Economy of Denmark

Economy of Denmark
Economy of Denmark
Nationalbanken 1.jpg
National Bank (central bank) of Denmark.
Rank 46
Currency Danish krone (DKK, kr)
Fiscal year calendar year
Trade organisations EU, OSCE, WTO, OECD and others

$313.825 billion (2010 forecast)[1] (nominal; 31st)

$200.796 billion (2010 forecast)[1] (PPP; 50th)
GDP growth -4.9% (2009)[2]
GDP per capita

$56,790 (2010 forecast)[1] (nominal; 5th)

$36,336 (2010 forecast)[1] (PPP; 17th)
GDP by sector agriculture: 4.6%; industry: 30.7%; services: 64.7% (2009 est.)
Inflation (CPI) 1.3% (2009)[3]
below poverty line
Gini index 24.7 (List of countries)
Labour force 2.92 million (2009)[4]
Labour force
by occupation
agriculture: 2.5%; industry: 20.2%; services: 77.3% (2005 est.)
Unemployment 4.1% (February 2011)[5]
Average gross salary 4,047 € / 5,464 $, monthly (2006)[6]
Average net salary 2,390 € / 3,226 $, monthly (2006)[6]
Main industries petroleum and gas, iron, steel, nonferrous metals, chemicals, food processing, machinery and transportation equipment, textiles and clothing, electronics, construction, furniture and other wood products, shipbuilding and refurbishment, windmills, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment
Ease of Doing Business Rank 5th[7]
Exports $91.49 billion (2009 est.) 33rd
Export goods machinery and instruments, meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, pharmaceuticals, fashion apparel, furniture, windmills, Christmas trees, potted plants, mink and fox skin, salt, various specialty niche products
Main export partners Germany 17.8%, Sweden 14.5%, United Kingdom 8.1%, Norway 5.7%, United States 5.4%, Netherlands 4.8%, France 4.7% (2008)
Imports $84.74 billion (2009 est.)
Import goods machinery and equipment, raw materials and semimanufactures for industry, chemicals, grain and foodstuffs, consumer goods
Main import partners Germany 21.6%, Sweden 14.4%, Netherlands 7.1%, Norway 6.0%, China 5.4%, United Kingdom 5.3%, France 4.8%, Italy 4.1% (European Union total: 72.6%) (2008 est.)
Gross external debt $607.4 billion (30 June 2009)
Public finances
Public debt 11% of GDP (2008)[8]
Revenues $175.4 billion (2009 est.)
Expenses $175.6 billion (2009 est.)
Economic aid ODA, $2.13 billion (2005)
Credit rating AAA (Domestic)
AAA (Foreign)
AAA (T&C Assessment)
(Standard & Poor's)[9]
Foreign reserves US$86.560 billion (March 2011)[10]
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

With very few natural resources, the economy of Denmark relies almost entirely on human resources. The service sector makes up the vast amount of the employment and economy. Its industrialised market economy depends on imported raw materials and foreign trade. Within the European Union, Denmark advocates a liberal trade policy. Its standard of living is average among the Western European countries[11][12] - and for many years the most equally distributed[13] as shown by the Gini coefficient - in the world, and the Danes devote 0.8% of Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. It is a society based on consensus (dialogue and compromise) with the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Danish Employers in 1899 in Septemberforliget (The September Settlement) recognising each others right to organise, thus, negotiate.[14] The employer's right to hire and fire their employees whenever they find it necessary is recognised.

Denmark produces oil, natural gas, wind- and bio-energy. Its principal exports are machinery, instruments and food products. The US is Denmark's largest non-European trading partner, accounting for around 5% of total Danish merchandise trade. Aircraft, computers, machinery, and instruments are among the major US exports to Denmark. There are several hundred US-owned companies in Denmark, some of them just registered for tax purposes, which is beneficial for holding companies. Among major Danish exports to the U.S. are industrial machinery, chemical products, furniture, pharmaceuticals, lego and canned ham and pork.


Welfare state

Denmark has a broad-reaching welfare system, which ensures that all Danes receive tax-funded health care and unemployment insurance. Denmark ranked the first in the European pensions barometer survey for the past two years[15] The lowest-income group before retirement from the age of 65 receive 120% of their pre-retirement income in pension and miscellaneous subsidies.

The largest public sector (30% of the entire workforce on a full-time basis[16]) is financed by the world's highest taxes.[17] A value added tax of 25% is levied on the sale of most goods and services (including groceries). The income tax in Denmark ranges from 42.9%[17] to 63% progressively, levied on 4 out of 10 full-time employees.[18] Such high rates mean that 1,010,000 Danes before the end of 2008 (44% of all full-time employees) will be paying a marginal income tax of 63% and a combined marginal tax of 70.9% resulting warnings from organisations such as the OECD.[19][20] TV2 (Denmark) reported in April 2008 that abolishing the middle- and top-level income tax brackets would amount to two (2) and one (1) percent of public sector revenue, respectively, which equals one and a half percent of GDP. The public sector as a whole had a budget surplus of 4.4% of GDP in 2007, but the tax cuts would increase private consumption and the labor shortage, thus, resulting in a deficit on the trade balance and pressure to increase wages even further. Proceeds from selling ones home are not taxed, as the marginal tax rate on capital income from housing savings is around 0 percent.[21] A survey by Standard & Poor's found that the total debt secured by mortgages in Danish homes amounts to 89.8% of GDP, which is above the debt level in other EU countries (and the USA at 74.6% of GDP).[22]

Discussions on increasing the labor supply include abolishing a labor market arrangement called efterløn (eng.:early retirement pay),[23] at the present (end of 3rd quarter 2008) with more than 130,000 participants (60 years until 64 years of age).[24] Participation in this scheme is also open for self-employed people (farmers, fishermen, lawyers, and so on). Shortening the time unemployment benefit can be received (four years at the present), as an example, is also discussed. The Danish Economic Council in its 2008 spring report (27 May)[25] proposes limiting the dagpengeperiode to 2.5 years, which is still half a year more than at present in Norway and one and a half years more than in Sweden, said in an interview by the chairman (da: overvismand) (professor of economics, University of Copenhagen) Peter Birch Sørensen 27 May 2008 on the TV program Deadline (10.30 pm), channel DR2, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Tax burden and employment

Tax burden

With a GDP of 1,642,215 million DKK and revenue from taxes and ownership at 803,693 million DKK (2006),[17] 49.07% of GDP, it is of extreme importance what happens in the tax-financed part of the economy. According to newly revised statistics, Denmark had the world's highest tax level in 2005 and 2006, at 50.7% and 49.1% respectively and also held this position 1970-74 and 1993-95. These figures do not include income from ownership.[17]


The overall surpluses after operating and capital expenditure in the whole public sector for the years 2004-2008: (million DKK) 27,327;77,362;79,937;75,560('07:preliminary);69,140('08:estimate).[26] The public sector debt-liabilities still outstanding 1 January 2008 in accordance with the Eurostat EMU-debt numbers (gross debt) are 440.9 billion DKK (26.0% of GDP). In spite of falling surpluses this debt is expected to fall until 2015. As of 2008 there is no net debt in the public sector as a whole, but instead net assets of 43 billion DKK. The central government is determined to pay off the debt as fast as possible, avoiding the temptation to increase spending which might overheat the economy (increase wages and eventually prices drastically) because of a short supply of skilled labor and in the end require financial austerity measures to cool off the economy. Reporting on the record low unemployment numbers of under 50,000 persons in April 2008 published 9.30 am 29 May by Statistics Denmark, TV2 (Denmark), at 10 pm, with comments from Nordea Bank's (Denmark) chief economist Helge Pedersen, and DR2 (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), at 10.30 pm stressed the danger of overheating the economy and keeping public sector spending in check or otherwise risk economical-political measures. Being surprised at how low unemployment was, the economist said (TV2) that compared with previous periods with such a low unemployment rate, a trade deficit was avoided mainly because of the oil export.

The EMU-debt was 730 billion DKK at the end of 1993, 80.1% of GDP.[27] During the four year period 2004-2007 the public sector EMU-debt fell from 43.8% (641.9 billion DKK) to 26.0% (440.9 billion DKK) of GDP. The budget surpluses were (in billion DKK) 1.9% (27.2), 5.0% (77.4), 4.8% (79.3), and 4.4% (74.6) of GDP, respectively [28]


Public sector employment (full-time and part-time) has been relatively steady at more than 800,000 a year this first decade, making up around 38% of total full-time (28% of full-time and part-time) employment,[29] whereas private sector employment has risen by over 300,000 since the 1990s to slightly over 2 million in 2007 (full-time and part-time).[30] With the information based partly on payments to the Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension pension fund of all employees and insured but unemployed members of an unemployment fund in Denmark, full-time employment is calculated at over 2.3 million persons in the third quarter of 2007. The increase in the fourth quarter of 2007 from a year ago in the number of employed persons was 1.0% and the amount of hours worked was 2.9% higher.[31]

The share of employees leaving jobs every year (for a new job, retirement or unemployment (unempl.:15% of job leavers)) in the private sector is around 30% (of 1.25 million), at more than 300,000 - a level also observed in the U.K. and U.S.- but much higher than in continental Europe, where the corresponding figure is around 10%, and in Sweden. This attrition can be very costly, with new and old employees requiring half a year to return to old productivity levels, but with attrition bringing the number of people that have to be fired down.[32] Productivity increased at an average of 2.3% a year in 2004, 2005 and 2006, recently being revised upward from an average of just 0.9% and previously with a too high employment level estimated.[33] The upward revision is good, because a high wage economy like Denmark's with very few valuable natural resources needs to be highly productive, or efficient, and innovative to compete with other countries for a market share in the global economy. However, according to OECD, the distortions imposed by a combined marginal tax wedge of 70% (60% income tax plus 25% VAT, not counting elevated excise duties on certain goods) are hurting productivity and in turn the country's competitiveness.[17]

Public sector reform

To gain synergies through economies of scale (critical mass) (greater professional and financial sustainability) and big item discounts and to offer a wider array of services closer to the public (be a one-stop place of access to the public sector not unlike the unitary councils), it was deemed necessary to merge the municipalities and other administrative entities in the public sector. This would also help alleviate the financial problems of depopulation due to limited job opportunities, high unemployment and aging and make introduction of new information technology more affordable[34] With the tax burden at around half of GDP, a survey July 2008 found that 81% of Danes are of the opinion that the public sector can deliver more service for the same money, harnessing the advantages of the recent reform.[35] Mainly from 1 January 2007, the new center-right government streamlined the public sector extensively by decreasing the number of administrative units drastically in the different tiers of government, that is, in the number of city court circuits (from 82 to 24), police districts (from 54 to 12),[36] tax districts (before 2007 the responsibility of the municipalities;after that part of the central government Ministry of Taxation), reshuffling tasks among the three government levels and abolished the counties in Kommunalreformen ("The Municipal Reform" of 2007), thereby reducing the number of local and regional politicians by almost half to 2,522 (municipal councillors) (council elections November 2005) (1978: 4,735;1998: 4,685; reduced somewhat in council elections November 2001 (Bornholm)) and 205 (regional councillors) (1998: 374)[37] respectively. Before 1970 (a previous reform in effect from 1 April that year) the number of councillors (both categories) was around 11,000[38] in around 1,000 parish municipalities (sognekommuner), being supervised by their county, and market city municipalities (købstadskommuner), the latter numbering 86[39] (including Bornholm whose county as an exception supervised the county's 6 market city municipalities (of 22 in total)) and not being part of a county but being supervised by the Interior Ministry. This distinction (having independent municipalities) ending (except for Copenhagen, Frederiksberg and Bornholm (2003–06)) with the reform of 1970, the term municipality (kommune) replaced the previous two terms, which are now never used except for historical purposes. The number of municipalities had been reduced when during the period from April 1962 to 1966 398 municipalities merged to form 118 voluntarily. The number of municipalities peaked in the 1930s and was 1386 in 1962.[40] Many of the 275 municipalities after 1 April 1974 built large city halls to consolidate the administration, thus, changing the cityscape of Denmark. It also consolidated other municipal enterprises and the purchase of goods and services from the private sector, as will some of the present 98 municipalities over time.TV2(Denmark) reported 24 September 2007, that SKI, a mutual purchasing service company for central government, regions, and municipalities, made purchases of 140 billion DKK (almost 9% of GDP) of goods and services in bulk every year, prompting private sector companies to complain over razorthin profit margins and that for instance innovative (but expensive) products and energy efficiency sometimes were better than a very low price.

Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Main articles: Economy of the Faroe Islands and Economy of Greenland

Greenland suffered negative economic growth in the early 1990s, but since 1993 the economy has improved. A tight fiscal policy by the Greenland Home Rule Government since the late 1980s helped create a low inflation rate and surpluses in the public budget, but at the cost of rising foreign debt in the Home Rule Government's commercial entities. Since 1990, Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit.

Following the closure of Greenland's last lead and zinc mine in 1989, Greenland's economy is solely dependent on the fishing industry and financial transfers from the Danish central government. Despite resumption of several interesting hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before production will begin. Greenland's shrimp fishery is by far the largest source of income, since cod catches have dropped to historically low levels. Tourism is the only sector offering any near-term potential, and even this is limited due to the short season and high costs. The public sector plays a dominant role in Greenland's economy. Grants from mainland Denmark and EU fisheries payments make up about one-half of the home-rule government's revenues.

The Faroe Islands also depend almost entirely on fisheries and related exports. Without Danish Government bailouts in 1992 and 1993, the Faroese economy would have gone bankrupt. Since 1995, the Faroese economy has seen a noticeable upturn, but remains extremely vulnerable. Recent off-shore oil finds close to the Faroese area give hope for Faroese deposits, too, which may form the basis for an economic rebound over the longer term.

Neither Greenland, nor the Faroe Islands are members of the European Union. Greenland left the European Economic Community in 1986 and the Faroe Islands declined membership in 1973, when Denmark joined.


This thoroughly modern market economy features high-tech agriculture, up-to-date small-scale and corporate industry, extensive government welfare measures, comfortable living standards, and high dependence on foreign trade. Denmark is a net exporter of food. The center-left coalition government (1993–2001) concentrated on reducing the unemployment rate and turning the budget deficit into a surplus, as well as following the previous government's policies of maintaining low inflation and a current account surplus. The coalition also committed itself to maintaining a stable currency. The coalition lowered marginal income tax rates while maintaining overall tax revenues; boosted industrial competitiveness through labor market and tax reforms, increased research and development funds. The availability and duration of unemployment benefit has been restricted to four years and because of rapidly rising prices on housing this has led to an increase in poverty from below 4% in 1995 to 5% in 2006 according to the Danish Economic Council [1]. Despite these cuts, the part of the public sector in Denmark which buys goods and services from the private sector and provides the public sector administration and direct service to the public - nursing institutions for the young or old, hospitals, schools, police, and so on. - has risen from 25.5% of GDP during the former government to 26% today and is projected to be at 26.5% in 2015 if current policies continue [2].

Denmark chose not to join the 11 other European Union members who launched the euro on 1 January 1999. Especially from 2006, economists and political pundits have expressed concern that the lack of skilled labour will result in higher pay increases and an overheating of the economy, which would repeat the boom-and-bust cycle in 1986, when government introduced a tax reform and restricted the private loan market because of a record balance-of-payments deficit. As a consequence, the trade balance showed a surplus in 1987, and the balance-of-payments in 1990 (first surplus since 1963). They have remained in surplus since, except for the balance of payments in 1998.


Table showing selected PPP GDPs and growth - 2002 to 2007 est.:

Year GDP
in billions of USD PPP
 % GDP Growth
2002 166.876 0.5
2003 170.798 0.7
2004 178.477 2.4
2005 187.721 3.1
2006 195.581 3.2
2007 212.404 1.8

Major companies

Denmark is home to many multi-national companies, among them:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Denmark, International Monetary Fund,,NGDPDPC,PPPGDP,PPPPC,LP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=39&pr.y=4, retrieved 2010-07-31 
  2. ^ Real GDP growth rate, Eurostat, 2010,, retrieved 2010-07-31 
  3. ^ Consumer Price Index, Statistics Denmark, 2010,, retrieved 2010-07-31 
  4. ^ Labour Force Survey, Statistics Denmark, 2009,, retrieved 2010-07-31 
  5. ^ tab=table&language=en&pcode=teilm020&tableSelection=1&plugin=1 Net unemployment seasonally adjusted, Statistics Denmark, 2011, tab=table&language=en&pcode=teilm020&tableSelection=1&plugin=1, retrieved 2011-04-25 
  6. ^ a b Wages and Taxes for the Average Joe in the EU 2
  7. ^ "Doing Business in Denmark 2012". World Bank. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  8. ^$File/SLOG-08_dk_web.pdf
  9. ^ "Sovereigns rating list". Standard & Poor's. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity - DENMARK". International Monetary Fund. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Human Development Report 2007/2008
  12. ^ List of countries by Human Development Index List of countries by Human Development Index
  13. ^ (Danish) Finance Ministry: Income development and distribution in Denmark 1983-2005
  14. ^ Flexicurity
  15. ^ 2007 European Pensions Barometer
  16. ^ Beskæftigelsesindikator på grundlag af ATP-indbetalinger
  17. ^ a b c d e Sammensat marginalskat i DK
  18. ^ OECD Economic survey of Denmark 2008
  19. ^ OECD Economic Outlook 82
  20. ^ (Danish) Én million betaler topskat
  21. ^ Danish Economic Council Spring Report 2008 English Summary, p. 11
  22. ^ (Danish) Danmark er det mest udsatte land ved boligkrise (30. juli 2008)
  23. ^ Employment ministry;early retirement pay
  24. ^ (2008Q3)
  25. ^ Economic Council, spring 2008 report. English Summary, p. 4
  26. ^ (Danish) Fortsat store offentlige overskud (25 March 2008)
  27. ^ Tables edp3 and edp4
  28. ^ (Danish) EMU-debt and budgets 2004-07 (3 April 2008)
  29. ^ Table BESK 11
  30. ^ (Danish) Danske Bank:Nordisk/Skandinavisk økonomi, different editions.
  31. ^ (Danish) Stadig flere præsterede arbejdstimer Tables BESK 11+12+13
  32. ^ (Danish) Hyppige jobskift koster milliarder
  33. ^ (Danish) Markant opjustering af dansk produktivitetsvækst (17 January 2008)
  34. ^ (Danish) A TV series on the municipal reform.
  35. ^ (Danish)...mere service for pengene...
  36. ^ (Danish) New police districts and local court circuits with links to maps
  37. ^ (Danish) Den Store Danske Encyklopædi + Supplement 2, "kommunalvalg". Gyldendal. 1994 + 2006. ISBN 87-7789-045-0 and ISBN 87-0204-192-8 Councillors
  38. ^ (Danish) Ove Hansen: Sådan styres kommunen. AOF/Fremad. 1978. ISBN 87-7403-131-7 Number of councillors
  39. ^ (Danish) Beskrivelse af kommuner og amter
  40. ^ (Danish) The local administration 1660-2007; Historiske kort (History maps); Vælg et årstal (Select a year).


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