The “A-kasse” system: voluntary welfare in Denmark

The Guardian has a strange story looking at the number of Britons claiming unemployment abroad (looking at the bar chart, far fewer than the number of EU migrants claiming here, not that the story tells you that in words). Tacked onto the end of the piece is a section on the Danish system which eliminates all the scope for jealousy and resentment.

When Ken Rushe moved to Copenhagen in 2004 to take up a teaching job at an international school, he immediately joined the union and a Danish unemployment insurance fund. Since then he has encouraged his colleagues – from Britain and abroad – to do the same.

Denmark is renowned for having one of the most generous welfare systems in Europe, but unemployment insurance is voluntary. In order to be eligible for benefits you need to sign up with an unemployment insurance fund – known as A-kasse (my link) – for which you pay a monthly fee of about £50.


Huh? “An unemployment insurance fund”? Does this mean there is more than one to choose from? Yes indeed. According to Danish WikipediaIn January 2013 , there are 26 state-recognized unemployment funds that are members of the trade association AK-MS.” (Chrome translation).

As to the thrust of the Guardian article, which is about Germans (and other nations’ tax payers) paying out more to unemployed Brits than we do on Germans (etc), all I will say is that German taxpayers have the same right to be be pissed off as we do. A Brit going to Germany and taking money from pool of confiscated German money is as wrong as a German (or anyone else) coming here and taking money confiscated from us.

I usually leave the last paragraph for something important, and the paragraph above is a bit of distraction so I need another paragraph. Here goes:

The Guardian’s odd psychology is well-known, but the thing worth celebrating, and following up on, and chewing over is that Denmark has a voluntary and competitive welfare system. I did not know that. Did you? Can you tell us more?


  1. Interesting. Although overall taxation and government spending in Denmark is high. At least it is open and known in advance – in much of Latin America taxation appears low, but only because unofficial demands for money (from what the Chinese used to call “the official bandits” – i.e. police and state officials) are not recorded in the “tax as a percentage of GDP” figures.

    I wonder if this voluntary unemployment pay (controlled by non government bodies) has an effect on the Danish unemployment rate. I do not know the Danish unemployment rate off hand – I will look it up.



  2. I’m not sure how it works in Denmark, but I’m guessing it’s similar to what we have here in Sweden. In Sweden it’s voluntary to join an unemployment insurance fund. In case of loss of income you will get 80% of the salary you had, up to something like 18000SEK/month before tax. Anything you make above that will not be compensated. You can however pay for an extra insurance to get higher coverage.

    If you don’t join an unemployment insurance fund you can still get “försörjningsstöd” i.e. welfare payments. But those payments are lower.

    Like I said, I think that Denmark has something similar, but I don’t really know.



    1. The labour market can not be quite the same between Sweden and Denmark Calle – as Denmark has unemployment of 5% of the workforce and Sweden has unemployment 7.5% of the workforce.

      Although unemployment benefit may not be the difference in the two labour markets.



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