently enrolled in college and that they do not live with their parents. This program provides all students with equal opportunity to study, regardless of their financial background.
  5. Denmark is considered a safe and non-violent country. In a study of 351 participants, about 89 percent said they felt comfortable walking around Denmark during the day. Another 74 percent said they felt safe walking alone during the night.
  6. In the early 2000s, drug-related deaths in Denmark were consistently above 100 per year. In 2012, the number of drug-related deaths finally declined after the legalization of drug consumption rooms (DCRs). DCRs provide users with a safe and hygienic place to inject drugs, as well as counseling and health clinics. The legalization of these facilities has not only decreased the number of drug-related deaths in Denmark but also kept drug use out of Danish homes and neighborhoods.
  7. Health care in Denmark is free for all registered citizens. The national government oversees general plans, and five regions manage and finance the hospitals. Universal access to health care in Denmark is made possible by the national health tax, which claims 8 percent of taxable incomes.
  8. Salaries in Denmark are taxed at over 50 percent, which is more than double the worldwide average of 22.96 percent. Part of these heavy taxes contributes to housing benefits for senior citizens.
  9. Denmark’s welfare system has served as a global example for many years. However, the gap between the richest and poorest Danes has recently grown. A study by Ugebrevet A4 showed that 59 percent of Danes believe that the gap needs to shrink. Some claim that Denmark has deserted its solidarity principles altogether, increasing the number of impoverished Danes.
  10. Since 2005, Denmark has seen improvements in gender equality. After Sweden, the country scores the best out of all European Union countries in the Gender Equality Index. Denmark does especially well in creating equality when caring for children. Parental leave can be evenly split between two partners, regardless of their sex.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in Denmark listed above point to the nation’s strengths. And while no country is perfect, the Danish lifestyle’s prioritization of well being has resulted in Denmark being consistently recognized as one of the top 10 happiest places in the world since the release of the first World Happiness Report in 2012.

– Mary Clare Novak
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Denmark
Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of $56,307.51 in 2017. It is also ranked one of the most food secure nations worldwide, according to the Global Food Security Index. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Denmark.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Denmark

  1. The first of the top 10 facts about hunger in Denmark is that the country only wastes around 700,000 tonnes of food per year. The U.S., on the other hand, wastes 150,000 tonnes of food each day. This is equivalent to about a pound of food per person each day. Thus, on a global scale, Denmark is very sustainable which helps prevent widespread hunger in the country, as a significant portion of food that is not consumed is donated to food initiatives.
  2. Denmark has more initiatives against food waste in Europe than any other country — from awareness campaigns, partnerships to government subsidies. This is due in large part to a lobbying group set up by Selina Juul, called Stop Spilf Af Mad which translates to “stop wasting food”. The campaign was inspired by Juul’s experience growing up in Moscow, where she frequently experienced food shortages and bread lines which made her appalled to see food wastage in Denmark.
  3. Denmark is classified as a “strong country” in terms of food security by the Global Food Security Index, receiving a score of 80.9 out of a possible 100 for 2018. The country scored 100 points out of 100 for the presence of food safety net programs and 100 out of 100 for nutritional standards.
  4. Another one of the top 10 facts about hunger in Denmark is that WeFood, a Danish charity, opened the world’s first food waste supermarket in a low-income neighborhood in Copenhagen in 2016. It sells food at prices 30 to 50 percent less than an ordinary supermarket and was so popular that a second store in the more upscale area of Nørrebro. The project attracts both eco-conscious and cash-strapped shoppers on a limited budget.
  5. Denmark recently announced a plan to double the amount of organic farmland by 2020 and earmarked approximately $60 million to initiate the effort to increase organic food production and supply. The country’s minister of agriculture is also committed to boosting the amount of organic food served in public institutions while the Ministry of Defense has also pledged to reciprocate this action at its bases.
  6. A study done by the London School of Economics found that the impact of rising unemployment and decreasing wages were countered by social protection spending. For every additional $1,000 spent on social protection, the impact that rising unemployment had on food security fell by 0.05 percent. When social protection spending is above $10,000 per capita as found in countries such as Denmark, the effects of unemployment and wage deflation become less significant.
  7. There is a 0 percent prevalence rate of moderate to severe stunting in Denmark and the proportion of households consuming iodized salt also stands at 0 percent.
  8. One of the reasons that Denmark is so food secure is because it can produce an excess of agricultural resources such as crops, forestry and fisheries. This allows the country to stock its food banks and stockpiles of food which allows it to be self-reliant and not dependent on international organizations for aid.
  9. Danish citizens also have access to a multitude of welfare services which consolidate their food security. The VAT system funds the welfare system. This welfare system is known as the ADRA, where the organization emphasizes the policy importance of increasing food supply, incomes and savings for food purchasing.
  10. The last of the top 10 facts about hunger in Denmark is that 6 percent of 11-year-olds reported “always” going to bed hungry, 4 percent of 13-year-olds and 4.5 percent of 15-year-olds. Compared to Greenland, where 11.1 percent of 11-year-olds always go to bed hungry, Denmark has been successful in creating a state where hunger does not pose a significant problem.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Trampolinehuset (Trampoline House).
In 2017, Denmark received 3,479 applications for asylum. This was the lowest number of applications in the past nine years. The chance for refugees to gain asylum also decreased. In 2015, 85 percent of applicants received asylum and three years later, that number is 58 percent.

Asylum seekers and refugees are also facing a harder time in Denmark than in past years. However, there are several nongovernmental organizations working to help asylum seekers and refugees find a path to residency. One of these organizations is known as the Trampolinehuset (Trampoline House).

The Trampoline House

Founded in 2010, the Trampoline House provides a variety of services for asylum seekers and refugees in Denmark to help them with the process of integrating, navigating the process of gaining residency and providing them with a community and space to relax from the stress that comes from the asylum seeking process. However, those who seek the help of the Trampoline House are expected to help contribute to maintaining the house and help build a community for themselves and other asylum seekers.

The Trampoline House aims to create a community of Danish citizens, refugees, asylum seekers, and everybody else who calls Denmark home. This requires an effort from all parties involved to participate in maintaining a community. The staff is made up of both Danish citizens and migrants, and community meetings are held frequently so that members can share their thoughts and concerns.

Specific resources that the Trampoline House provides include child care, language classes, cooking, a women’s group, medical and legal counseling, art exhibitions and dance parties. Some of these programs are run or were proposed by refugees themselves.

Refugees Problems

The Trampoline House mainly focuses on providing help to asylum seekers and refugees because there is a large number of these people that remain in asylum camps across Denmark. In January 2018, 5,000 people were in centers. A majority of them still had cases pending from immigration services. However, 16 percent of them were rejected and remained living in deportation centers.

People who have been denied by the state remain in these centers until they can leave, but many of them do not even have the opportunity to do so. In the deportation centers, asylum seekers and refugees are not allowed to cook, have inadequate health care and are located in desolate areas where it is hard for them to travel anywhere. Essentially, the camps are designed to make people leave, but people cannot do this due to political oppression or violence in their home countries.

Trampoline House Services

Trampoline House offers services specifically to refugees and asylum seekers that are denied. For example, doctors will volunteer to have check-ups for members of the house and provide them with the medical care they might need. Currently, medical services are restrictive in detention centers and only allowed for urgent cases.

As mentioned earlier there is a kitchen for members to cook in, since they are not allowed to make food for themselves in the camp. The food that they are served in camps is barely edible and is not diversified, meaning it is mostly consisted out of Danish dishes.

The Trampoline House also aims to raise awareness about the migration crisis and migrant rights in Denmark through the Center for Art on Migration Politics (CAMP) program. The program hosts exhibitions, education programs and releases publications about migration and the struggles that migrants face in Denmark.

While the number of refugees and asylum seekers that are arriving in Denmark is declining, it is important to ensure all of them have services to help guide them through the immigration process and a community where they can feel welcomed.

Trampoline House is one of the many nongovernmental organization working to provide them with a sense of belonging and comfort in what can be a stressful and confusing process.

– Drew Garbe

Photo: Flickr

Danida Denmark's Foreign Aid
Denmark is one of the world’s leading providers of foreign aid. Not necessarily by dollars, but by Gross National Income (GNI). The U.N. set a target for 0.7 percent of a well-developed nation’s GNI be set aside for foreign aid. Denmark’s foreign aid meets that goal and its funds are distributed by Danida.

Denmark passed its first law regarding foreign assistance in 1962. Nine years later, the name Danida appeared to distribute Denmark’s foreign aid. Since its inception, it has gained its own logo and place within the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Denmark’s Foreign Aid Through Danida

Denmark is one of the few nations that consistently meets and exceeds the U.N.’s goal. In 2015, Denmark allocated 0.85 percent of its GNI toward international development. Only six other nations met or exceeded the goal that year. Since 1978, Denmark has allocated at least 0.7 percent of its GNI toward Danida. This year will be no different. 

Danida operates in countries from Belarus to South Africa and from China to Chile. In recent years, Danida has centered its focus on Africa through various programs. Danida also supports non-governmental organizations already working in these countries. Like other nations, Danida also provides research grants to organizations and individuals through its Danish Development Center. In 2018, Danida will focus Denmark’s foreign aid to four main areas:

  1. Streamlining development cooperation projects and humanitarian aid projects in countries with conflict
  2. Focusing on immigration and the proper readmission of migrants not legally able to stay in Denmark
  3. Increasing employment of migrants and people in countries where there are Danish businesses
  4. Educating young people and providing more funding to women’s health and rights 

The Goal: Eradicating Poverty

Danida’s goal is to eradicate poverty in order to stabilize societies and governments. To achieve its goal, Danida funds programs that encourage the following:

  • Social and economic development
  • Human rights
  • Democratization
  • Security and counterterrorism
  • Humanitarian assistance including disaster relief
  • Environmental protection
  • Eliminate HIV/AIDS

Spending Foreign Aid Domestically

In 2016, Denmark began to roll-out a new strategy. According to the CPH Post, 30 percent of the money from Denmark’s foreign aid allocated to combat the refugee crisis abroad will be used to help migrants who have already reached Denmark. This system received mixed reviews. It was praised due to the benefits it would provide migrants in Denmark, including food vouchers, housing and healthcare.

However, critics say that by using this funding at home there is less money to help stabilize the nations the refugees are fleeing. There would be no need to spend this money domestically if these nations were stabilized in the first place.

Denmark is following the lead of other Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway, who also spend 20 to 30 percent of the same allocated funds domestically. Both Sweden and Norway also consistently spend 0.7 percent or more of their GNI on foreign aid.

The 2018 budget outlines foreign aid plans and funding for Danida through 2021, staying at 0.7 percent of its GNI. The plan also hints that Denmark wants to keep this going until 2030. Hopefully, Danida will continue to operate well into the future and well past 2030.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Denmark

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries gained attention for their extraordinarily equitable economies. Candidate Bernie Sanders often pointed to the Danish education and healthcare systems as models to be followed by the U.S.

Rather than asking how to help people in Denmark, Sanders and other social democrats focused on how the rest of the world could benefit from understanding the ways in which the Danish government already helps its own people.

In addition to free education and healthcare, the Danish government provides all citizens with a minimum income guarantee of about $100 per day. As a result, Denmark has achieved the fourth lowest inequality rate in the world.

Such a world-class safety net is supported by one of the world’s highest tax rates. All sales in Denmark include a 25 percent tax and the highest income earners give upwards of 60 percent of their income to the state.

The high tax rate has motivated some economists like Rasmus Landerso and James Heckman to frame the Danish economy as equitable only insofar as it compresses the range between high and low incomes, not because it has a high index of social mobility.

Indeed, their recent study found that intergenerational social mobility in Denmark mirrors that in the U.S. A child from a lower-class background, for example, whose parents did not finish college in Denmark is just as unlikely to attend college and become middle-class as his or her American counterpart, despite the fact that Danish higher education is free.

The difference, then, between the two countries is that the Danish government compensates for low social mobility by providing significant welfare benefits to the poor.

In the end, while there may still remain a question about how to help people in Denmark ascend out of their generational social classes, it is clear that the Danish people already receive sufficient amounts of help from their own government.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Denmark
Centuries ago, Denmark was home to Viking raiders, but today, the nation is successful and technologically advanced. The 5.5 million people who live in Demark are governed by a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. The Scandinavian nation is very impressive on many fronts, including economics. In 2016, for instance, Denmark’s unemployment rate was just 4.2 percent. Human rights in Denmark are largely protected, but room for improvement remains.

Denmark is one of the 192 Member States of the United Nations and uses that position to advance its protection of human rights. For example, Denmark has pushed for treaties that support the abolition of torture as well as augmenting the rights of people with disabilities.

Within its own borders, steps are taken to protect human rights as well. Free speech and a free press are two of the many human rights in Denmark protected by the nation’s constitution. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 report, Denmark’s government did not limit either of these practices.

The report also demonstrated that Denmark does not violate the integrity of its people. Prison and detention centers keep with international standards, fair trials are granted and each individual’s privacy is respected.

One area in which Denmark’s reputation regarding human rights is less widely praised is when it comes to the nation’s treatment of refugees. According to The Washington Post, many European nations have experienced an influx of immigrants over the past decade. Some of the actions taken by Denmark’s government include slashing benefits to refugees, allowing police to confiscate refugees’ valuables and taking steps to make it increasingly difficult for refugees to reunite with their families.

As the laws in Denmark have changed, so too have the have peoples’ sentiments. Ideas regarding refugees that in the past would have been considered outlandish have infiltrated more mainstream ideology. Denmark has received much criticism for this. In fact, Human Rights First, “an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals” stated that this is a violation of refugees’ human rights.

The evidence suggests that Denmark is more successful at protecting the human rights of its own people than of others.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in DenmarkDenmark is known for its high taxation and social spending as a significant portion of its budget, but it may be a lesser known fact that the cost of living in Denmark is among the highest in the world.

As of 2017, the cost of living in Denmark was ranked sixth in terms of its consumer price index (including rent), which is currently at 65.83. The consumer price index is a calculation of the average prices of rent and consumer goods and services within the country. Though this number is high, it pales in comparison to the two other Nordic nations that are also listed as being in the top ten most expensive countries to live. Namely, Iceland, which was ranked third with a CPI index of 92.79, and Norway, ranked fourth with a CPI index of 76.70.

The reference point of these CPI calculations is the cost of living (including rent) in New York City, meaning that New York City is a baseline equal to 100. That said, this data reflects that the average cost of rent plus the average cost of living in Denmark is 34.17 percent less than the cost of living and rent in New York City.

The country also has a sales tax rate of 25 percent and Danish citizens, in almost all cases, pay more for consumer goods and services. For example, the price of a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI hatchback in the U.S. is approximately $20,000. In Denmark, this price is about $45,747.33, and the cost of gas is about or $1.59 per liter, or $6.36 per gallon.

Among other comparisons to the U.S., the average price in Denmark for a pair of Levi 501 jeans is about $130, a basic dinner for two in a local pub or diner is about $64 and a 40” flat screen television costs about $603. Also, the median monthly rent for a furnished 480-square-foot studio apartment in an average neighborhood is about $917, in addition to an average of $190 in utilities per person.

Another unique aspect of the Danish economy is that although the average citizen makes about $43,000 per year, they devote between 35 to 45 percent of this to their income taxes, depending on whether they are married, have kids and a few other factors. For those making $67,000 or more per year, a total of 52 percent of their income will go to taxes, and the highest marginal tax rate for the wealthiest is currently 55.8 percent. However, these tax rates are comparatively lower than in the past. Data shows that in 1997, Danes paid a record high top marginal income tax of 65.9 percent, and the rate did not fall below 60 percent until 2009.

Nonetheless, as of August 2016, 60 percent of Danes said that they would oppose tax cuts, 15 percent said they were unsure and only 25 percent favored them. The reason for such a high level of support for high taxation is because most Danes view the taxes as an investment for a better society and an increased quality of life.

Since it is a focus of many Danish policy makers to take into consideration quality of life and overall happiness for their citizens, they ensure that they have a highly funded welfare system. For this reason, it is not surprising that education is entirely free even at the university level and every Danish student gets $900 monthly from the government. This is not only beneficial for young people, but it also relieves parents from having to worry about how they will finance their children’s education.

Denmark also has one of the most generous parental leave policies worldwide, allowing parents up to a total of 32 weeks of funding from the state to tend to their newborns following a birth, as well as free, safe and high quality health care for all citizens.

The Danish labor market is also positively impacted by the welfare model. By practicing an extremely efficient active labor market policy that, among other things, provides job-searching assistance to the unemployed and makes efforts to keep the unemployed actively engaged in searching for a job. In addition to this, if a Danish citizen loses his job, he can receive unemployment insurance for up to four years.

Perhaps it is a combination of these things that has led Denmark to be ranked the happiest nation in the world for the third year in a row, according to the United Nation’s World Happiness report of 2016. The five countries that were ranked directly below Denmark were Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Canada, which is notably significant as all of those countries also impose high taxation and have similar welfare programs in place.

While the cost of living in Denmark is high, and the country is certainly not a flawless, utopian society, it appears to value the well-being of its people over economic growth. Demark can, at a minimum, serve as a role model to the global community when it comes to improving the lives of its citizens.

Hunter Mcferrin