Poverty on the rise throughout Denmark
A new analysis by Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd (AE), an economic policy institute and think-tank working to promote social justice, indicates that an increasing number of Danes can be considered poor.
The analysis, which looked at poverty numbers from 2002-2010, conveys that nearly a quarter of a million Danes live below the poverty line, as per the definition used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
According to Berlingske newspaper, that definition translates to a monthly income of 8,788 kroner a month for a single person or 5,047 kroner per person for a family with four children.
And it is especially the areas around the capital of Copenhagen that things look dire. Brøndby, Albertslund, Ishøj, Copenhagen and Høje-Taastrup Councils experienced the greatest increase in poverty.
From 2002 to 2010, the number of poor in Brøndby Council rose by 3.7 percent, while it rose by 3.4 and 3.3 in Albertslund and Ishøj, respectively.
In Brøndby, the challenge comes from many residents being poorly educated. According to the council's mayor, Ib Terp (Socialdemokraterne), the council is meeting that problems by urging youths to get an education.
“There are a lot of families that are having a tough time and are insecure with the current situation,” Terp told Berlingske.
But it’s not only blue-collar areas that have experienced a rise in the number of people living under the poverty line. Traditional wealthy areas such as Frederiksberg Council and Holbæk Council have also been struggling. In fact, there is no single council in Denmark that has experienced a decrease of the number of people living in poverty. Struer Council in central Jutland performed the best, with the number of poor increasing by only 0.4 percent over the eight year period.
Overall, Copenhagen has the most cases of poverty in the nation by far. There were 41,419 in 2010, up from 25,170 in 2002. Aarhus Council has 14,166, Odense Council has 9,428 and Aalborg council has 7,696.
Morten Ejrnæs, who researches poverty at Aalborg University, said it was “worrying” that poverty has increased during the years in which employment rates in Denmark have generally been high.
"When unemployment numbers are on the rise and the welfare benefit duration is shorter, then there are more people that fall out of the system,” Ejrnæs told Berlingske. “That means that the poverty will impact on a wider margin.”
OECD’s definition of poverty has been criticised for being too rigid, but AE has used the definition for a number of years because it is an internationally-approved definition used throughout the EU. An official poverty limit does not currently exist in Denmark, although there is a group of government-appointed experts looking to change that.
Karen Hækkerup (S), the integration and social minister, is awaiting the new Danish definition of poverty, which is expected in the spring of 2013, but indicated that the government has already initiated a number of schemes that are designed to tackle the issue.
Read the AE analysis here (Danish)