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Denmark - 1945-1972 - Welfare State

A liberation government consisting of an equal number of representatives from the Danish Freedom Council and the political parties had already been prepared during the occupation. When it came to power in May 1945, it instigated a judicial purge of collaborators. Those who were convicted were chiefly Nazis, their henchmen and minor collaborators. The government’s second task was to normalise political life by calling a Folketing election for October 1945. The Danish Communist Party (DKP) won a large following at the expense of the Social Democratic Party.

The Liberals prospered and formed a minority government led by Knud Kristensen with support from the Conservatives and the Social Liberals. It was brought down by a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister due to his agitation for the Schleswig border to be moved.

At the election in 1947, the Social Democratic Party regained some of its strength, and led by Hans Hedtoft it formed a minority government which, like the one before it, ran into problems due to the country’s economic difficulties. It was followed by a government under the leadership of Erik Eriksen consisting of Liberals and Conservatives. Its chief contribution was the introduction of a major constitutional reform in 1953.

The reform brought sweeping changes: The Landsting was abolished, Cabinet responsibility was written into the constitution, sovereignty could be partly surrendered, it was made easier to hold referenda and the post of ombudsman was created. Together with the constitution, the government also introduced a Law of Succession which made it possible for women to succeed to the Danish throne; the Law of Succession does not involve full equality, however, as a younger son will still take precedence over an older daughter.

After the constitutional changes, the government was succeeded by a Social Democratic minority government with support from the Social Liberals. It was first led by Hans Hedtoft and, following his death in 1955, by H.C. Hansen. After the election in 1957, H.C. Hansen formed a majority coalition of Social Democrats, Social Liberals and the Single Tax Party. It was the first government to profit by the international boom and the domestic economic growth.

Denmark had a succession of Social Democratic governments until 1968. Between 1960 and 1962 Viggo Kampmann was Prime Minister, and he was followed by J.O. Krag. These governments generally relied on the support of the Social Liberals, though between 1966-1968 they were supported by the Socialist People’s Party (SF) which had been formed in 1959 by Aksel Larsen after the DKP had split.

In 1968, a non-socialist party government was formed by the Social Liberals, the Conservative People’s Party and the Liberals, led by Hilmar Baunsgaard of the Social Liberal Party. In 1971, J.O. Krag again became the leader of a Social Democratic government; after the 1972 referendum in which a majority voted in favour of Danish membership of the EC, he stepped down in favour of Anker Jørgensen.

Comprehensive programs had been produced by almost all political parties by the end of the Second World War; the most comprehensive was that of the Social Democratic Party with a welfare strategy covering all aspects of society. The economic problems of the first decade after 1945 prevented reform policy, but from the middle of the 1950s varying parliamentary coalitions implemented a welfare policy which included the national pension scheme (1956), the sickness compensation scheme (1960), disablement insurance (1965) and a sharp rise in unemployment benefits along with a new social statute (1970). This was introduced in connection with the local government reform which reduced the number of municipalities from 1386 to 275.

Between 1971 and 1973, sick pay arrangements were reformed and a health insurance act introduced, abolishing the contributory sickness funds and introducing tax-funded national health insurance. The social and health reforms were rounded off in 1974 by the Social Assistance Act.

The education sector underwent great expansion. Primary and lower secondary education was fundamentally changed in 1958, and the upper secondary schools, vocational training and higher education grew explosively. There was increased government activity in the areas of culture and leisure, especially after the creation of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 1961. During the first half of the 1960s, laws were introduced in support of the theatre and the libraries, along with a film foundation and The Danish Art Foundation (Statens Kunstfond).

Welfare legislation was based on the principle of universalism, i.e. not only the right of the poor and needy, but the right of all citizens, to benefits in all areas. This principle is characteristic of the Nordic welfare states and is one of the reasons behind the high degree of consensus between political parties and social classes, as reflected in the legislation. Another reason is the absence of an absolute majority by any one political party. Welfare legislation has also consciously been financed through taxes; until the 1980s, this caused an explosive rise in public expenditure and taxation.

From around 1958, the reforms were based on strong economic growth and significant structural changes within the labour market and Danish industry. Productivity grew significantly within both agriculture and industry, which in the agricultural sector led to a reduction in the number of farms and the labour force, while industry expanded. From the early 1960s, the value of industrial exports surpassed that of agriculture. The strongest growth, however, was in the number of white-collar workers in the service sector, in the private sector and especially in the public sector. Many of the new jobs both here, and in industry, were filled by women.

This second industrial revolution is characterised by a move westward of industry, i.e. away from the old centres and into the countryside and the smaller provincial towns, soaking up the work force no longer needed in agriculture. This led to new social patterns as compared to the old urban working classes, an urbanisation of the countryside. Groups of detached family houses appeared all over the country; many people bought family cars and went on package holidays.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2013 18:53:42 ZULU