Danish armed forces distance themselves from Great Prayer Day plan 

Unions for the Danish armed forces say they are concerned about the connection between the military and plans to abolish Great Prayer Day.

Danish armed forces distance themselves from Great Prayer Day plan 
People at the beach during the Great Prayer Day holiday in 2020. File photo: John Randeris/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish military wants the government to stop using defence as justification to abolish Great Prayer Day, a public holiday set to be axed through a parliamentary bill.

Three unions, representing a total of more than 18,000 members in the armed forces, say association with the loss of a public holiday could undermine general support for the armed forces. 

The government bill to abolish Great Prayer Day has met with criticism from trade unions, the church and opposition parties.


Niels Tønning, chairman of the union Hovedorganisationen af Officerer i Danmark (“First Organization of Officers in Denmark”) told newspaper BT that extra funding shouldn’t come at the expense of the freedom of Danish wage earners.

That is despite the armed forces needing the money, he noted.

Another union leader, Jesper Korsgaard Hansen of Centralforeningen for Stampersonel (Central Association for Core Personnel) told BT he was angry over the link between defence and Great Prayer Day.

“I’m angry in the old-fashioned sense about the military being brought up in the same breath to say that money from the scrapped public holiday will go to increased expenses for defence,” Hansen told BT.

Tom Block chairperson of Hærens Konstabel- og Korporalforening (Association of Army Constables and Corporals) said that the government had made the military a “scapegoat” for its plan to scrap Great prayer Day.

In a written comment to BT, defence minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen recognised the bill to scrap Great Prayer Day was not popular.

He said he believed that Danes nevertheless understood that bolstering the military comes with a price.

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Danish economists say abolition of Great Prayer Day is ‘not necessary’

Leading economists in Denmark say that scrapping the Great Prayer Day holiday is not a necessary measure and that the potential economic benefits for the state are dubious.

Danish economists say abolition of Great Prayer Day is ‘not necessary’

Three economists writing in a column in political media Altinget said there was “nothing necessary” about the plan to scrap Great prayer Day.

“Is it better, then, to cancel the government’s planned tax cuts, to cut public spending or to use the opposition’s alternative proposal?”, write the three economists: Ulrik Beck, senior economist with thinktank Kraka; and Michael Svarer and Hans Jørgen Whitta-Jacobsen, professors in economics at Aarhus and Aalborg universities respectively and both former members of the Danish Economic Councils.

The three economists go on to write that the answer to the question comes down to preferences and priorities.

They state that an opposition plan to raise an annual three billion kroner, the amount the government says the Finance Ministry will raise by scrapping Great Prayer Day, is “a fraction better”.

The three governing parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – want to abolish springtime public holiday Great Prayer Day in a move they say will enable increased defence spending to meet Nato targets by 2030, three years ahead of the current schedule. A bill was tabled by the government earlier in January.

The policy has met with criticism from trade unionsthe church and opposition parties, while the military itself has also distanced itself from the plan.


In an alternative proposal, the nine opposition parties say they can raise the money by diverting 1.25 billion kroner from the public investment budget, 1 billion kroner from a winter assistance programme which the parties say was over-financed, and savings on business support spending of 0.75 billion kroner.

The three economists write that the opposition proposal could hold back the welfare system in future, however. Additionally, a reduction in business support could harm companies.

Regarding the economic effect of scrapping Great Prayer Day, they state that although this has a potential monetary benefit, it is uncertain.

That is because people working in Denmark could choose to adjust their working hours by taking less overtime or “hours of interest” (interessetimer), they state.

In addition, collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employers could eventually provide for an extra day off in response to emerging demand for this.

That would negate the effect of scrapping the holiday, the experts said.

READ ALSO: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?