Select Committee on Work and Pensions Second Report

Annex 3

Notes of the Visit to France and Denmark


Monday 1 December

Ambassador's briefing

The current economic situation was "flat" with a gloomy angst-ridden atmosphere leading to doubt about the future. There was a general unemployment rate of 9 - 11% with youth unemployment as high as 23%. There was resistance to change, but reform of pension system was under way with the aim of reducing expectations.

The Government was unpopular following a summer heatwave which had resulted in 15,000 deaths. The socialist Party was still recovering from electoral defeat and it was thought that extremist parties might gain in the forthcoming regional elections. President Chirac, as an international figure, remained aloof from domestic politics. Ethnic minority people totalled some 5-6m.

On foreign policy the Iraq war had been unpopular in France. There had been problems with compliance with EU rules. The Anglo/French relationship had survived well in spite of differences over the Iraq war. Chirac would probably refuse a referendum on the new EU constitution.

(Frances Hooper) There had been an increase in social exclusion. France aimed at a holistic approach to tackle poverty using measures to help with housing problems, finding work, health, holidays, a guaranteed minimum wage and improved education. Child Poverty was tackled via general anti-poverty strategy, but first steps were being taken in measurement. There was encouragement to increase the birth rate.

Childcare responsibility is split between National and local government. Central Government responsibilities were shared between Ministries for Social Affairs; Social Exclusion; Family; and Disabled.

Expenditure on Childcare for 0-3 year olds was €1bn or €800 per child pa on a sliding scale. €50m was being spent to increase the status of childminders. A Social Inclusion Act had extended the coverage of healthcare to everyone. Education policies were aimed at fighting illiteracy and social exclusion. There was greater emphasis on encouraging return to work, a minimum hourly wage of €7 and a 35 hour working week. Similar problems were experienced with the French equivalent of Incapacity Benefit: few disabled people work.

Representatives from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE); Council for Employment, Income and Social Cohesion (CERC); and Institute for Social and Economic Research (IRES)

Extracts from Slide Presentation

Median monthly disposable income per equivalent adult is 1100 euros.
Poverty Rate
Poverty Threshold 60%2 Million Children 15.7%
Poverty Threshold 50%1 Million Children 7.8%
Poverty Threshold 40%400 000 Children 2.2%
Year 1999

Poverty risk is higher for children than for the whole population
Threshold 50%Threshold 60%
Excluding > 65 years7.1 13.1
Source: Insee-Enquête revenues fiscaux

Child poverty is higher in lone parent families and in two parent families with 4 children or more
Threshold 50% Lone Parent Families1 Child 2 Parents 2 ChildrenFamilies with 3 Children 4 Children or more
Structure23 102416 27
Poverty Rate14,3 4,84,85,4 17,3
Threshold 60%
Structure24 82319 25
Poverty Rate29,9 8,59,412,4 32,9

In two parents families with 1 to3 children the poverty rate is lower than in the whole population
Poverty rate

Threshold 50%

allEuropean Union citizens Non E.U citizens
all7,86,3 25,9
Number of children less than 18
One child6,85,9 25,8
Two children6,45,4 25,4
Three children7,86,2 21,3
Four or more children17,1 12,731,2
Family Type and employment
Lone parent with a job7,2 6,423,4
Unemployed lone parent27,8 26,736,5
Couple, two jobs1,9 1,87,8
Couple, one job8,36,7 20,3
Couple, no job44,141,2 50,2
Without any diploma16,7 13,828,6
BEPC, CAP, BEP5,45,1 17,6
Bac (A-level)4,93,8 25,0
Bac + 2 and more2,2 1,717,1

In France, child poverty results mainly from the underemployment in families with children

·  Underemployment is for all households the main source of poverty

·  For families with children there is an additional problem: child care

·  For lone parent families childcare explains the higher risk of poverty

·  For families with 4 or more children, some other factors contribute also to the high risk of poverty: low qualifications are more frequent, and/or this type of family is more often immigrants from non European Union Countries.

Policy Issues

·  Unlike the UK, there is no explicit strategy to reduce child poverty (see for example the French NAPincl) and there is no special unit dealing with this problem.

·  Measuring child poverty and studying its consequence on future outcomes is at the beginning.

·  Lack of longitudinal panels.

·  When policies are decentralised to local authorities, little information is available on implementation.

·  Assessing social policies is less developed in France than in the UK, especially in this field.

A report on child poverty in France is to be published in February 2004. As part of their work they are very interested in the UK fight against child poverty. On European comparisons it was pointed out that although countries may measure poverty differently, the UK has the highest child poverty rate in the EU, whether measured using Eurostat figures or on UK statistics. One of the points that France and the UK share is that they both have a higher child poverty rate than the general poverty rate, whereas countries such as Denmark have lower child poverty rates than an already low general poverty rate. The poverty measure of below 60% of median income is useful although when looking at international comparisons it is important to explore and compare other measures of poverty.

In France, the child benefit package is based on universal support with a young child's allowance and a single parents' allowance payable until the child is 3 years old. Means-tested elements of the child benefit package tend to be related to low-income or for large families. 600,000 children are living in families claiming RMI (the Income Support equivalent) and 270,000 children are in families claiming lone parent benefits. This is roughly equivalent to the figure of 1 million children in France living in poverty (as defined using the below 50% median income measure). A further 700,000 children live just above the poverty threshold. When RMI was first introduced it was set at a level designed to be far enough away from the National Minimum Wage level to encourage claimants to move into paid work.

France does not have a tradition of measuring poverty levels as the UK does and there is no public discussion or consensus on poverty measurement. The first time any attempt was made to measure poverty was in 1990. France does not have an official poverty line.

It is not known whether there is a problem in France, as in the UK, with non take-up of means-tested benefits. Also, the French Government does not commission evaluation programmes of specific policies, as often happens in the UK.

Since the 1990s, poverty in France has become more connected with employment and low wages. It is claimed that social security provision has narrowed in recent years and benefit levels have decreased. Currently only half of those who are unemployed receive unemployment benefits.

Deputy Mayor of Paris

Poverty was a pan-European problem and was difficult to measure. Some 10-15% of French households were poor; the unemployed were poorly paid. Poverty was aggravated by housing problems. Wages were some 30% higher in Paris, but there pockets of poverty, especially in the NE of the city. For example in the St Denis area 25% of families lived in poverty. One third of poor children lived in single-parent households. 75-80% of women in Paris worked but were typically less well-paid and in insecure jobs. There were 50,000 to 80,000 who were very poor and homeless in France of whom some 30,000 were in the Paris region. 100,000 people were seeking homes in the region while only 3,500 apartments were being built each year. There were 1,500 evictions per year in Paris and a Housing Solidarity Fund had been set up, spending some €20m pa to assist family solvency. Unemployment was 11% with a higher percentage amongst those aged over 50. 50,000 people Parisians benefit from the RMI (minimum income guarantee).

Universal healthcare was now provided, medical healthcare for foreigners. Lead related illness was prevalent and there were plans to demolish badly affected buildings in order to protect young children. Since the Sangatte Centre had closed more asylum seekers had arrived in the Paris region. Increasing numbers of children arrive, without parents, from East Europe, Africa, India and China.

Paris regional and local authorities provided €130m pa in addition to state benefits. Housing Allowance totalled €20m pa; single parent assistance €5m; childcare €12m (aimed at creating crèches and daycare centres); support for meeting public utility costs; assistance for holidays. There were 340,000 children in Paris of whom 10,000 live in difficult conditions. The local authority had 64 teams assisting children, including 290 specialist leaders. There were 29 Social Centres aimed at increasing literacy skills. 60 Associations who help were supported financially and some children were funded at boarding schools.

Special Centres including lodging are provided for homeless 16-25 year olds. The Housing policy was aimed at keeping young people in Paris. There was assistance with housing costs, but no system to monitor or control landlords. Attempts were being made to increase supply of council housing, intermediate housing. It was thought that there was not much fraud. Universal housing assistance had been proposed, but not yet implemented. Housing costs were typically 25-33% of family budgets


OECD researchers are now working on 2000 data to provide more up-to-date findings on poverty. A key issue being addressed is poverty in families with working adults. The UK has a high incidence of non-work which has a detrimental effect on child poverty rates. The high proportion of lone parent households also affects the child poverty rate in the UK. When compared to other countries, the UK does have a high rate of persistent poverty.

International comparisons of child poverty rates are useful, although the figures might not be as reliable as national figures of poverty.

Minimum Income Standards (MIS) are set in some countries, eg, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. Minimum Income Standards can result in a higher poverty line and reflect society's expectations. The US is probably the most prominent OECD country using a MIS, which now is equivalent to 25% of median income. The average income level which is arrived at using MIS is around 70% of average income. People living in poverty tend to define the poverty line lower than the average person on the street.

Countries that spend more on poverty tend to spend more on employment. In the UK, the additional spending on education and Sure Start is a positive move. It was claimed that a move away from what social policy does for people who are out of work is needed and more needs to be done to help those who are in work.


CNAF were responsible for paying social protection benefits and were administered by a Board of Directors composed of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. Benefits were divided amongst four categories: Retirement; Healthcare; Accidents; and Families. €50m pa was paid to families; there was a total of €2bn tax exemption for children, €65bn for family provision - some 5% of GDP. France and Ireland were top of the fertility rates in the EU. Families with 2 children received €110 per month and €150 for each additional child.

RMI was paid to 1m people (2m including dependents) who were over 25years and without income. Single-parent families comprised 20% of all families. There was a benefit for isolated parents of €600 per month which was not means tested. Child poverty was not considered a social problem until the mid 1990s. A major conference had been held 2years ago. The trend is towards means-testing of benefits. There were 1m poor children in families at 50% of median income; 1.6m at 60%. The poverty rate in France was 6.5%; child poverty rate was 8%. There is local discretion of 5% in payment benefits. Larger families receive greater tax exemption; half of households do not pay income tax.

€4bn pa was spent on individual childcare (eg nannies); €1bn on crèches (covering 10% of children). 50% of children stay at home. It is known that some paid 'nannies' are grandparents.

The benefits cost 3% to administer by CNAF. Simplification of benefits was a goal but the trend was to more complexity.

Ministry of Social Affairs

Policy tends not to be focused on child poverty, but on family poverty. A key focus is on enabling women to move into paid work. Family policy focuses on the cost of the arrival of children in the family and on reconciling work and family life. Some benefits are means-tested but the universality of family allowances is important, rather than targetting. In 1997/8, the Government attempted to introduce means-testing of family allowances but there was strong opposition to this move and the attempt was dropped.

Childcare is also central to family policy in France. A recent innovation is the introduction of a generous allowance for childcare, partially means-tested, enabling parents to choose the type of childcare they require. Another development is help with parenting through a network of organisations which support parents and children through providing services such as mediation, helping children with homework and child protection services.

There are 3.7 million poor people in France, with a poverty rate of 6.7% for adults and 7.8% for children (using the below 50% median income measure). The families who are most supported are those with more children or those at the bottom end of the income scale. The poverty rate increases with children's age as benefits for older children are not as generous as those for younger children. Families experience particular difficulties when children move into higher education or when trying to move into paid work. 38% of students in higher education receive a grant and there is a trend towards extending the financial support period for students. Poverty is also linked to immigration due to their higher rate of large families. There are marked differences in access to health services and education for poor children living in deprived areas.

There is no French equivalent to the Social Fund, yet the Municipalities can provide grants for things such as food aid, paying utility bills etc.

Tuesday 2 December

Ministry of Social Affairs

There was a national plan to combat poverty and exclusion using a holistic global approach based on a 1988 law, which was being increasingly implemented in order to meet a shared EU target to eradicate poverty. Family policies were aimed at most vulnerable children in large and single-parent families.

There were currently 90,000 asylum seekers. The number had rocketed in recent times (e.g. from 600 applicants in December 2002 to 6,000 a year later). The 3,000 child unaccompanied asylum seekers in Paris placed an added burden on child protection services.

The assisted holidays scheme was provided as part of the employment benefit and is aimed at maintaining family cohesion. 900,000 children benefit each year. Two additional laws are being drafted to enhance local authority power, although many policies (e.g. social exclusion) will remain a responsibility of central government.


Extracts of handouts from the session

Children in situation of poverty: between one and two million children in France

Presentation of some statistical results

A - Children's monetary poverty in France

  • In 1999, a million children aged under 18 lived in poor families. i.e. families having less than 552 € per month (euros of 1999) of resources per consumption unit. This threshold of 552 € corresponds conventionally to 50% of the median income of French households. The rate of relative monetary poverty of children was then 8%.
  • Half of "poor" children live with parents who are unemployed (17% of children with a single relative without employment, and 33% with the two parents without employment). Unemployment is thus obviously a factor that is very discriminating for poverty, but it should be announced that 12% of "poor" children belong to families where two parents have employment!
  • The children of single-parent families or large families are more likely to be poor. The child which cohabits with only one relative has, practically, a double risk to be poor than those who live with two parents, whatever the size of the family.

Rate of poverty of children according to the size of the family and the family situation (in%)
Nombre de frères et sœurs de moins de 25 ans CoupleFamille monoparentale
Enfant unique5,510,8
1 frère ou sœur4,8 14,0
2 frères ou sœur6,0 16,4
3 frères ou sœurs12,0 20,6
4 frère ou sœurs et plus27,3 35,0
Champ: enfants de moins de 18 ans vivant dans in ménage ordinaire don't la personne de reference n'est pas étudiante. - Source: enquêtes revenues fiscaux 1998, Insee-DGI

  • In addition, poverty grows with the number of brothers and sisters; The increase is particularly high starting from four children; the rate of poverty is then 27% for a couple and 35% for a single-parent family
  • In France, the social security benefits strongly contribute to reduce poverty; especially for the youngest children;

The maternity and family allowances, and the allowance of assistances to housing are the transfers which reduce the more the proportion of children whose income is lower that the poverty line. Owing to the fact that the family allowances are targeted on the young childrem and that older children more often have parents who are owners, the services have definitely more marked effects for the young children.

B - Another approach: living conditions

  • On the basis of "lack" observed in a list of 21 items part of the consumption or equipment of the household (for example: hot water in the house?, car disposal?; the household can buy new clothing (and not second hand clothing); it eats meat every two days; it can leave on holiday for one week per annum; it does not frequently delay payments, etc.) INSEE can define, always conventionally, as "the poor in living conditions", 10% of households which have the highest score of "lacks". Children belonging to these households are then 1,4 million, which is 10,5% of all children.

Distribution of the score of deprivations and average score according to the type of households to which the children belong (in %)
Niveau enfants
Couples 1 ou 2 enfants
Couples 3 enfants et plus
Parents isolés
0 38,4 47,8 32,0 15,8
1 20,6 22,4 19,8 14,7
2 12,5 11,5 13,9 13,1
3 8,1 6,2 9,9 11,3
4 5,4 3,7 6,5 10,2
5 4,3 2,6 5,5 9,7
6 et + 10,5 5,7 12,4 26,1
Ensemble 1000,0 100,0 100,0 100,0
Score moyen 1,9 1,3 2,2 3,7
Champ: enfants de moins de 18 ans vivant dans un ménage ordinaire dont la personne de reference n'est pas étudiante. Source: partie fixe « Santé, logement, endettement des ménages » des enquêtes permanents sur les conditions de vie des ménages de mai 1999 à mai 2001, Insee.

  • The two forms of poverty overlap only partially. Only because the level of material well-being does not depend solely on the current standard of living, but also of the former standard of living. However, a strong correlation is observed: more than half of poor children (living conditions) live in households on low standards of living.

Complement to the note "Children in situation of poverty"

The global cost of the social protection in Europe (extract from "statistics in focus" no 3/2003 The Social protection in Europe)

  • Since 1993, social protection expenditure is decreasing in percentage of GDP. In 2000, it dropped back in real terms and amounted to 27.3% of GDP, down by more than a percentage point compared with 1993. The drop is fairly general and is the result partly of renewed growth in GDP but also of slower growth in social protection in correction with the reduction in unemployment benefits. The rate is lower in UK (26.8%) than in France (29.7%) but the fall between 1993 and 2000 is higher in UK (2.2 point) than in France (1.0 point).
  • But social protection expenditure per head of population increased in real terms in eu 15 by about 1.7% per year over the period 1995-2000 (1995 = 100) =108.7). The increase is higher in the UK (index 113.8) than in France (index : 107.0).

The Conseil Économique et Social (Economic and Social Council) advises the French parliament on all social, economic and cultural issues and has considerable influence. The CES has 231 Members, consisting of trades unions, employers, non-governmental organisations and charities and 40 experts appointed by Government.

When referring to poverty, definitions are very important. For example, the concept of absolute poverty may be suitable for developing countries but not necessarily for OECD countries. When referring to relative poverty, France tends to use the households below 50% median income, rather than the below 60% median used by the EU. Consequently caution needs to be exercised when making comparisons. French academics often refer to consumption units rather than households to take account of the incidence of large families. Instead of focusing on a purely monetary approach it is better to focus on living standards.

Using the below 50% median income poverty measure, there are 1 million poor children in France and using the below 60% there are 1.7 million. The poverty line is also defined as consumption units living on less than €552 per month. Half of all poor children live in workless families and 12% live in dual earner households. Child poverty in one parent families is twice as high as in two parent families. The impact of social transfer policies is quite high with an average 8% poverty rate after social transfers compared with 25% pre-transfer. Measuring poverty using a consensual measure, with a list of 21 items necessary to maintain a decent standard of living, 21% of families with children lack at least one item (see Annex 2).

A brief summary of a research project entitled, 'Valuing Parents, Valuing Children' was given.

Enfants du Monde

Enfants du Monde is a voluntary project which has been running for three years, working with street children. The existing centre opened in 2002 and has beds for 8 children and a daytime capacity to care for up to 30 children. Most of the children using the centre have been trafficked from other countries, or their parents in their home country have paid substantial amounts to have them smuggled into France. The children aim to get French citizenship and they want to work so that they are able to send money back to their families. If the children are not granted citizenship, most of them remain in the country as illegal immigrants. From 2004, the immigration rules are being tightened so that children will have to have been in France for more than five years before they can be granted citizenship. As well as working with children in Paris, Enfants du Monde also works within the countries from which the children come, to provide support for them to remain in their own country rather than illegally entering France.


Wednesday 3 December

Ambassador's briefing

Denmark was a proud nation, who had conquered large parts of the world (including UK where the Vikings had landed on Lindisfarne Island in 783AD). It was a small country with a population of some 5m, which had a tradition of commonality and of coalition politics involving a great deal of pre-legislative scrutiny.

Denmark was a constitutional monarchy. Queen Margarethe was well regarded and received formal respect, but had no real political power. The Parliament had 160 Members, elected by proportional representation for a 4 year term. The Government was by a coalition of centre-right, social democratic parties with the newly emerged Peoples party. Prime Minister Rasmussen was a popular and effective leader, if a little vain. The political scene was relatively quiet. Denmark was a member of NATO and close to UK on most foreign policy issues. It supported the EU but was suspicious of Brussels. Major issues required a referendum and Denmark is expected to be more involved in the EU after the 2005 election. Troops and ships had been sent to Iraq war and were still supporting US and UK troops there.

There is a strong work ethic and Denmark is a firm ally of the UK. The main ethnic minorities are Turkish, Kurds and Somalis. There had been recent legislation against arranged marriages. Poverty in Denmark is relative: some 30,000 live in poverty. Direct taxation is about 35%, VAT is 25% and local tax is 20%

National Institute of Social Research

Mohammad Azhar Hussain

Researchers at NISR have recently completed a poverty research project on behalf of Save the Children Denmark. There are three poverty measures used in Denmark:

The Scandinavian countries are often referred to as the "5% club" as they all have a child poverty rate of less than 5%. If using the below 60% median income measure, the child poverty rate is 7.6% (85,000 children).

The risk of child poverty is higher for younger children than older children. The risk of poverty for children aged under 3 years is around double that of older children - but this is before childcare is factored in. In Denmark the child allowance is quite low therefore it does not counter the poverty rate for young children, although more is paid to younger children.

Immigrant children have six times the poverty rate of those born in Denmark (a child poverty rate of 18.5% for immigrant children compared with 2.6% for Danish children). In Denmark, asylum seekers do not receive social assistance but do receive a basic allowance plus food and shelter. Social assistance is for legal immigrants only.

7.8% of the Danish population are from an ethnic minority.

Area-based (relative) child poverty in Denmark varies between 5.6% and - 9.6% Copenhagen has a rate of 5.8%. Using the social assistance measure, Copenhagen has the third highest child poverty rate (24.4%) due to the immigrant population. Poverty also tends to be worse in rural areas. Other explanatory factors for high child poverty rates are inequality in incomes and the closure of large employers.

Hans Hansen

Three-quarters of children aged 3-6 years go into childcare facilities, compared with half of children in the UK. Childcare is heavily subsidised by the state with higher subsidies for young children and babies. Parents pay a share of the costs. If parents have a very low income, then no contribution to childcare costs is made. There have been experiments at enabling mothers to stay at home to look after their own children rather than go to work and put children in childcare. There are basic inspections for those who wish to stay at home and become childminders, although this is not a very popular choice for mothers. In Denmark, it is believed that childcare is essential to enable both parents to work.

Net replacement rates are quite generous.

Tax rates in Denmark can vary between 41.7% to 53.3% of income. People in Denmark pay tax when income is low and all replacement incomes are taxable. The higher tax band falls relatively early in the income distribution. There is virtually no in-work poverty in Denmark.

Benefit take-up is not an issue which is discussed or researched in Denmark, yet it is likely that there are substantial numbers of eligible people who do not, for example, claim Housing Benefit due to the complexity of the rules. Benefits offices are not always helpful in informing people of their entitlement, but this issue is not discussed.

Ministry of Social Affairs

Mr Kristensen

Extract of slides

Mr Kristensen, Ministry of Social Affairs

Child and family policies in Denmark

  • The children are primarily the responsibility of the parents
  • The public sector creates the social framework and provides guidance and support for the families on the principle that anyone in need should have the right to assistance
  • High employment rate and progressive income tax
  • Free school and health care and reduced prices (reasonable) for child care
  • Income transfers to low income families - especially single parents
  • The municipalities implement the various schemes
  • This leads to relatively few poor children in Denmark - 3-8% with the most commonly used definitions.

Measurement of poverty

  • Distinction between absolute and relative poverty
  • Risk from having and official absolute poverty line
  • Three definitions of poverty from the National Institute of Social Research
  • —  Receiving social assistance in a spell during a year
  • —  Implicit poverty line defined by the legislation
  • —  Disposable income below 50% of medium income
  • Overrepresentation of single parents and immigrants

Child allowances to single parents

Private child maintenance at least          annually 11,640 DKK

Special child allowance to children who have lost one parent  annually 11,640 DKK

For each child                annually 4,040 DKK

One for each family              annually 4,108 DKK

Housing allowances

  • Family with children below 23 years
  • Rent subsidy = 60% rent - 18% income exceeding 111,900 DKK
  • The income limit 111,900 DKK is increased by 29,400 for the second, third and fourth child
  • Minimum own payment at least 18,800 DKK
  • Maximum subsidy 41,295 DKK if at least 4 children

Negative intergenerational transmission

  • Definition
  • —    Increased risk that the children will "take over" the parents social problems

  • Problems to be addressed besides low income
  • —  violence against children
  • —  stimulation
  • —  mentally ill parent or drug or alcohol abuse
  • —  education etc.
  • The Government's Strategy
  • "A good start for all children"
  • Strengthening the responsibility of the family
  • —  Help and support for families to take responsibilities themselves
  • Competence development
  • —  The basis of enter into an education should be present professional abilities and social competence
  • Early action for the vulnerable children and families

The Ministry is concerned about promoting a debate on the introduction of a poverty line because of any possible impact on the principle of universality. They also point out that a poverty line based on social assistance is problematic because the state does not set benefits at a level which would eradicate poverty. A particular issue is the intergenerational transfer of poverty, which is more problematic for those on a low income.

Early intervention takes the form of childcare places which are available for children from the age of six months and maternity leave of one year. There are 14 days of paid paternity leave and parents can split their parental leave between them.

Denmark has a guaranteed child maintenance system. The non-resident parent should pay the parent-with-care direct. If they do not, the parent-with-care can claim the payment from the Municipality who then reclaim it from the non-resident-parent. 150,000 children get their child support payment from the Municipality (15% of child support cases).

Christina Barfoed-Høj

The Daycare system

Extract of slides

Number of children admitted per full-time staff member, April 1999
Family daycare
After-school centre
Trained Staff
Temps and non-trained staff
Staff minding children

Developments in degrees of coverage for children aged ½-9 years
Age\Year 1989 1994 2000
½-2 years 56% 60% 66%
3-5 years 75% 85% 93%
6-9 years 49% 64% 81%
Source: The social resource counting

The aims were to provide good quality, affordable accessible childcare. Daycare should stimulate language, imagination, social skills democracy and culture. A new Bill was to be introduced setting out curriculum requirements and requiring centres to provide information on the effectiveness of stimuli which would be evaluated by the Parent Board and Local Board.

The minimum age for Daycare was 6 months. Training for childcare lasts 3 ½ years and can lead to a Master's degree and career. The cost of childcare is paid for by parents (30%) and municipality (70%). Families on low income are subsidised on a sliding scale and is free for those with income less than £12,000 pa. There is a reduction after the first child.

Frode Svensen

There are special daycare facilities for disabled children although the funding system is the same as other children. There are additional payments for the costs of disability - similar to Disability Living Allowance. Parents get compensation for loss of income if they have to take short periods off work to look after a disabled child. Disability payments for children are based on the child's needs, rather than being flat rate, and are not means-tested.

Jens Hørby Jørgensen

Extract of Slides

Objectives of "More people at work"

Vitally important to ensure more people joining the labour market - if not, current welfare is jeopardised. Employment to be increased by 87,000 persons by 2010

How can we get more people into employment?

  • Persons outside the labour market to join the labour force - Integration of 60.000
  • Persons already in employment to work more or stay longer on the labour market - 40.000 per year
  • Unemployed persons to be brought back faster into employment - 15.000 - 30.000

Unemployment and Activation

  • Unemployment day one: Registration
  • Within 30 days: CV
  • At least every third month: Personal contact
  • After 1 year (6 months for people below 30 years): Job plan and activation:
  • —  Guidance and upgrading of skills and qualifications
  • —  Practical work training in enterprises
  • —  Wage subsidies
  • If unemployed again: new activation after 6 months for all groups

There was no problem attracting people to childcare. Considerable help is given to disabled people in order to encourage them to work: 100% of costs are paid. There were 75,000 long-stay unemployed (with personal or physical problems) of whom 20,000 were considered permanent (50% socially inadequate, 50% addicts). 270,000 were in receipt of disability benefits but a major reform meant that employers received a wage subsidy for marginal applicants.


Finn Kenneth Hansen

Child poverty is just hitting the agenda in Denmark, with recent events such as the recent publishing of the Save the Children report on child poverty. CASA works on issues such as budget standards, devising an adequate but modest family budget based on a basket of goods. The basic living level for a single person is 7,000DK and for a couple with one child is 15,300DK. This does not include allowances for leisure or for long-term expenditure such as new shoes or replacing broken goods such as refrigerators. The benefit of budget standards is that it allows a more reasonable poverty line which is more understandable to the general public than a below 50/60% median income measure.

Peter Abrahamson

The post-war period saw the establishing of the welfare system. By the 1960s, Denmark convinced itself that poverty had disappeared. The commonly held thought was that the only people who were in poverty were beggars and some of those with mental illness. By the 1980s, the Government admitted that there was a minimal poverty level of around 2% of the population. During the 1990s, influenced by the EU, social exclusion came onto the agenda. Problems began to be seen not as a lack of resources but people being subject to discrimination in areas such as the labour market and housing.

Peter Abrahamson has been working on a study of low-income families in five cities within the EU. In Denmark, it was found that as long as people were in the labour market, their situation was broadly ok. It was found that the importance of informal networks were particularly high. Distinctions could be made between those who had family and friends close by who could provide support and those who did not.

In Denmark it was also found that the parental leave scheme was not an option for those on low-incomes due to the low level of subsidy and was therefore predominantly used by the middle classes.

The importance of childcare in securing a low level of poverty cannot be underestimated. In Denmark, 15% of the total social expenditure budget goes on childcare. Childcare facilities provide quality of care, but also have a 'monitoring' function looking out for signs of poverty and neglect and referring families to appropriate support.

Half of Danish mothers work part-time (which is actually defined as 32 hours or less). Lone parents tend to work full-time or not at all. Research suggests that Danish women are divided when it comes to views on whether mothers should work or not. When interviewed, Danish women say they want a career because they want financial independence yet they also want to spend more time with their children when they are young.

When asked how best the UK could tackle child poverty, the researchers commented that many more childcare places are urgently needed and that childcare needs to made more affordable. Decent wages are important and the National Minimum Wage needs to be increased. In addition, reference was made to the Danish nurse-care programme, similar to health visitors in the UK, who can help to identify social problems within families with very young children. It was also felt that anti-poverty schemes should not be targetted as universalism reduces stigma.

Thursday 4 December


The Municipality of Herlev is 10 kilometres from Copenhagen and is the third smallest municipality in Denmark, with 27,000 residents. Herlev has lots of social rented housing, a high proportion of immigrants and a high proportion of lone parent households. The unemployment rate and receipt of social security benefits is around the national average. Herlev is the type of community that people leave when they go to college but come back to when they want to start a family. It is recognised that Herlev does have a degree of poverty and there is a distinct cycle of deprivation of generations.

Every school and childcare facility in Herlev has a social worker, a health nurse and a psychologist. They meet four times a year to check if teachers are worried about particular children and can intervene with the parents' consent. Currently, there are particular problems with children from Afghanistan and the middle east and also from immigrant children who are from lone parent families. There are currently 420 children in care in Herlev.

There is currently concern about benefit cuts which will be implemented from January 1st 2004. These will reduce family income by around 500DK per month.

There is a social institution at the heart of the community which helps children and families with social problems, including teenage mothers. Currently 20 children aged 7-14 years are staying in the unit because of family problems. The unit's job is to provide the children with emotional support and to support them in school. They also need to be prepared for leaving the unit when they are ready. The children are therefore encouraged to contact their extended family. Once the children leave they get ongoing support from social workers and are placed in small rented flats.

Danish Parliament Social Affairs Committee

There was no absolute poverty in Denmark. There was a duty to inform the municipality if a child was neglected or in danger. Benefits were paid quarterly. Pre-legislative scrutiny was highly developed: sometimes negotiations lasted for 6 months before formal introduction of the Bill. Ministers frequently meet the relevant Committee before important sessions in Brussels. Committees can also travel and have a budget which can be carried-over. The Social Affairs Committee took regular evidence from individuals and undertakes pre-legislative scrutiny with companies and organisations

Save the Children Denmark

Save the Children in Denmark is running a campaign called 'Beat Poverty'. The platform for the campaign is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child poverty is a controversial subject to bring to the public attention therefore there has been a horrified reaction to the publication of Save the Children's report into child poverty in Denmark (results outlined in earlier section by Mohammed Azhar Hussain). There has been much debate about how a rich country can afford to have poor children living on the margins of society. Even Save the Children were themselves surprised at the results of the research. Child poverty was debated in Parliament for two hours as a consequence of the report. The Minister for Social Affairs disagreed with the report but it was agreed that more research into child poverty is needed. Save the Children believe that there is a need to do further research on issues such as children's perceptions of living in poverty and to track longitudinal change.

De-Brief session

There was anecdotal evidence of a brain drain because of high taxation although most Danes accepted it and didn't check their tax assessments. Tax evasion was considered not to be socially responsible. There was some difficulty with recruitment for senior posts. There was a 3 year tax moratorium for certain industries (e.g. R&D; biotech). Denmark was a net recipient of EU funding.

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