Leftists in Denmark demand more funds for health and welfare sector 

The Danish health sector is struggling without adequate staff and resources, even as workers in female-dominated professions like nursing make less money than those in male-dominated professions

October 10, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Danish Healthcare
(Photo: via Arbejderen.dk)

Left-wing sections in Denmark are opposing inadequate funding and cuts to the health and welfare sector proposed in the budget agreements between the federal government and the regions and municipalities for the year 2023. The leftist Red-Green Alliance (Unity List) and the Danish Communist Party, among others, have protested the inadequate allocations proposed for regions and municipalities, especially in the healthcare sector. Leftists also denounced the extra allocations for the military at a time when the people of the county are reeling under a cost of living crisis and hospitals are facing a shortage of staff and resources. 

As Denmark heads toward general elections on November 1, the Danish Nurses’ Organization has urged its members to put pressure on politicians to prioritize the problems of workers in the health sector and raise issues like underpaid jobs, overwork, wage gap, unfilled vacancies, and lack of funds and infrastructure. Last year, a nearly 100-day-long strike was organized by nurses across Denmark demanding a wage hike and an end to the wage gap.

Arbejderen (The Worker), the publication of the Danish Communist Party, reported that tight budgets are now in place in all five regions of Denmark for 2023, and these fall far short of solving the major challenges facing the regions. While additional funds will be set aside for the regions in the budget proposal, especially to cover the welfare costs for an increasing number of elderly people, unions in the health sector claim that the government has ignored requests for funds to procure expensive medicines and new treatment methods in the middle of soaring price rise.

Last week, the Red-Green Alliance (Unity List) noted that “Welfare is bleeding, the employees are fleeing, and we know why. Nurses, midwives, social and health educated, educators and many more of our educated welfare workers earn far too little!”

“Why? Because they work in female dominated professions. In 1969, they were placed lower in the wage hierarchy with the so-called “Civil Servant Reform” than similar male-dominated [professions]. We still use that wage hierarchy to this day. In 2022, it’s more than time for a fight against pay inequality,” the Unity List added.

With regard to the nurses’ strike last year, the Danish Nursing Organization had complained that nurses’ salaries in Denmark are 15-20% lower than groups with comparable length of education. They slammed the 1969 Civil Service Reform as unjust, asserting that nurses and other female-dominated professions were placed too low in the pay hierarchy by politicians. 

On October 7, Anders T. Sorenson, editor-in-chief of Arbejderen, told Peoples Dispatch that “After decades of neoliberal cutbacks, the Danish tax-funded hospital system is facing a historic crisis, with people having to wait unreasonably long for treatment and diagnosis, while hospital staff are put under inhuman work pressure, leading to stress and serious errors. The Danish tradition of a solidarity-based welfare model, where progressive taxation pays for free healthcare for all, has been won by generations of struggling workers. But tax-funded collective welfare services do not generate profit. It is in this light that we must view the budget deals that have just been struck, and which will continue the course towards disaster.”