It seems that even the Scandinavians have realised that cradle-to-grave welfare can't be as comprehensive as people might like. Witness what happens when a member of the Danish Parliament spent time with a welfare recipient to see how hard her life was. Joachim B. Olsen, a politician from the Liberal Alliance skeptical of welfare payments, surprisingly found that many of his concerns were actually founded in fact:
The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym "Carina" in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country's full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.Even the famously tolerant Danes ended up raising an eyebrow at this and similar stories. It turns out that Denmark has a high fraction of the working-age population on long-term disability, a similar situation to the UK. The government has raised the proposal to remove that life-time status guarantee for under-40s unless they really are completely physically or mentally incapable or working. Does this sound familiar to UK readers?
The trigger for concern over cases like this is the remorseless progress of adverse demographic changes in Denmark: 18% of the population is over 65, and not enough people are working:
In 2012, a little over 2.6 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 were working in Denmark, 47 percent of the total population and 73 percent of the 15- to 64-year-olds.From the article, it seems that the Danes don't mind their relatively high tax rates, but they are simply not enough to cover the ever-increasing costs of welfare when sourced from a flat or declining tax base.
While only about 65 percent of working age adults are employed in the United States, comparisons are misleading, since many Danes work short hours and all enjoy perks like long vacations and lengthy paid maternity leaves, not to speak of a de facto minimum wage approaching $20 an hour. Danes would rank much lower in terms of hours worked per year.
When working full time gets you less income than being on benefits, why work? So far the Scandinavian countries have managed because of a good work ethic, where people work because they think they should. In P. J. O'Rourke's "Eat The Rich", a Swede points out to O'Rourke that the hostile weather conditions have effectively eliminated the genes of the lazy. This is less true in Denmark than in Sweden, but Denmark should be regarded as a bellweather - it's a short drive over the bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden. I wonder how much longer political pundits in the UK will hold up the Scandinavian countries as a welfare model to emulate?