Fewer prefer to take care of themselves

Survey results show that the number of Danes who prefer to provide for themselves rather than rely on the state has fallen significantly in the last two decades

A survey that YouGov carried out for Momentum, a magazine put out by the local government association Kommunernes Landsforening (KL), shows a steep decline in the number of Danes who take pride in providing for themselves without getting support from the state.


The survey asked respondents if they "would rather take care of themselves than ask the public sector for help, even though one is entitled to it". The formulation of the question was the same as the wording in a similar study carried out in 1995 by the national centre for social research, Socialforskningsinstituttet, now known as SFI. 


Eighteen years ago, 57 percent responded that they would rather study or work, even if they were entitled to receive benefits from the government. In the new survey, only 27 percent shared that opinion.


In addition, only 23 percent of the people asked in 2013 agreed that the state should provide limited financial support and instead encourage people to take care of themselves, compared to 63 percent in 1995.


The deputy chairman of Socialdemokraterne, Mogens Jensen, is dissatisfied with the development. 


“Despite the government’s efforts to make clear that you have an obligation before you have a right, when we look at these numbers, we have to say that there is a need to underline that once again,” he told Momentum.


According to Jensen, the government’s latest reforms of the unemployment benefit dagpenge and the early retirement benefit scheme efterløn are ways of making sure that as few citizens as possible live off government benefits.


“We have tried to change the system, in order to save money for those who need it and to make sure that those who are able to work will either get a job or educate themselves," he said. "However, this survey shows why we have to send a clear message to the public.”


Jørgen Søndergaard, the head of SFI, is confident that the government’s reforms will pay off eventually and change the public’s stance towards receiving benefits from the state.


“The general perception remains that the welfare state should be a help and not a ‘hammock’,” Søndergaard told Momentum. “But it is true that if the development continues, it is going to be difficult to maintain the model for the Danish welfare state.”


The newly-appointed social minister, Annette Vilhelmsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), told Politiken newspaper that she found the poll results "worrying".


"Our welfare society has become strong precisely because the many citizens who provide well for themselves make it possible to help those who need it," she said. 


Not everyone interpreted the results negatively, however. Majbrit Berlau, the head of the national social workers's association Dansk Socialrådgiverforening, said the new poll results were a sign of faith in the system.


"These are positive numbers," she told Politiken. "This shows that Danes have faith in the fact that they can seek help if they have problems."

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