Government cuts nearly 1,000 workers

Not since 1920 have so many state employees been fired

At a time when the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), has said that stemming the rising tide of unemployment is at the top of her agenda, her government has now fired more state employees then any Danish government over the past 90 years.

Every ministry has been directed to cut costs by five percent, resulting in the loss of 956 jobs, with some ministries losing more than 100 employees.

Such a large reduction in the numbers of government employees has not been seen in Denmark since 1920, when the then-prime minister, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal (Schmidt), initiated tough social austerity policies in the wake of the First World War.

Thorning-Schmidt said that the layoffs were regrettable but necessary.

"We have had to tighten certain ministries, agencies and state institutions, and it cost us some people,” she told Politiken newspaper. “I can understand why people are angry and I am sorry, but our job is to balance the budget.”

The social and integration minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), and the environment minister, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti), lost the most employees: 140 and 109 respectively. In several offices, one out of every five employees was cut.

The finance minister, Bjarne Corydon (Socialdemokraterne), said that the pain threshold within the government had not been reached and that the search would continue to find places to cut the state budget.

Flemming Ibsen, a labour researcher at Aalborg University, expressed surprise that a S-SF government would engage in mass firings of government employees and said it was inconsistent with the two parties' traditional labour policies.

"This is a very intense round of layoffs," Ibsen told Politiken. “It is so severe that services will suffer. What is left will not function at the same level as before. "

Enhedslisten (EL), which last year helped the government pass its budget, called the layoffs “intellectual laziness” and said they will question the effect of the firings on governmental efficiency during the upcoming 2013 budget negotiations.

"It may be time to examine if we are cutting too much in relation to what we want," EL's Per Clausen told Politiken.

Some of the laid-off workers said they were frustrated by losing a job that they felt that they had performed well in, and that they believe the government is damaging state services unnecessarily and violating its own principals.

Corydon said he saw no conflict between the layoffs and his party’s principals.

"We have said very clearly that the party stands for a strong welfare state, where we spend a lot of resources in our community,” Corydon told Politiken. “It is our obligation to ensure that the money is spent effectively and that government is not just allowed to grow unchecked."

At a time when more than a quarter million Danes are unemployed and the numbers seem to be rising, Corydon said he saw no contradiction between the government’s ambition to put people back to work and the layoffs.

“It would be no problem to create a lot of jobs to employ those who work in the public sector, but they would not last very long and would weaken both the country and economy. We need sustainable jobs. ”