Cross-border shopping a bane for unemployed on benefits

Kontanthjælp unemployment benefit recipients face losing a third of their benefits for 20 weeks for popping across the border to shop

People from Denmark have long enjoyed popping across the border with Germany to get hold of goods in bulk at a more favourable price – quite useful given the current prices brought on by inflation.

But for people on the kontanthjælp unemployment benefit, making the trip across can lead to serious consequences.

By Danish law, kontanthjælp recipients are not permitted to leave the country without reporting it to their municipality two days prior to leaving and only do so once per month.

Many living in south Jutland face losing a third of their benefits for 20 weeks for not alerting their case workers that they’ve driven across the border to shop or gone across more than the one time monthly.

Denny Lorensen, who lives just 3 km away from the German border in Padborg, is among those who have had their benefits reduced.

“For the next five months, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to put food on the table,” he told to DR Nyheder.

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Tough to navigate
Lorensen agreed that it was his responsibility to be aware of the rules, but he didn’t think a two-hour shopping jaunt to a border shop would be considered a trip abroad.

He said that he only goes across the border to shop because times are hard and he can get more goods for his money in Germany.

Nina Von Hielmcrone, a lawyer and associate professor at Aalborg University, contends that while the municipality acted according to the law, it can be difficult for everyone to navigate the complex legal paragraphs pertaining to the issue.

“Parliament should consider whether they really believe that people should be hit with such a harsh sanction for a tiny offence such as shopping across the border,” she told DR Nyheder.

Other experts point to the law being too stiff because it was made before high energy prices and inflation hit the country.