Weekly Highlight: 12.02.2008


Study: Danes pledge allegiance to the welfare state

What Danes lack in patriotism, they more than make up for in their pride in their welfare state, a new study concludes.
Only one in three Danes answered that they were proud of being Danish in an international survey in which citizens of 27 countries were asked about their national affiliations.
According to Christian Albrecht, author of the study and an assistant professor at Aalborg University, this is largely due to social improvements that the welfare system has created.
’The welfare state has helped minimise poverty and create equality in society,’ he told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
However, Danes were not especially enthused about their country’s artistic or cultural heritage. Feelings of nationalism were generally experiencing a downhill trend, and among younger people there was even less affiliation between themselves and their country.
The study also showed that highly educated Danes felt less association to their nationality than those with lower educational levels. Similarly, the older the person, the more patriotic.
Education and age were also factors that affected views on foreigners. Generally, in comparison to other countries, Danes did not have negative feelings towards immigrants.
However, a common opinion was that immigrants should conform and fit into Danish society without overtly holding on to their own culture.
’This is why over half of the surveyed Danes felt that ethnic minorities shouldn’t receive public funding to preserve their traditional practices and customs,’ Albrecht continued.
In countries where right-of-centre governments were in power, as is the case in Denmark, Austria and France, there was a split among the populations, the study concluded.
Albrecht said that in general, there was a lack of unity and common goals. War could be a unifying factor, and, if that was not the case, cultural and political factors could come into play.
In Denmark’s case, the current labour market with its lack of qualified workers could be a starting point, especially if the positions could be filled with immigrants so a feeling of shared community could be established.


Finnish Families Live on Less than Other EU Families
Published 11.02.2008, 21.58 (updated 12.02.2008, 09.05)

Finnish families have a more difficult time making ends meet than those in other EU countries. The main reason underlying this discrepancy is the Finnish taxation system, finds a study by the Taxpayers’ Association of Finland. The study charted family incomes in eleven European countries.
Jaana Kurjenoja, chief economist at the Finnish Taxpayers’ Association, says that compared to Finland, families are left with more to spend each month in many other European countries.
In the UK, families have the most disposable income, and the least in Belgium and Denmark, followed by Finland.
Finland’s taxation is especially harsh when only one parent is working. But it is also not always easy for double-income families to get by either. A Finnish family in which both parents earn average salaries makes a total of 2,700 euros less than a corresponding Norwegian family, and 3,500 euros less than a British family.

A Widening Gap
The Finnish family allowance does little to mend the income gap. Only France and the Netherlands pay out family allowances smaller than Finland. Meanwhile, Austria and Germany pay out the highest family allowances.
Finnish families are however inclined to see the good in the Finnish system, saying that parents get good child care in return for their tax money. In comparison to its European counterparts, Finland has relatively affordable day-care for two to three year-olds.
However, when many European kids are eligible for free pre-school at the age of four, Finnish kids are still attending day-care that is subject to charge.


Dutch women are part-time work leaders
Tuesday 12 February 2008

Not just mothers with small children but also young childless women in the Netherlands tend to work fewer than 35 hours a week, says the government’s social policy unit SCP in a new report on part-time working.
In total, 75% of Dutch women who work have jobs of fewer than 35 hours a week – twice the European average.
Compared with other western countries, many Dutch women do work, the SCP says. Around two-thirds have some sort of paid employment. Only in Scandinavia and Switzerland is the percentage higher.
And three-quarters of Dutch women with young children work, compared with just 45% of German mothers, the SCP says.


More foreigners become Norwegian
First published: 08 Feb 2008, 14:43

Some 14,400 people were given Norwegian citizenship in 2007, a huge leap from the year before, when just 11,000 became citizens.
Around 600 applicants were denied citizenship, says the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).
“More and more asylum-seekers and immigrants who have lived in Norway for many years are choosing to become Norwegians,” said UDI director Ida Børresen.
“This signals that they want to contribute further to the development of a multi-cultural Norway, with the same rights and obligations as Norwegians have,” she said.
Much of the increase, however, was attributed to expanded capacity at the UDI to handle applications.
The largest group to gain citizenship was Iraqis (2,581), closely followed by Somalians (2,187). People from Afghanistan, Serbia, and Iran were also well-represented.

To become a citizen of Norway, you must:
– Have lived in Norway for at least seven of the past 10 years.
– Have undergone a minimum of 300 hours of Norwegian language lessons, or be able to document adequate Norwegian (or Samisk) language skills.
– Not have a criminal record or have been forcibly committed for mental health reasons.
– Be released from your original citizenship (if this is not automatic).

There are several exceptions to the law, for example for spouses of Norwegian citizens, in which case one must have lived in Norway for just three years (or two years for people from the Nordic countries).


Stressed out Swedish students tired of studying
Published: 12 Feb 08 06:45 CET

Close to half the students in Sweden’s system of higher education have been near or have seriously considered quitting school.
In its annual Student Barometer study, Sweden’s United Student Unions (SFS) asked 6,642 students questions about completing their education, and how they view the work and working conditions at institutions of higher learning.
Many of the respondents who considered giving up studying had ethnic backgrounds other than Swedish, were gay or bisexual, or had disabilities.
More than 20 percent of students polled indicated stress related to studying as the main reason for wanting to quit.
And about one in six listed difficulties with money as also a major factor for them wanting to stop studying.
Approximately one in ten of the students polled indicated having a hard time keeping pace; the poor quality of their education; difficulties fitting in, and/or unclear requirements as other reasons why they considered quitting their studies.
Just under 40 percent of those polled noted that they needed or need special help from their schools. And of those, 40 percent indicated that they didn’t receive the help they needed.
The poll results have led SFS to suggest several measures to address the problems including increased financial aid and resources for students; more locally tailored solutions with a focus on the individual; and a better relationship between education and the job market.

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