With a population of but 5.3 million, Denmark is not a significant centre of world population, but population has not prevented Denmark from becoming a significant force in science, social organization and international trade.
Developments in Denmark that have aroused particular interest abroad over the years include the folkehojskole (a system of popular education for adults), the cooperative movement and the formation of the welfare state.
There is also a diversified and well-developed business sector. Denmark has been a member of the European Community (now European Union) since 1973 and is considered to have one of the strongest economies in the Union. One indication of this is that the per capita level of production in Denmark is higher than in any other Union member.
The less easily defined quality of life, which can be quite different from purely material prosperity, has also been widely praised. The democratic political institutions function well. Cultural activities are flourishing. Equal status for women has made considerable progress and continues to advance. Consumers are diet conscious. The environment is protected with measures that have even been successfully exported. Denmark makes one of the largest contributions to developing countries in the world and fulfils the United Nations target for industrialized countries of allocating at least 1 % of gross national product to development assistance.
To assist in a stable transition to a market economy after the recent changes in central and eastern Europe, Denmark has provided assistance in modernizing their administrative and business systems.
Where is Denmark - and who are the Danes?
Denmark is in northern Europe, between the North Sea and the Baltic. The country's total area is about 44,000 m2. The Jylland peninsula is connected to the Continent and has a 68-km land border with Germany. The rest of the country is made up of 406 islands, giving a total coastline of 7,300 km, or one-sixth of the circumference of the Earth. No one in Denmark is more than 52 km from the sea.
Denmark is economically and conveniently reached from Poland. There are good road links and express bus services from the main Polish cities. A train service also operates from the main Polish cities. LOT and SAS offer regular flights from Poznan, Krakow and Warszawa. Polferries operates a year round service between Swinoujscie and Copenhagen
February is the coldest month of the year, with an average temperature of -0.40C, and July is the warmest with an average of 16.60C - a typical temperate island climate.
There is usually a fresh wind in Denmark; the average wind speed throughout the year is 7.6 in/sec.
The total population on January 1, 1997 was 5,275,121, of which 237,695 or 4.5% are non-Danish citizens, with one third of them from the other Nordic or European countries or from North America. About 3,000 citizens of other countries received Danish citizenship yearly during the 1980s and 4,000 to 6,000 yearly during the 1990s.
Newborn Danish girls can expect to live to 78 years and boys 73 years. The birth rate was stagnant for a number of years but has shown a rising trend during the last 7-8 years. Denmark is moving into an age distribution problem - after 2000 there will be fewer economically active residents to support a growing number of elderly people.
Among 100 residents of Denmark, 87 are members of the Danish National Church, an evangelical - Lutheran church. There are also various other religions with their own houses of worship.
Heart disease is the commonest cause of death (28% of deaths among males and 26% among women). Suicide is a frequently mentioned cause of death, but in 1994 it was responsible for only 2.2% of deaths among men and 1.0% among women.
The population's general state of health is good, and the favourable living conditions for children and adults are confirmed by statistics showing that the average height of young men called in for national military service has increased by 12 cm over the last 100 years, to 180.5cm in 1995.
Denmark in the north Atlantic
The Kingdom of Denmark also includes the world's largest island, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, both in the north Atlantic. Greenland has an ice-free area of 342,000 m2 or eight times the size of Denmark. Greenland*s population was 55,971 on 1 January 1997, and commercial fishing with the associated processing industries are the mainstay of the economy. Greenland has promising mineral deposits that have been administered jointly by the Greenland Home Rule government and Denmark since 1979 in accordance with the Home Rule Act. Greenland joined the European Community together with Denmark but withdrew on 1 February 1985 after a referendum in 1982.
The Faroe Islands, with a population of 43,743 (31 December 1996), have an area of 1,399 m2, and fishing is the main commercial activity. The islands have had home rule since 1948 and have never been a member of the European Community.
The Danish capital is Copenhagen (in Danish:Kobenhavn), a city known to tourists for the Tivoli Gardens (which have been copied in other countries), and the statue of the Little Mermaid. International businesspeople know Copenhagen for its advanced industry and as a centre for trade and transport. Copenhagen Airport has about 739 take offs and landings daily, of which about 565 are international (1996). When the ferry traffic between Copenhagen and southern Sweden is replaced by a bridge and tunnel link in 2000, the region will have new opportunities for growth.
In step with the international liberalization of capital flows, Copenhagen has started to develop as a financial centre for the region. In 1996, Copenhagen attracted substantial international acclaim as the European City of Culture. One way Copenhagen celebrated this occasion was by building a new museum of modern art: Arkeri (The Ark).
The main political issues
Denmark has a single-chamber parliamentary system, supplemented with access to referendums. The Folketing (parliament) has 179 members, including 2 elected from the Faroe Islands and 2 from Greenland. The voting age is 18 years, and the composition of the Folketing is decided by proportional representation with a 2% minimum. At times up to 11 parties have been elected to the Folketing (there are 9 at present). About one Dane in ten is a member of a political party.
Historically, the Social Democratic Party - the largest- has been in government longest. After ten years of government by a liberal minority coalition led by Prime Minister Poul Schluter (Conservative) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Uffe Elleinann-Jensen (Liberal), the Social Democrats returned to power in January 1993. The Social Democratic Party formed a majority coalition with the Centre Democrats, the Social-Liberal Party and the Christian People's Party. After elections in September 1994, the Christian People's Party was no longer represented in the Folketing, but its former coalition partners continued in office as a minority government. The Centre Democrats left the government in December 1996 but continue to support it on all important issues. The Prime Minister is Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Social Democrat), the Minister for Foreign Affairs is Niels Helveg Petersen (Social Liberal), and the Minister for Development Cooperation is Poul Nielson (Social Democrat).
The government's policy aims to achieve broad agreement on measures to balance the national budget, reduce Denmark's foreign debt, increase employment and protect and improve the environment and occupational health. The instruments used to this end include a stable currency exchange rate, a taxation policy designed to promote private savings and reduce private debt formation and a labour market and educational policy intended to reduce unemployment, which is currently about 8.2%. Environmental taxes are increasingly being used to reduce taxes on income earned from work and to promote sustainable development. Since the international tension between rival motorcycle clubs has also become violent in Denmark, dealing with this civil disturbance has achieved high political priority.
How Danes earn and spend money
In 1996, the gross national product was DKK 1,010 billion, equivalent to DKK 191,500 (or about USD 33,000) per inhabitant, from infant to pensioner. This is the second highest per capita gross national product among the member countries of the European Union (Luxembourg is first).
The Danish economy is so strong that it fulfilled the conditions for transition to the third and final phase of the European Economic and Monetary Union (due in the late 1990s) even before the Union was started. These conditions include a stable currency, low inflation and interest rates and a well-balanced national budget.
Both the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the international financial press have noticed the strength of the Danish economy and have described it in glowing terms. Although the Danes have been pleased with this praise, they also recognize that the success will not be complete until the main outstanding problem - unemployment-has been solved. Unemployment holds top priority among members of the Folketing and the trade unions.
Many decades have passed since agriculture formed the mainstay of the economy. Today, two thirds of the gross national product is derived from the services provided by the public and private sectors, and the balance comes from production sectors such as agriculture, industry and trades and crafts.
The sectoral distribution of employment in Denmark in 1994 was: public and personal services,37%, manufacturing 18%, trade, hotel operations and catering 17%, financial services and business services, 11 %, transport, post and telecommunication 6%, building and construction 5%, agriculture, fisheries and extraction of natural resources 5% and energy and water supply 1%.
Danes are industrious. Even children want to earn money, and at one time 26% of those aged 7 to 14 years started working their way to the top, especially by delivering newspapers. These opportunities have been restricted somewhat by a European Union directive.
Once the money has been earned and tax paid, the average family's expenditures are: housing, fuel, electricity and heating 28%; furnishings and household services 6%; transport and communication 18%; food 14%, beverages and tobacco 6%; leisure equipment, entertainment and education 10%; clothing and footwear 5%; restaurants 5%, medicine and medical expenses 2%; insurance and bank fees 2%; and other expenses 4%.
As the figures indicate, about one third of spending is related to housing. Housing standards are high - on average each person has a housing area of 44 in2, and 99% of all households have their own water-flushed toilet, 94% their own bath and 97% district or central heating.
Almost all households have a television and refrigerator, often also a freezer. Of 100 families, 62 have their own dwelling, 8 a summer cottage, 57 one car, 11 two or more cars, 34 a clothes drier, 75 a washing machine, 39 a dishwasher, 41 a microwave oven, 75 a videocassette recorder, 73 a compact-disc player, 45 a personal computer, 33 a telephone-answering machine, 38 a mobile telephone, 7 a telefax, 10 a modem, 17 a video camera, 21 a CD-ROM unit for a computer and 5 private access to the Internet (data from 1996).
The public sector's revenues come from income tax (61 % of state and local government revenue in 1995) and taxes on the turnover of goods and services (32%). The income taxes collected by the counties and municipalities are proportional to income, whereas state income taxes are on a progressive scale. Sales and turnover taxes include a value-added tax of 25% on virtually all goods and services.
The total burden of taxation is one of the highest in the world: 51.7% in 1996.
Public sector spending covers a wide range: social welfare 44%, education 12%, interest on the public debt 11 %, business development measures, including roads and harbours, 9%, health services 8%, development assistance and payments to the European Union 4%, defence 3%, police and courts 2%, housing measures 2%, churches and culture 2%, and general administration 3% (1995).
Irrespective of their leanings, Danish governments advocate a certain measure of privatization. Companies or other private organizations have taken over many functions formerly carried out by the public sector. This includes some sections of the post and telecommunication services. Access has also been provided to establish private hospitals.
The Status of Women
Female succession to the crown of Denmark is only one of many examples of women's equal status with men. Danish women were given the right to vote in 1915. Equal pay was introduced as a principle at an early stage, and legislation prohibits advertisements directed solely to one of the sexes. A sign of the times is the growing number of women in the labour force, currently 91 women for every 100 men in employment. This trend has been stronger in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia than elsewhere in the world. A precondition for this development has been the availability of child care services outside the home. In 1994, 80% of 3- to 6-year-old children were in day care.
Sex role changes are statistically analysed in Denmark. The most recent findings show that men have taken more responsibility in the home. They generally take over the less complicated tasks, such as dishwashing.
Infrastructure and environmental protection
Its numerous islands have made Denmark depend heavily on an extensive network of ferry services in domestic waters. More and more bridges are being built. An 18-km bridge and tunnel linking Fyn and Sjaelland over the Store Baelt is nearly finished, and passenger trains began using it in June 1997. A similar link between Sweden and Denmark is being constructed and is expected to be finished in 2000. A link between southern Denmark and northern Germany is being considered.
The roads are modern and safe; this is one reason why the number of traffic injuries has declined over the last three decades, even though the number of cars has doubled.
There are no nuclear power plants, and none will be built, Instead, considerable effort is put into developing wind power and other alternative energy sources. Danish wind turbines are exported to wind parks all over the world.
Recycling is popular. Used paper provides the raw material for 86% of domestic paper production (1995).
Environmental protection is encouraged in Denmark, by the general public and in industry.
Industry has developed advanced systems for water purification, destruction of chemical wastes and flue gas cleaning that are exported all over the world.
About 20% of all waste comes from private households, 50% from business enterprises and 30% from energy production and purification systems. Of the total waste, 55% is recycled, 20% is incinerated and 24% deposited. The target of the government action plan is that 54% of the total waste should be recycled by the year 2000, so this target has already been met. The government has introduced regulations requiring municipalities to arrange for the collection of glass and paper.
A systematic effort has been made against air pollution. The amount of sulphur dioxide discharged in Copenhagen has fallen over two decades from 450,000 tonnes per year to 250,000 tonnes. This was achieved by greater use of district heating and by taxes encouraging energy conservation.
Increasingly, Danish motorists have switched to unleaded petrol, which has totally dominated the market since the mid-1990s.
Social welfare and society
Denmark is a welfare state. The description is justified by the high degree of income redistribution, the large proportion of owner-occupiers on the housing market and the old-age pension paid to everyone aged 67 years or more.
One of the latest extensions of the social safety net is a supplementary labour market pension. Paid for by the employers, it is designed to supplement the state old-age pension. Other new reforms include schemes allowing leave for parents to take care of young children and for education and training or sabbaticals; 62,300 people used these schemes in 1996.
For many years public authorities attempted to solve most social and care problems through institutional care. Current policy is to provide conditions so that elderly people can stay in their own home as long as possible.
For those in employment, the standard working week is 37 hours, with a minimum of 5 weeks of annual holiday. Three-quarters of those in employment have a five-day working week.
More than 75% of all wage earners are organized in trade unions, and the percentage of organization is about the same for wage earners and salaried employees.
Denmark was long considered to be devoid of natural resources, but the discovery of oil and gas has made the country self-sufficient in both, and export started in 1991.
There are no metals, however. Danes have always had to cultivate the soil and sail the sea. That created an extremely efficient agricultural sector and industries, trades and transport business, which had to compensate for the lack of resources by well-trained staff, ingenuity and a strong sense of quality. The result is today's agricultural sector, which has become the world's main supplier of bacon and processed meats and produces three times the country's own requirements.
Industry is highly diversified and has shown a special talent for developing niche products that are competitive and in demand on the world market. Danish industry is a reliable contributor to the main growth sectors of international industry, such as biotechnology and information technology.
Denmark's many islands have encouraged the development of extensive fisheries activities and a busy processing industry.
The share of exports according to type of production in 1995 is: industry 77%; agriculture 14%; fisheries 4%; and other products, including furs, electricity and natural gas, 5%.
The Danish business community invests heavily in other countries, and the Danish government has a policy that encourages businesses in other countries to establish in Denmark.
A skilled work force - an important resource
When other raw materials are in short supply, a skilled work force is a particularly important resource. This has been perceived clearly in Denmark. The educational system is large and efficient. Schooling is compulsory for 9 years; there are many specialized schools and five universities, with the oldest one founded in 1479 and the newest one in 1974. Innumerable special training courses are available to adjust the skills of the work force to the requirements of employers.
Denmark's international role
Denmark is a member of the European Union, the United Nations, NATO and the Nordic Council. This strong international commitment has been demonstrated during wars and international crises, in which Denmark has supplied a hospital ship, mobile hospitals and medical teams to help alleviate suffering. During the Gulf War, Denmark contributed a patrol vessel to the UN force. Over the years, about 52,600 Danish soldiers have served in UN forces, as UN observers and as participants in the recently established Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In spring 1997, 1,098 Danish soldiers were serving with the United Nations.
Denmark is internationally known as an advocate of increased respect for human rights. Copenhagen hosts an internationally recognized rehabilitation centre that helps the victims of torture from many countries.
Culture and sports
The state-owned radio and television broadcasting system competes with a number of other channels, some of which broadcast advertising. In addition to two nationwide television channels and three nationwide radio services, there are 64 local television stations and 280 local radio stations.
A multi-use cable network for the transmission of television and radio and with a potential capacity to provide two-way communications, home monitoring, home banking and other services is used by 706,000 of Denmark*s 2.4 million households (1995). A further 500,000 to 1 million homes have installed a satellite dish.
Danes have traditionally been eager culture consumers. About 12,000 books are published yearly, and there are 37 daily newspapers. Libraries lend about 100 million books yearly (and 10 million records and tape cassettes). Theatres receive some public support but are responsible for their own repertoire. The Royal Danish Ballet is considered to be one of the world*s leading groups. Denmark has a special ballet tradition started by August Bournonville, ballet director at the Royal Theatre from 1830 to 1877. This tradition is being maintained and renewed such that Danish ballet continues to be of great interest within Denmark and internationally.
In recent years the film industry has produced 9 to 16 films yearly.
Danish paintings, including those from the Golden Age (1816-1848) and those by the Cobra group (1948-1 951), achieve great acclaim at international exhibitions and auctions.
New music is being created in all styles in Denmark. Danish rock music has achieved a substantial international following, especially in the United States and Japan. Football (soccer) is the national sport, but swimming, sailing, cycling, basketball, handball and cross-country running are also very popular. A growing number of people go jogging in the morning or evening.