General information about Denmark
Denmark is one of the oldest nations in Europe, located in the northern part of Europe. The system of government is based on a democratically elected parliament, the head of state being the monarch. The most important political bodies are the Folketing (the Danish parliament and the legislative power in Denmark), and the regering (government, ie the prime minister and other ministers with various fields of responsibility), which has the executive power.
The Danish Constitution dates from 1849 and has thus been force for 163 years. This Constitution, which has only been subject to minor amendments over the years, forms the basis for the Danish democratic system.
The Folketing has 179 members. Two of the members are elected on the Faroe Islands and two are elected in Greenland. The members of the Folketing are elected in general elections which as a minimum must be held every four years.
The living standard in Denmark is high by international standards and the gap between rich and poor is smaller than in many of the countries with which Denmark is traditionally compared.
Denmark covers an area of 43,000 km² consisting of the peninsula of Jutland (30,000 km²) and 406 islands (13,000 km²) of which 80 are inhabited (1998). The biggest islands are Zealand - with the capital Copenhagen - Funen and Lolland-Falster. These islands are interlinked by bridges.
The number of inhabitants is 5.5 million, and the population density is about 120 per square kilometre.
There are about 290,000 foreign immigrants in Denmark. In addition there is a small German minority in southern Jutland.
The language is Danish throughout the country, and the vast majority of the population have been baptised into the established protestant church. Denmark is therefore rather homogeneous both in national and cultural terms.
Immigration to and emigration from Denmark have undergone changes during the last thirty years. Migration between Denmark and other countries in Europe that resemble Denmark socially and economically has balanced throughout this period. On the other hand the number of immigrants from countries with completely different backgrounds, in particular Turkey, the former Yugoslavia and Asia (especially Pakistan), has been increasing. In the entire period the number of immigrants has exceeded the number of emigrants. The proportion of foreign nationals in Denmark has therefore been increasing and the foreign immigrants made up 4.1% of the population. The vast majority of these immigrants live in the three largest cities: Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense.
Eighty-five per cent of the population live in towns. The greater Copenhagen region has about 1.79 million inhabitants. The second largest city is Aarhus (215,000 inhabitants). In addition, several medium-sized towns are scattered throughout the country.
Seventy-five per cent of all Danish children live with both their parents. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a drop in the proportion of children living with both their parents. This drop has resulted in an increase in the proportion of children living with one parent only (single provider), particularly the proportion of children living with their mother.
Administratively the country is divided into 5 regions (regioner) and 98 municipalities (kommuner) with population figures ranging from about 3,100 to 489.000.
Local authorities have considerable autonomy.
Local and regional authorities are responsible for approximately 70 % of governmental activities, despite the fact that they only receive about 30 % of taxes and excises. The difference is made up by central government grants. Most of these grants are provided as block grants which the local and regional authorities then allocate for various purposes. In an attempt to avoid a rise in public spending, an agreement is currently in force under which the local authorities have agreed that neither taxes nor spending should be increased. If the local authorities wish to increase spending in one area, they must cut costs equivalently in another area. The fields of responsibility of local authorities include taxation, childcare, education for children between the ages of 7 and 16, voluntary adult education, libraries,
cultural and sporting facilities, home help and care of the elderly.
Local authorities are members of the National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening), which negotiates with the central government and also represents local authority employees in collective bargaining concerning wages, working hours and job duties.
The Danish Kingdom also comprises two self-governing territories: The Faroe Islands in the Atlantic (1 4000 km²; 45,000 inhabitants) and Greenland (2.2 million km²; 57,000 inhabitants). Education and care are the responsibility of the local parliaments, not the Danish parliament.