Tuesday, 15 March 2016


The following image has recently been circulating on my social media (I don't think it's new, but it's the first I've come across it):

I have a few problems with the message conveyed here, basically everything stated above is incorrect or misleading in some way:

  1. There is no such thing as "free" healthcare or "free" college.  In order for someone to receive healthcare or college education, someone else must provide said healthcare or college education.  And someone: either the recipient, the provider, or some other 3rd party (e.g. the taxpayer) must pay for said healthcare or education.
  2. There is no legally stipulated minimum wage in Denmark.
  3. The average Danish worker works 27.6 hours per week.  This compares to 26.4 in Germany, 28.3 in France, 32.3 in the UK, 34.4 in the US, and an OECD average of 34.0 hours per week.*
  4. Whilst Denmark does tend to score very highly on most attempts at measuring 'happiness' between various countries.  'Happiness' is a vague, poorly-defined and ambiguous concept that by it's nature is subjective and not easily measurable.  Attempts to quantify 'happiness' rely on self-reported assessments and are prone to all of the usual potential pitfalls and problems of, say political surveys, and are uncertain at best or potentially completely misleading at worst.

Here's my attempt at a more accurate "be like Denmark" message:

"This is Denmark.
Denmark has one of the World's most free labour markets.
Denmark has no legally stipulated minimum wage.
Denmark is amongst the most free countries in the World, both economically and in terms of civil liberties.
Be like Denmark."

* All figures from the OECD for 2014 from here.  Figures reported by the OECD are average annual hours worked.  Approximate weekly figures presented here calculated by dividing the OECD annual figures by 52 (i.e. figures presented here will take into account part-time work, annual leave, etc.).

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