The one percent: How Denmark’s rich are getting much richer

The proportion of the country’s total wealth owned by the richest one percent of Danes has significantly increased since the 1990s.

The one percent: How Denmark’s rich are getting much richer
A 2010 file photo showing property owned by Danish billionaire Lars Seier Christensen. File photo: Erik Refner / Ritzau Scanpix

At the beginning of the 1990s, the one percent of the country’s population with the highest earnings represented around 7 percent of the country’s total wages.

That figure has now increased to 11 percent, according to an analysis by thinktank Kraka and consultancy firm Deloitte, as reported by Jyllands-Posten.

The change means that Denmark is now an outlier relative to the rest of Scandinavia. The richest one percent in both Norway and Sweden account for around 8 percent of total earnings.

Denmark’s value for the measure is closer to that seen in the United Kingdom, according to the analysis.

The trend is cause for concern, according to Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, an Aarhus University professor who specializes in inequality.

“If you want to have equality in society, there is good reason to be alarmed,” Lippert-Rasmussen told Jyllands-Posten.

An acceleration in the trend has been observed in the years since the Global Financial Crisis, driven by higher top-end wages and increased income from personal fortunes, according to Kraka’s assessment.

Social Democrat acting political spokesperson Peter Hummelgaard also said the report was a concern.

“This is a trend which most people will, unfortunately, recognize. The issue here is not envy, but fairness and unity. An equal society is also a more stable society,” Hummelgaard told Jyllands-Posten.

The Social Democrats want to address the issue by limiting tax exemptions on wages over ten million kroner and increasing tax on large incomes from personal fortunes.

Minister of Finance Kristian Jensen, of the governing Liberal party, denied the analysis signalled a need for reform.

“There is of course a limit to how much inequality you can have in society. But I don’t think that’s where Denmark is. We should be fighting poverty, not wealth,” Jensen told Jyllands-Posten

READ ALSO: Denmark has OECD's lowest inequality

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Norway ranked world’s top nation for ‘human development’

The Human Development Report 2019 has placed Norway as the leading country in the world.

Norway ranked world’s top nation for 'human development'
Photo: tan4ikk/Depositphotos

The annual report takes into account factors including life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, mean total years of schooling, and gross national income per capita.

A product of these factors is used to calculate a country’s Human Development Index (HDI).

Norway’s overall score on the index was 0.954, moving it from number 5 on the 2018 index to number 1 in 2019.

The Nordic nation was also ranked first in 2017.

Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and Hong Kong (SAR) took the remaining top five places on the index. Nordic neighbours Sweden and Denmark were placed 8th and 11th respectively.

The report also finds that Norway’s HDI score has grown consistently in the long term, with a 0.41 percent increase in the index since 1990 and a 0.16 percent increase since 2010.

But the increase for the current decade was smaller as a function than that for the 2000s, when the HDI grew by 0.27 percent.

Norway was also found to have low inequality. The country retained its placed as the highest-ranked nation in the UN development index after each nation’s HDI score was adjusted for inequality.

“In Norway, Spain, France and Croatia… the bottom 40 percent (of earners) saw their incomes grow at a rate similar to that of the average income,” the report notes.

However, in Norway and France, “the top 1 percent of incomes grew more than the average, meaning that the income share of the groups in between was squeezed,” it added.

The country ranked top of the index for gender development, meanwhile, despite a notable difference in estimated gross national income per capita for men and women.

The HDI for Norway, classified by gender, was 0.946 for women and 0.955 for men.

“While Norway is pleased to top the list, the countries that are at the top must do more to help those at the bottom,” Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein told news agency NTB.

“For the first time in world history, we have a real opportunity to eradicate all extreme poverty in the world. But after a long period of progress, we now see that the arrows are pointing downwards for many of the poorest countries. Right now. we are not on track to achieve the sustainability goals by 2030. The clock is ticking,” the minister added.

Those views appear to be supported by the overall conclusions of the report, which state that “two children born in 2000 in countries with different levels of human development will have vastly different prospects for adult life”.

“The wave of demonstrations sweeping across countries is a clear sign that, for all our progress, something in our globalized society is not working,” United Nations Development Programme administrator Achim Steiner said via the UNDP website.

READ ALSO: How Norway's schools compare to other countries in global ranking