Recent reforms leave Denmark’s welfare state firmly in place
Resistance to the reforms
While most Danes agree that the recent reforms do not herald the decline of the welfare state, those reforms have nonetheless provoked some significant resistance. According to Rune Stubager, a professor of political science at Aarhus University, the current left-of-center governing coalition is widely perceived as having departed from the platform that they ran on in the most recent elections — a platform that included reversing some of the previous cuts.
“The government is really suffering in the polls,” Stubager said. “They have lost a lot of support to the far-left party that opposes the recent reforms.”
In recent weeks, students have rallied to protest the cuts in the student allowance, and the Red-Green Alliance, the far-left political party, has been increasingly vocal in calling for a new millionaire’s tax to replace the revenue saved from the latest cuts.
Particularly controversial is a recent cut in the corporate tax rate, said Lars Andersen, the director of the Economic Council of the Labour Movement, a union-affiliated think tank in Copenhagen. Though the cut is so small as to be primarily “symbolic,” he said, “this has created the impression that the Social Democratic government is cutting welfare so that they can cut taxes for corporations. Even though it is quite a small amount of money, it is seen as a dangerous step.”
Even critics, however, described the controversy as a normal part of the political process in Denmark.
“The nice thing about our political system is that when one party does something we don’t like, we can switch to a different party,” said Jørgen Goul Andersen of Aalborg University who opposed the recent reforms.
Daemmrich of Harvard Business School agreed: “If [the latest reforms] don’t work, they will be changed later…If there’s a problem, it will be solved. Danes are problem solvers.”
That widely shared sense that political alternatives and political action are available — perhaps startling to many Americans — helps ensure that a high level of societal trust remains in Denmark — a crucial requisite for continuing support of the welfare state.