Denmark: Latest developments in working life Q1 2019

The effects of the national strategy on the working environment and a report on the work of the Disruption Council are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the first quarter of 2019.

New research reveals limited changes in the working environment

In 2011, the social partners and the government agreed on a national strategy on the working environment with reductions in three strategic areas: the number of accidents at work; the proportion of workers with an unhealthy psychosocial working environment; and the proportion of workers suffering from musculoskeletal diseases.

A national survey was developed in 2012 in order to assess the working environment and the physical and mental health of workers. Conducted every two years by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA), the survey covers more than 25,000 workers from all branches of the Danish labour market.

The results of the 2018 survey were published in January 2019. While little had changed in terms of the three strategic areas, the proportion of workers suffering from musculoskeletal diseases fell from 11.1% in 2016 to 9.9% in 2018. This is still a long way from the 2020 goal of 7.7%.

In response to the results, the Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH) said that businesses must be better advised and pointed to the recommendations from the government expert committee on the working environment, such as to add more resources for counselling enterprises. [1] The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) called for new and more precise goals for the working environment. [2]

Minister for Employment Troels Lund Poulsen stated that the results showed the importance of a new strategy on the working environment, based on recommendations from the government’s expert committee on the subject. The social partners and the Ministry of Employment are currently working on a new strategy.

Disruption Council sets out Danish aims for the future

In May 2017, the government established a Disruption Council that consists of eight ministers, representatives from social partners, experts and representatives for youth organisations. The council’s aim is to achieve two overarching ambitions.

  • Denmark must continue to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
  • Everyone must be the winners of the future.

The council has held nine meetings since it was established, and published a report on its work in February 2019. The report concluded that Denmark has to prepare for the future in four thematic areas, each of which has a number of specific objectives.

  • A prosperous welfare state with limited social divisions:
    • Denmark must be among the most prosperous countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
    • Denmark must remain an open country that is among the leading participants in global trade and does business with the whole world on fair terms.
    • Denmark must remain a safe and secure country with few divisions between people, strong social cohesion and equal opportunities for all.
  • Future education in a digital world:
    • Danish children should develop good language skills and self-esteem from an early age.
    • All young people should either be enrolled in some form of study programme or have a permanent labour market attachment.
    • All study programmes must be of a high quality from an international perspective and teach skills and competencies that correspond to the needs of the labour market.
    • The quality of Danish research should be at the highest international level, and the research should produce benefits for study programmes as well as society in general.
  • Competitive companies that are digital frontrunners:
    • Danish businesses must have competitive growth conditions so that they can, for example, attract foreign investment.
    • Danish companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), must have the best conditions for competing effectively on fair and equal terms – also in terms of digital platforms.
    • Denmark must have more high-growth businesses and favourable conditions for innovation.
    • Companies and the public sector must be digital frontrunners that harness the benefits of digitalisation, creating a positive impact on the rest of society.
    • Companies must have favourable conditions for recruiting qualified labour and talent from abroad.
  • A robust, safe and flexible labour market:
    • The Danish labour market must remain adaptable and ready for automation, digitalisation and new forms of work.
    • The Danish labour market must include everyone who is able to participate in it.
    • More Danes must take advantage of lifelong learning, and good opportunities must exist for upgrading one’s skills and qualifications for the jobs of the future.



The Danish general election is due to be held in the second quarter of 2019 and the polls indicate a shift in government from centre-right to centre-left. The possible change in government seems to have put some of the new policy developments in areas such as the work environment on hold. It is highly likely that the recommendations from the expert committee on the working environment and the Disruption Council will be implemented through tripartite agreements and new legislation after the general election.


  1. ^ FH (2019), Danskernes arbejdsmiljø stadig milevidt fra politikernes mål , 31 January.
  2. ^ DA (2019), Nye tal om danskernes arbejdsmiljø viser positive takter , 31 January.

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