Denmark’s Heartrunner app shows how one of 100K+ volunteers can be sent to nearby cardiac emergencies. They often arrive before ambulances (Martin Selsoe Sorensen/Washington Post).
COPENHAGEN (Denmark) — I am the chief executive officer at the Happiness Research Institute. Every week, I speak to a few journalists from all over the globe. Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world. Many journalists look at me in disbelief and ask “Why are they so happy?”
Denmark has one of the highest rates of tax in the world. This is frequently cited as one of the greatest objections to the Danish welfare system. The average annual Danish income is 39,000 euros, or nearly $43,000. As such, average Danes pay a total of 45 percent income taxes. Danish income taxes are progressive. If you earn more than 61 500 euros per year (roughly $67,000), an additional tax rate (7 percent) is added.
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Unsurprisingly, almost 9 out of 10 Danes pay their taxes happily according to a Gallup poll from 2014.
A high level of support for Denmark’s welfare state is due to the recognition that welfare models turn our collective wealth into well-being. We don’t pay taxes. We invest in our society. We are buying a quality life.
Understanding the high levels of happiness in Denmark lies in the welfare model’s ability to reduce uncertainties, risks, and anxieties among its citizens, and prevent extreme unhappiness.
Danish welfare models offer citizens the opportunity to achieve their happiness regardless of their cultural, economic, or social background. Here are some examples.
The education is free, and there are no tuition fees even at university. Every student in Denmark receives $900 per month from their state. This means that I don’t have to worry anymore about how to fund my kids’ education. Their talents and their dreams will determine the course of their careers, not my finances.
Denmark’s parental leave laws are some of the most generous in the country. They allow parents to take 52 weeks off and can get up to 32 weeks of financial support from the state. Employees have five weeks of vacation, which allows friends and families to spend quality time together.
Everyone has access to quality, free health care, and the welfare system works as a risk-reducing tool. Danes have less to worry about than other people, which makes them happier.
Let’s take a closer look at the Danish Flexicurity Model, which offers a flexible job market and reduces the worry about unemployment.
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Danish Flexicurity Model
Danish labor markets are based on flexibility and security for employees, as well as active labor market policies. The golden triangle of flexibility is made up of these three elements, which work together to the mutual benefit of all parties. Employers, workers, and the unemployed all benefit from the golden triangle. It allows companies to adjust to change and stays in business. It also provides a safety net for both workers and the unemployed. Employers can make staff changes easily, while the unemployed can search for new jobs with less financial anxiety.
A labor market policy that is active will help both the employed as well as the unemployed remain active and skilled. There are many opportunities to continue learning and develop useful skills. The active labor market policy assists the unemployed in their job search and keeps them actively involved in looking for new jobs.
The golden triangle of Flexicurity
Many scholars believe that the welfare model’s ability alleviates risk and insecurities is one of the key reasons why Denmark scores well in the happiness survey. Denmark is an excellent country in terms of preventing extreme happiness. A research paper from 2010, showed that the poorest Danes are generally happier than the richest Americans. This is because the Danish have a wider range of social benefits than the Americans. However, the differences between the rich and the poorest citizens in each country are very small. This is why Denmark is a country where people are most resilient to change and feel the least anxious about their daily lives.
Denmark’s happiness is almost equal to that of the United States. According to Richard A. Easterlin (Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California), “There is more equality in happiness in Denmark than in Scandinavia.” Mostly because the poorest are doing better in Denmark and Scandinavia than they are elsewhere.
Happiness – A new measure of progress
People who live up to the law are increasingly concerned about happiness.
Recent years have seen happiness, well-being, and quality of life make a significant impact on policy-making. A resolution was passed by the United Nations inviting countries to measure happiness in their communities. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) now considers life satisfaction as a measure of development. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria states, “Improving our quality of life should be the ultimate goal of public policies.”
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These goals reflect the increasing awareness of scientists, politicians, and people that economic progress is not a reliable indicator of society’s progress.
I see huge economic anxiety despite economic growth. I see South Korea and the United States have experienced tremendous growth over the past decade but failed the people to turn wealth into well-being.
Denmark is not a utopia. The country has its challenges and problems like all other countries. However, I believe Denmark can serve as a source of inspiration on how other countries can improve their quality of life.