Danish Royal Family Celebrates Queen Margrethe Of Denmark's BirthdayDid you know that out of all the EU countries, Denmark spends the most on social protection?

But where does the money go? Denmark is renowned for looking after its residents by offering a combination of benefits:

Child, social & education

  • The allowance ranges from €189 (children under 2) to €118 per month (children aged between 7 & 17).
  • Parents are granted up 52 weeks of maternity, paternity or parental leave.
  • Supplementary child allowance is available for people in special situations. You can apply if you are a single parent, pensioner, a student, trainee, a parent of twins/triplets or an adoptive parent.
  • This system encourages work-sharing, i.e. the unemployed can be placed in the vacant jobs until the parental leave ends.
  • Danish universities and higher education facilities are public and free of charge to all EU/EEA and Switzerland citizens.

You need to register at your local registry office. There you will receive your health card once the paperwork has been completed. (in Denmark we call it the yellow card). The yellow card enables you to access all services in Denmark, you really can’t function in Denmark without it.

happy3Happiest country in the world?

Denmark stormed into the lead, ranking number one in the 2013 World Happiness Report. The country is in no rush to quash the image of itself as a safe haven with a wealth of benefits for those who decide to set up camp there – and the “Danish effect” appears to be rubbing off on more and more people. According to Denmarks Statistik, over 60 000 foreigners immigrated to Denmark in 2014.

But how much are expats in Denmark truly benefitting?

We spoke to Gisela, a Mexican expat in Denmark, and she told us her thoughts on the childcare benefits in Denmark.

Supposedly people living in Denmark are the happiest people in the world, I often wonder to myself if this is true. I am originally from Mexico and have lived in Denmark for 7 years. I am married to a Danish citizen and our first child was born 20 months ago. So far everything is going really well.

The Danish system cares for its children and their well-being, and this is reflected in the benefits allocated to families. However, there are rules for each specific case. In general, families with children are eligible for child benefits from the moment the child is born. In theory, the childcare benefit should help with expenses such as diapers, food, clothing, institutions (day care, kindergarten) and leisure activities. This money is tax-free and received by parents four times a year. The quantity changes every year due to inflation and it is also dependent on the age of the child. In my case, I receive 4.443 kr (approx. 600 euros) every three months.

9581489_origAlthough it may sound like a lot, and without wishing to sound ungrateful, it just isn’t quite enough for me and my family. With the money received I can just about pay for two months worth of childcare but I still need to cover the rest of the expenses. All families in Denmark are also offered childcare and a choice between free public schools and private/international schools with tuition fees. We are very grateful for the benefit system in place in Denmark, but the truth is, and there is no avoiding it – having children is expensive, no matter where in the world you live.

I have thought about it a lot and I can’t see how it would make a huge difference, or make the situation financially easier, had I decided to raise my baby boy in Mexico. Nevertheless, I have to stress the advantages of living in Denmark. For me, these advantages are not in a financial guise, they are far more than mere economic benefits. As a mother, the safety and happiness of my child is my priority. I have noticed that everyone is more trusting as well as trustworthy here in Denmark. I feel safe leaving my son at daycare and in terms of future education, and I know that when the day arrives, I will feel confident sending him to school by himself on his first day. I owe my happiness, the happiness of my family and in society in general to the system. For this reason, it is a joy to raise my son here.

Additionally we spoke to Johannes, an expat living in Spain who was born and raised in Denmark. Here are his thoughts about the benefit system in Denmark:

Denmark certainly has many advantages – Danes call it “the little duck pond” and I guess this is because it is generally a quiet and safe place to live.

I think the system is a big part of feeling safe there. You always know that you will receive support, education and health at a very high level and this helps people feel more stable. Moreover, starting a business is straight forward and employment benefits are extremely generous compared to most countries. I think that one of the reasons that Danes are among the happiest people in the world is that they have established a healthy work and life balance. You could also say, without wishing to generalise too much, that the Danes tend to not place their expectations too high – and in this way I guess they are hard to disappoint!

I imagine that being an expat in Denmark must be difficult compared to a country like Spain, where for instance it is relatively easy to meet and interact with new people. In Denmark, on the other hand, you need to work that little bit harder to get close to Danes. You can always meet people with shared interests through sports, volunteer organizations (of which there are many!), social get togethers, but I think you have to work that little bit harder at forming the friendships in the first place.

rubber duck in a rucky pond with plantsI also get the impression that schools in Denmark are very different from those in Spain. For instance, in Denmark there is a greater focus on teaching children to think as individuals with a critical mind and an emphasis on being creative. In Spain, however, I feel that it is a different case, and the emphasis is placed more on examination and testing children’s knowledge.

Would I choose Denmark to raise children? I’m not sure, but I would certainly recommend it to any expats who wish to take the plunge into the little pond!

You can find more information about life in Denmark for families and children here

Are you an expat family living in Denmark? What are your thoughts regarding the benefits system? Let us know, we want to hear from you!