Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Denmark
The impact of COVID-19 is something many still feel across the globe. Each country had its own ways of handling the pandemic, but the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Denmark was negligible due to Denmark’s existing policies, the way the Danish government navigated lockdowns and an important cultural element: social trust.

Existing Poverty Rates and Social Welfare Programs

According to the most recent data available from the World Bank, the poverty rate in Denmark in 2019 was 0% for individuals who make $6.85 a day. When looking at the rate of extreme poverty in the country (less than $1.90 a day), the rate was 0.3%. Denmark’s poverty rates are so low because of the country’s social welfare programs.

These social welfare programs are what leads to quality living in Denmark. The country is No. 2 on the World Happiness Index, received No. 12 on the World Economic Forum competitiveness ranking in 2018 and has one of the lowest wealth inequality scores in the world.

Danish social policies apply to all citizens from cradle to grave, and some of them include paternity or maternity leave up to a full year, municipalities guaranteeing and paying for schooling and nurseries, tuition-free education for college students and generous allowances for families.

Dr. Peter Abrahamson, a sociologist at the University of Copenhagen, described the important element that allows all of these policies to be possible. “Everyone is working,” he said. These social welfare programs allow citizens to become part of the labor market, which helps pay for the high taxes that fund these programs in the first place.

Quick to Close, Early to Reopen

People saw Abrahamson’s statement in action with how the government handled the pandemic, reducing the potential impact of COVID-19 on the poverty rate in Denmark. Denmark’s population is relatively small (5.8 million compared to about 332 million in the U.S. in 2020) and it faced a relatively low death count. The country went into lockdown starting with the Danish Prime Minister ordering all schools, nurseries and universities to close on March 16 (Denmark implemented the order on March 11, a day before France placed the order).

Denmark also asked citizens to start respecting the pandemic protocols as soon as possible, and many embraced them before the lockdown began on March 16. According to a 2020 article from the National Library of Medicine, Denmark had a total of 9,311 cases and 460 deaths in May 2020, whereas other countries such as Switzerland, with roughly similar size and population, had already accumulated three times more cases and deaths. While other countries remained under strict lockdown, Denmark had already begun to reopen its society and industry, allowing people to go back to work.

In 2020, KPMG took a look at some of the financial measures the Danish government implemented in response to COVID-19 once businesses started opening back up. Some of these measures included compensation of 90% of the revenue that self-employed people lost with a fixed cap per month, setting aside 60 million DKK (Danish krone) to improve qualifications for the unemployed, extending unemployment benefits and subsidizing between 25% to 80% of a company’s fixed costs if company revenue was to decline significantly as a result of COVID-19 (the amount subsidized depended on the expected percentage of lost revenue).

Trust in the Government and in Others

The lockdown policies and quick reopening of the country would not have been as smooth as they were without the Danish people’s trust in the government and themselves. Trust is an important element of Danish culture and is what allows citizens to live their lives as they do. According to Christian Bjørnskov, a professor of economics at Denmark’s Aarhus University, a combination of trust, confidence in the government and others and strong economic developments are what makes Danes happy, not the social welfare programs. The Danes understand that the services their government provides are a contribution to their efficient labor market.

The Danes also trust their government to deliver what they need. Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute, for example, looks for what people and allows politicians to be able to deliver on that. As for the pandemic, Denmark applied the same type of trust between the government and the people.

According to an article from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), more than 75% of eligible citizens were fully vaccinated as of October 2021 and more than 60% of the adult population underwent testing each week. Testings were free to schedule as well, and citizens saw them as a way to keep others safe and to do their part rather than as an infringement of rights.

Through existing social welfare programs, clean handling of the pandemic and the social trust that exists between citizens and government, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Denmark was able to be negligible. Based on previous data trends from the World Bank, one can assume that Denmark will continue to see very low poverty rates as the world adjusts to a post-pandemic world.

– Matthew Wikfors
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Denmark
Denmark is well-known as an egalitarian society with a generous welfare system that provides equal opportunities for men and women to thrive. However, in recent years, the nation’s efforts in advancing women’s rights in Denmark have been progressing slower in comparison to neighboring Scandinavian regions of Sweden and Norway. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 report ranked Denmark 29th for gender equality out of 258 nations, down from 14th place in 2020.

Political Participation

In 1814, Denmark passed a law on “universal primary education,” granting children irrespective of gender the right to seven years of education. This was the beginning of gender equality efforts in Denmark.

In Denmark’s 1849 and 1866 constitutions, “political engagement was reserved for men over the age of 30 who headed their own households.” In 1871, the Danish Women’s Society emerged to promote social change for women through advocacy and legislation. In addition, in 1915, Denmark through the “democracy constitution” granted women the right to vote and run for the parliamentary election.

Then, in 1924, Denmark appointed Nina Bang as minister of education, becoming “the world’s first female minister in a country with parliamentary democracy.” Women’s rights in Denmark have continued to evolve and advance over the years considering the increased level of women’s involvement in social causes and politics. Denmark elected the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in 2011. In addition, Denmark elected Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as the second female prime minister and current Danish leader in 2019.

Gender Equality

The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty of the European Union influenced the gender equality legislation in Denmark. The Amsterdam Treaty “promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms into the formal structure of the EU. It also strengthens and focuses the European commitment to gender equality and extends the equality principle beyond the workplace.”

Efforts to achieve gender parity in Denmark have focused for many years on women’s participation in public life and the decision-making process. The traditional independence of Danish women influenced women’s integration in the decision-making process. In 1999, the Danish government, in its effort to strengthen and promote equal gender participation, appointed a minister for gender equality to advance women’s rights in Denmark.

In furtherance of these efforts, the Danish parliament amended provisions of the Act on Gender Equality. The legislation “provides for promotion of gender equality, including equal integration, equal influence and equality in all functions of society on the basis of women’s and men’s equal status.” ​​

Gender Wage Gap

In 2020, out of 3 million people who registered in the Danish labor force, females made up 47%. The increased influx of women’s participation in the workforce demonstrates that females have strong representation in the labor market.

Despite this increase in labor participation, Denmark has stalled in its efforts to reduce gender wage gap differences. The Global Gender Gap Report for 2021 revealed a 38% income gap between men and women.

Experts attribute inequality in pay to gender segregation in labor participation. Danish women are more likely to hold public-sector jobs “while men are more likely to work in the private sector” and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.

The Public Servant Reform Act of 1969 paved the way for an unequal labor market as well. This law assigned job sectors that female employees commonly dominate, such as nursing, childcare and education, to lower wages than jobs that are more male-dominated, such as law enforcement. Furthermore, working long hours and employment pressures exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the disparity in income and the gains achieved in enhancing women’s rights in Denmark.

Parental Leave

Denmark has a flexible parental leave system as do neighboring Nordic countries Sweden and Norway. In 2019, Denmark’s Parliament expanded parental leave to “24 weeks of leave per parent, 13 of which are transferable, for a total of 48 weeks of leave combined.” This is a significant departure from the previous policy of 32 total weeks of paid leave. Parents receive entitlements to a combined parental leave benefit for 52 weeks. To qualify for parental leave benefits, certain employment duration requirements are necessary. The expanded parental leave will provide equal opportunities to integrate work and life balance for parents.

Looking Ahead

Danish society places a high value on equal opportunities for women with the election of two female prime ministers, but the work to achieve complete gender equality in Denmark is far from accomplished, more so with the income inequality challenge. The Danish government, in cooperation with civil society and the private sector, can improve women’s rights by creating safe spaces and repealing the 1969 Civil Service Reform Act to ensure equal pay for equal work. It is important for countries to leverage policies and programs that provide equal opportunities for men and women to achieve gender parity for a peaceful and prosperous world.

– Sylvia Eimieho
Photo: Flickr

Princess MariePrincess Marie of Denmark completes her tenth year working with DanChurchAid, an organization working to combat global poverty. She has also contributed to several other philanthropic organizations over the years. Her Royal Highness actively advocates for the critical cause of diminishing global poverty through her work and commitment.


DanChurchAid is an organization that works with economically developing nations to combat hunger, poverty, and oppression. It has been operating for over a hundred years, and with the help of donors, volunteers, and partners, it has aided people in more than 120 countries. The group uses popular and political forces to urge political decision-makers to improve living conditions for the underprivileged. Along with their long-term aid in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the organization offers relief to disaster-stricken areas. They make sure that communities reemerge more robustly, and are more adequately prepared if disaster strikes again. The group’s mission emphasizes the importance of human rights as well as working with those in need on relevant, sustainable, and practical projects.

Humanitarian Trips

Through her years as a patron, Princess Marie’s philanthropy has shown through her multiple humanitarian trips with DanChurchAid. During a recent trip to Uganda, she visited the Raising Gabdho Foundation in Kampala. There, she learned more about the foundation’s work, and the techniques they developed to cook in a more sustainable way. She also saw a DanChurchAid project called Fresh Fruit Nexus. The Danish International Development Agency first developed this project in Northern Uganda in 2018. Here, Princess Marie visited Ugandan farmers in the Omugo Refugee Settlement. Together with their refugee families, the farmers formed a cooperative in which they collected crops together and had the opportunity to borrow money from each other.

Princess Marie’s philanthropy extends to other countries as well. She has also traveled to Myanmar in the past. In Myanmar, DanChurchAid has provided underdeveloped communities with practical tools to advance their economic status and quality of life. People have worked to financially organize themselves through savings and loan systems. The underprivileged community could use the money to purchase essential tools, such as sewing machines, for economic sustainability. Princess Marie made this humanitarian trip alongside Danish donors who are also passionate about combating global poverty.

Promoting Sustainability and Accessibility

Another project that Princess Marie was active in is a supermarket called Wefood, which is located in the capital of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her Royal Highness worked with DanChurchAid in unveiling the project. Wefood aims to promote sustainability and accessibility by collecting surplus produce daily and selling it. By using this method, they can cut costs by 30 to 50%. The supermarket has aimed to cut back on food waste and provide food to those affected by poverty. This is the first of its kind in the nation.

In addition to Wefood, Princess Marie has also worked with FoedevareBanken, a Danish food bank. This organization also aims to fight food waste and poverty. Similar to Wefood, they work to provide disadvantaged people with sustainable food, and this initiative ensures that all people can have access to nutritious and balanced meals.

Through her advocacy and patronage with DanChurchAid, Princess Marie has effectively influenced the fight against global poverty. After her ten years with the organization, people worldwide eagerly await to see where Princess Marie’s philanthropy will inspire change next.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on DenmarkIn 2020, a global health outbreak shut down countries all around the world. The coronavirus outbreak damaged economies and businesses and led to the deaths of millions of people. However, despite the continued progression of the virus, Denmark has experienced relatively low rates of infection and death. The impact of COVID-19 on Denmark has remained fairly under control due to the country’s strong leadership.

COVID-19 Campaign for Young Adults

While the COVID-19 vaccine rate in Denmark remains relatively high, with an estimated 68% of the population fully vaccinated by August 19, 2021, citizens from 20-29 years of age are among the least likely to receive the vaccine. In August 2021, the Danish Health Authority announced its goal to open up pop-up vaccine centers in every region. With the hope of vaccinating more young adults, the Health Authority stated that the pop-up shops will be located close to schools and universities. Soren Brostrom, director of the Health Authority, believes that summer vacations as well as a lack of understanding are the main reasons that young people are not making an effort to receive vaccines. According to Brostrom, some citizens also do not realize the importance of vaccinations. Even if an individual already had COVID-19, the virus can still infect a person several times.

COVID-19’s Impact on Everyday Life in Denmark

The impact of COVID-19 on Denmark led leaders to close Danish borders. During the height of the pandemic, Denmark experienced its first lockdown. However, within recent weeks, the country has begun to reopen. In March 2021, nine of the 10 parties in the Danish parliament agreed on a timetable for relaxing restrictions. In August 2021, Denmark announced that masks will no longer be necessary for public transportation. As more Danish citizens receive vaccines, the country is slowly relaxing its mandates. Deputy director of the National Health Agency, Helene Bilsted Probst, believes that the country has better control of the virus, and as more of the population receives the vaccine, it is possible that Danes will be able to maintain a “normal daily life.”

Denmark’s Vaccine Rollout

Almost 70% of Denmark’s population have received a full dose of the vaccine, and each day, this percentage rises. It was announced in August 2021 that Denmark would buy 280,000 doses of the Novavax vaccine to administer to its residents. This follows the agreement made between the European Union and the U.S. company to diversify the manufacturer’s vaccine portfolio. With its growing collection of vaccines, Denmark is well on its way to vaccinating its entire population. A mostly vaccinated population will allow the economy to fully reopen and recover.

Moving Forward

As more than half of its population received the COVID-19 vaccine, Denmark began to relax its restrictions in an attempt to return to “normalcy.” The Danish Health Authority continues to revitalize its COVID-19 campaign with the hopes of vaccinating more people between the ages of 20-29. Despite the pandemic’s dire impact all over the world, the impact of COVID-19 on Denmark was not as severe. The Scandinavian country was able to maintain relatively low rates of infections and deaths. COVID-19’s impact on Denmark could have been much worse had it not been for the strong leadership of government officials.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Denmark
Women will often go to extreme lengths to find stability for themselves and their families. To find this stability, many leave their homes in search of better jobs. Unfortunately, this makes them vulnerable to human trafficking with traffickers potentially tricking them into doing sex work that can be difficult to escape. Organizations such as the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) are fighting to reduce the amount of human trafficking in Denmark.

Women as Victims

Denmark is a trafficking destination. According to Newsroom, “The total number of trafficking victims identified in the period 2016-2019 was 380, including 28 children. The most frequent form of exploitation remains sexual exploitation, followed by labor exploitation and forced criminality.”

Many trafficking victims are women. According to the European Commission, “women make up the largest share of identified victims of trafficking in Denmark with a total of 547 persons (94%). Male victims of trafficking account for 6% of the total number from 2007 to 2016.”

The Problem

Migrant women come from various parts of the world such as Thailand, Eastern Europe and Nigeria before settling in Denmark after traffickers promise them employment with quality pay. However, many of these women end up in sex work by force. Additionally, many end up on the streets where they face violence and stress due to the cost of living in Denmark.

Kira West of Open Democracy said that “We have heard examples of family houses being burnt down or family members being kidnapped. Many of them are also suffering from the effects of life as undocumented migrant women in rough, street-based environments where they are subject to exploitation, violence and rape.”

Female trafficking victims not only stress about paying off their debts but also live in fear that the police will catch them. As a result, female trafficking victims in Denmark rarely report crimes. West said that “Irrespective of whether or not they have the right papers, these women have a right to protection. They should be able to report perpetrators without fearing deportation.”

Making a Change

GRETA is an organization that ensures trafficked victims have access to compensation including breaking down their cases and reviewing the eligibility criteria for claiming their compensation. This organization argues that because most victims of trafficking are migrants that they should receive asylum in Denmark. “From 2007-2016 a sum of 632 people are known to be victims of human trafficking in Denmark. Of those 632 people trafficked in Denmark a total of 517 people were being trafficked for prostitution.”

From 2016-2019, GRETA aided in nine court rulings in four different cases resulting in the conviction of 23 persons for human trafficking offenses.

GRETA has urged Denmark to review and grant residence permits to victims of trafficking as well as fund human and financial resources to protect them. In its third report, GRETA detailed exactly how trafficked victims’ cases should play out to guarantee justice in Denmark. GRETA has noted that Denmark has been implementing the establishment of a national referral system including five regional groups. It also created a website and hotline for trafficked victims which includes information in seven languages.

Making it Right

Victims are now stepping forward. The women who end up as trafficking victims do so because they want to build better lives for themselves. They live a life of violence and fear because of their citizenship status and other fake documentation. Many have had enough and are choosing to fight for their freedom. Little by little, many are reclaiming their lives once again.

Maria Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Greenland's Foreign Aid
Many countries around the world benefit from foreign aid, but few rely on it for their livelihood. Greenland is one of the few countries that would struggle to exist at all without it, as Greenland’s foreign aid is essential to its economy. Each year, Denmark, Greenland’s former colonial ruler, gives the island nation about $591 million in subsidies. That represents about 60% of the Greenlandic government’s budget and comes to more than $10,000 for every person living in Greenland. The subsidy, however, is not the cure-all Denmark might hope it to be.

Greenland’s Foreign Aid and Social World

Greenland is a land of contradictions. It is the largest island in the world, yet has a population of fewer than 60,000 people. Its average income is about $33,000, placing it far above the international average, yet Greenland also suffers from a suicide rate seven times higher than in the United States, and a poverty rate of 16.2% as of 2015. Traditional practices remain the norm in many parts of the country. Fishing accounts for 90% of Greenland’s exports, and dog sleds are still a common sight in the island’s undeveloped interior.

How can Greenland receive so much aid and still suffer from such social ills? Part of the answer lies in international politics. Although Greenland is nominally independent, many of its politics are still under the control of Denmark. Worried about losing influence in Greenland, Denmark has often blocked other countries’ efforts to invest in Greenland.

For example, Denmark raised objections to a $12.1 million aid package to Greenland from the U.S. in 2020. While politicians raised some valid concerns about the package (particularly in light of President Trump’s tactless 2019 offer to buy Greenland from Denmark), the fact remains that foreign investment would almost certainly enrich Greenlanders. This would be especially relevant if Greenlanders, rather than Danes, were the ones to make decisions about foreign aid.

Potential Wealth in Greenland

On the other hand, Greenland itself enjoys huge sources of potential wealth. The island is strategically located in the arctic region. Greenland also possesses valuable mineral deposits in its interior, which global warming will eventually uncover. Unfortunately, Denmark’s reluctance to permit foreign aid, and a lack of local capital, have prevented Greenland from taking advantage of these resources.

Greenland’s dependence on Danish money is a major source of instability for the country. Were the Danish government to change its policy, Greenland’s fragile economy would collapse. Greenland’s reliance on fish also creates uncertainty, since fish prices tend to fluctuate quickly. Economic development, as well as investment from a variety of countries, would remove much of the country’s economic uncertainty.

The goal of foreign investment should be to make countries prosperous and, eventually, self-sufficient. Greenland, however, shows few signs of becoming more economically independent from Denmark. Greenland’s GDP has grown very slowly and actually shrank between 2013 and 2014, despite Denmark’s funding. Danish aid to Greenland seems to have become an absent-minded gift, rather than an aid program with a clear purpose and goals.

Consequences of Denmark’s Aid

If Denmark sticks to the status quo of offering aid but preventing others from doing the same, Greenland will continue to suffer from its high poverty rate. Denmark will still have to pay huge sums of cash to keep the Greenlandic economy afloat.

However, if Denmark were to permit more investment in Greenland and put more emphasis on helping Greenland achieve self-sufficiency, Greenland would become wealthier and its economy would be more stable. This would in turn benefit Denmark because Greenland would eventually no longer need so much financial support. Whatever Greenland’s foreign aid future holds, it seems clear that it can do better than the status quo.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Denmark
Every year on March 20, the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network publishes the World Happiness Report. The report assesses the state of happiness in 156 countries, acquiring data through quantitative surveys and research. The report considers GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, trust and corruption, perceived freedom to make life decisions and generosity. Based on these metrics, Denmark has consistently ranked in the top 10 happiest countries in the world for the last nine years. Naturally, this has prompted the world to take a closer look at what contributes to such positive mental health in Denmark.

Robust Social Security and Social Welfare

It is no secret that the Danish income tax rate is one of the highest in the world. The income tax rate for the average Dane earning $43,000 is 45% and increases to 52% for those earning $67,000 or more. However, a Gallup survey conducted in 2014 found that almost 90% of Danes are happy to pay their taxes. This is because the high tax rate translates into improved societal welfare. For instance, Denmark provides free healthcare to all and education is also free, even at the tertiary level.

The Importance of a Work-life Balance

The Danes recognize that time affluence is a vital prerequisite for happiness. As such, Danes generally only work an average of 37 hours spread across five days. This arrangement provides them with ample leisure time to pursue hobbies or spend time with friends and family. Moreover, many treat mental health in Denmark with the same seriousness as physiological health in the workplace. Employees take “stress leave” to avoid burnout and people impacted by job losses receive generous unemployment benefits from the government.

The Philosophy of Hygge

The most common translation of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a sense of coziness or comfort. It is the ethos of the Danish lifestyle and emphasizes taking pleasure in simple things. During the bleak winters, the Danes take up hygge practices such as playing a board game with friends or reading a book with a cup of hot chocolate. According to A.K. Pradeep, author of “The Buying Brain,” hygge encourages activities that minimize stress and create comfort to boost serotonin production. Consequently, the incorporation of hygge into everyday life reduces stress levels and helps with depression. This greatly improves the quality of mental health in Denmark.

Tackling Mental Health Issues in Denmark

By no means should one construe these aspects of life in Denmark as an absence of mental health issues. In fact, estimates suggest that 38% of Danish women and 32% of Danish men will receive professional help for mental health issues at some moment in their lifetime. While the causes for suicide and mental health illnesses in Denmark are nuanced, with regard to the mental health of young people, the high demands and pressures of today’s world contribute to anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, the suicide rate in Denmark has now plateaued at 11.4 per 100,000 since 2007. This translates to an average of 600 suicides per year, with experts in suicidal behavior acknowledging the government’s ability to do more to address the issue.

However, Denmark is not the only Nordic country celebrated for the happiness of its citizens yet struggling to make further inroads into suicide prevention. For example, in Finland, an estimated 750 Finns commit suicide every year. This is despite extensive national suicide strategies that have managed to bring down the suicide rate by more than 50% in the last 30 years.

Creating Change

Fortunately, organizations have met these staggering statistics with a determination to improve the mental health situation in Denmark. One such organization is ONE OF US. Founded in 2011, ONE OF US aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in Denmark, addressing social exclusion and encouraging individuals to seek treatment. The organization accomplishes this through its nationwide campaigns.

These efforts consist of activities and workshops to educate the public on mental health issues. Workshops also aim to teach individuals how to support people struggling with mental illness. For instance, with the youth as one of its focus areas, the organization makes presentations at educational institutions with a youth ambassador. The ambassador shares his/her experience with mental health issues and gives guidance on how to overcome these hurdles.

Although happiness is a factor that fluctuates, Denmark does its best to prioritize the integral aspects that contribute to overall happiness. The happiness rate in Denmark is a significant source of pride for former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who believes in a model of “governance for happiness,” especially during trying times. Mental health in Denmark plays an important role in overall happiness and the country aims to continue prioritizing it.

Vyas Nageswaran
Photo: Flickr

Denmark's Foreign Aid
When it comes to foreign aid, one of the most widely-commended countries is the small nation of Denmark. The Danes are well-known for their generous aid spending and both donor and recipient nations recognize Denmark as a highly effective partner in the fight against global poverty. Here are five facts about Denmark’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About Denmark’s Foreign Aid

  1. Denmark is a world leader in foreign aid spending. In 2019, Denmark spent $2.55 billion on foreign aid, a seemingly small figure compared to the $34.62 billion the United States spent, but Denmark’s population is only about 1.76% that of the U.S. When adjusted for population, Denmark’s foreign aid totals $447 per-capita, much higher than the United States’ $95 per-capita. In fact, Denmark is the fourth-highest per-capita spender of all OECD countries after Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg.
  2. Denmark has consistently been a world leader since the 1970s. The United Nations uses foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to measure a country’s proportional spending, and Denmark is one of the few countries that has met or exceeded the U.N.’s target of 0.7% of GNI since 1978. Denmark’s foreign aid currently amounts to 0.71% of its GNI, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden among OECD countries. However, for a brief period during the 1990s, Denmark actually increased this number to over 1%.
  3. Low-and-middle-income countries rate Denmark high for usefulness, influence and helpfulness in foreign aid. In a new study that AidData conducted, leaders from 40 aid-receiving nations ranked Denmark as a top development partner. Besides meeting the U.N.’s foreign aid target, Denmark scored second among all countries for its usefulness regarding policy advice, second for its influence in setting agendas and first for its helpfulness regarding reform implementation. Since 2009, these reforms have included promoting greater private sector expansion and focusing on social progress as a catalyst for economic growth. Denmark’s long-term commitments to implementing such policies in a small number of prioritized nations have proven to be highly effective in reducing extreme poverty.
  4. Denmark manages its foreign aid spending and implementation through DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency. DANIDA’s top priorities for 2020 are advancing human rights and equality, developing sustainable green growth, providing humane asylum for displaced people and maintaining international cooperation in all global efforts. Denmark’s foreign aid reaches over 70 low-and-middle-income countries, but those of the highest urgency include Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Efforts in Afghanistan largely center around education as Danish aid provides teacher education, updated textbooks and curriculum development. In Somalia, DANIDA works to develop safety nets, human rights advancements and strengthen national and local governance. Niger receives policy advice on properly handling the irregular number of migrants in the country as well as basic delivery of living essentials to impoverished children.
  5. Denmark can still improve. While the country is one of only six to meet the U.N.’s target of 0.7% GNI in 2019 with 0.71%, this is a substantial drop from 2015 when Denmark spent 0.85% of GNI on foreign aid. Addressing this cutback, which was largely due to increased spending on refugees within the country, should be a top concern. Reverting back to 2015’s percentage or higher is a positive step Denmark can take, and such a move is all the more likely now as Denmark’s 2019 net migration was negative for the first time in almost a decade. As the country spends less on internal migrants, more of the Danish budget is available to supplement the once-highly-robust foreign aid sector.

One of the most effective ways developed governments can help to improve conditions in poverty-stricken nations is by properly funding and managing healthy foreign aid budgets. By taking Denmark’s example, more countries should seek to meet the U.N.’s 0.7% GNI target and implement this aid in a manner that best fits the needs of impoverished individuals in low-income countries.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Most Generous Donor CountriesAccording to the Principled Aid Index, a study by OECD’s DAC (Development Assistance Committee), the most generous donor nations tend to be the most humble and modest about the help they provide to the world’s poor. Among DAC’s 30 member countries, the four most generous are Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. All nations exceeded the United Nation’s recommended level of donating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI)to foreign aid. How are these four most generous and principled aid donors using their international funds to help the world’s poor?


Luxembourg tops the list of most generous donor nations with 1.05% of its GNI going to foreign aid. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a partner to nine developing countries across Africa, the United States and Asia, and is a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Luxembourg’s foreign aid strategy, developed through the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency, focuses on improving local development through providing education and employment, digitalizing health care and funding renewable energy. Its main areas of work are Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger, Senegal, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam.


The second country on the list of most generous donor nations is Norway. Norway spends on average NOK 39 billion ($4.3 billion) on foreign aid per year. Apart from exceeding the United Nations’ 0.7% target, Norway has only failed to donate more than 1% of its GNI to international humanitarian aid once since 2013. In 2020, Norway donated 1.02%.

The Norwegian government has five focus areas for appointing its foreign aid funds – education, health, private-sector development, environmental challenges and humanitarian assistance. It also focuses heavily on development, whether through human rights, gender equality, the environment or the fight against corruption. Its most prioritized areas of work, and the recipients of its biggest donations, are mostly countries in the SWANA (South West Asian/ North African) region.

Norway is currently focusing on development cooperation in Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda. It is also focusing on conflict prevention in Afghanistan, Malawi, Niger, Palestine, Somalia and South Sudan.

Norway has announced that, in the year 2021, it will place a significant focus on international humanitarian assistance and global health, and thus, will donate nearly NOK 10 billion to both of the causes. Expectations determine that its overall 2021 foreign aid budget will reach NOK 38.1 billion ($4.7 billion). At the beginning of 2021, Norway joined COVAX. COVAX is an international collaboration within developed countries aiming to bring COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. Norway has committed itself to the redistribution of its surplus vaccine doses to impoverished countries in the program.


Although Sweden is the sixth country on the DAC list, it is actually the third-most generous donor based on the proportion of its foreign aid donations to the size of its economy. Sweden has exceeded the United Nation’s 0.7% target every year since 1975. In addition, it has kept the long-term commitment of donating at least 1% since 2008. In 2020, the Swedish government ensured its COVID-19 response will not affect its development funding during the pandemic.

The main national body acting on foreign aid donations is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). SIDA’s Aid Policy Framework is based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focuses on eight main areas: human rights and democracy, gender equality, environment and environmental challenges, peace and security, inclusive economic development, migration, health equity and education.

SIDA has 35 partner countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Sweden’s largest donations go to Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. However, SIDA also works in Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sweden is very open about its strong commitment to international development cooperation. One of the central points of its foreign development policy is gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2014, Sweden became the first country to implement a feminist foreign policy, which ensures fundamental rights, peace, security and opportunities for sustainable development for women and girls in developing countries, such as cash grants supporting female-led households in Tanzania, which Sweden has been providing since 2016.

Furthermore, a large part of Sweden’s funding between 2014 and 2017 went toward its efforts to domestically host refugees. Later in 2019, it also created an emergency fund for Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. As part of Sweden’s 2021 budget plan, the country has a commitment to spending $6 billion on foreign humanitarian aid.


According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark has donated 0.71% of its GNI to foreign aid – $2.55 billion in 2020. The main sectors on the Danish foreign aid agenda are ensuring a secure transition for migrants by providing them with education and employment opportunities. Denmark also works to promote democracy and equal human rights while implementing inclusive and sustainable development.

Most of the aid goes to “priority countries” like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Denmark also donates significant funds to Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Colombia, China, Mexico, Turkey and Ukraine. All of Denmark’s humanitarianism is a part of its new strategy for development and humanitarian action called “The World 2030.”

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg’s generosity to other countries has had a multitude of benefits. From helping improve education to aiding countries’ health care systems or advancing women’s rights, these most generous donor nations are making a positive impact across the world.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Denmark
When most people picture poverty, they do not usually imagine Denmark. Denmark is an affluent, Scandinavian country renowned for its welfare state. Most Danish people and many people worldwide see Denmark as a model society to look to when dealing with poverty and creating a more egalitarian society. Yet, despite the programs in place to support its citizens, poverty in Denmark is still a problem. In a worrying trend, levels of poverty and inequality have been steadily rising in the last two decades.

A report from the Danish National Center for Social Research (SFI) says that the number of homeless people in Denmark has increased by 23% between 2009 and 2015. In 2015, estimates determined that there were 6,138 homeless people throughout the country, with the increase in homelessness greatest in people aged 25 to 29.

Changes to Welfare State Benefits

So, why are things suddenly changing in Denmark? The country still has a welfare state, so why do people lack financial security or even homes? The answer lies in reductions to social assistance programs that began in 2002 and left many Danes behind.

In 2002, the Liberal-Conservative government enacted changes, cutting significant social assistance benefits for specific groups, such as refugees, new immigrants and ethnic minorities. It pitched these changes as a part of immigration policy reform. However, these changes have had lasting impacts on the welfare system and on poverty in Denmark as a whole. The government justified the cuts to social assistance as necessary to increase immigrants’ and refugees’ incentive to find work.

Many within Denmark have seen the intention behind these reductions as a power play to show “outsiders” in Denmark that they would not receive equal treatment until they actively earned the right through work. Denmark has been a historically isolated and homogeneous society. Denmark’s coming to terms with newcomers has been, and continues to be, wrought with debate as to whether or not “foreigners” deserve to be a part of the welfare state. Refugees have fled to Denmark by the thousands, the numbers climbing from around 3,000 in 2011 to a peak of over 17,000 in 2015, before decreasing steadily each year afterward.

Who Does Poverty Affect?

There is a noticeable divide between the haves and the have nots in Danish society. Most Danes are well-off, do not struggle financially and have the assurance that their taxes will pay for their children’s higher education, most of their medical expenses and other basic necessities. Meanwhile, the poor have experienced marginalization.

Poverty among some of the most vulnerable members of Danish society has risen. The makeup of the poor is mostly single mothers and families composed of refugees and immigrants. In fact, one-fifth of all homeless people are foreigners. Additionally, a whopping four out of five homeless people have mental health or dependency issues and are not getting the help that they desperately need.

Poverty in Danish children provides many of the most devastating figures of poverty in Denmark. Child poverty increases by thousands every year. By 2017, there were about 64,500 children living in poverty. Not only are the children in poverty suffering, but childhood poverty has lasting effects that make it difficult for poor Danish children to prosper as adults. Studies confirm that Danish children who grow up in poverty will likely achieve less education. Moreover, they might receive a lower wage when they themselves enter the Danish job market. Child poverty in Denmark not only hurts Danish children in the present but Danish society in the future. Yet, many Danes continue to tout their welfare system without examining what needs fixing.

Falling Short

Though Denmark has lower levels of poverty than many other countries, its poverty demographic is changing and has been for the last two decades. These numbers call into question Denmark’s worldwide renown as an inclusive and dependable welfare state, and as a model that other nations should follow. Though most Danish politicians across party lines claim to support the welfare system, many support cuts to social assistance benefits. The leader of the Alternative Welfare Commission, Per Shulz Jorgensen claimed that “the welfare society is not living up to its own principles,” and as poverty climbs in the Danish welfare state, it would seem that he is right.

Caritas Denmark

The good news is that many NGOs have been taking action to help fight poverty in Denmark. Caritas Denmark has sought to empower poor people both in Denmark and around the world, running programs and giving relief to refugees worldwide. It is sending aid to communities that the Syrian civil war has affected as many refugees have fled from Syria to Denmark. Estimates have determined that it will provide health care and support to 12,886 people.

At home, Caritas Denmark runs programs focused on providing training to the poor and supporting integration projects for refugees in Denmark, as well as trying to prevent domestic disputes. It is addressing these issues to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of employment and housing, and an escape from poverty. As an affiliate of the Catholic Church of Denmark, Caritas Denmark works with 42 parishes and about 40,000 Catholics annually in Denmark. More work is necessary, but there are many Danes still fighting against poverty, both at its roots in the refugee crisis and at home through training and social programs for the poor.

Though Denmark has held on tightly to its status as one of the happiest countries on earth, poverty in Denmark requires attention. Danish people have begun to admit that poverty is a growing issue within Denmark, with a 2008 poll finding that 59% of Danes polled believed the wealth gap between well-off Danes and Danes in poverty required reducing. Nonprofits, advocacy groups and the hope of possible government action to support the vulnerable and the poor show that there is still a possibility of curbing the growth of poverty in Denmark. This way, Denmark can aspire to be the happiest country on earth for all Danes.

– Julia Ortiz
Photo: Flickr