There’s the Denmark of Lego, “The Little Mermaid” and intelligent TV shows that we’ve all heard so much about.
Then there’s the other Denmark. The one found on the Fox Business Network. “Everyone in Denmark is working for the government,” anchor Trish Regan announced in a segment aired last week. “And no one wants to work.”
“Not only is school free; they actually pay you. ... You know what happens then? Nobody graduates from school. ... They just stay in school,” Regan went on to say, referring to university-level education.
“Because that’s the reality of socialism. As one person who studied Denmark said: Nowadays all the kids graduating from schools in Denmark, they want to start cupcake cafes,” Regan said before breaking into laughter. “Denmark — like Venezuela — has stripped people of their opportunities,” the anchor concluded on a more serious note.
Regan clarified her remarks on Tuesday, saying on her show: “I was never implying that conditions in Denmark were similar in any way to the current tragedy on the ground there in Venezuela. I was merely pointing out, using reports from the Atlantic, the Independent and other publications, that socialism is not the way.”
Before her clarification, a top Danish official had voiced puzzlement about her remarks. “We are working much more than Americans and at the same time ranking as the worlds best in Work-Life-Balance [sic],” Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen wrote Monday on Twitter. Addressing the Fox Business Network anchor directly, he added: “You should come to Denmark if you dare be confronted with facts.”
Denmark’s Social Democrats published a video in which former government minister Dan Jorgensen summarizes the country’s feelings about the segment: “Trish, you’re wrong.”
Regan’s initial characterization of Denmark as a bleak nation that robs its citizens doesn’t really add up, as any visitor to the country has probably noticed. Employment rates in Denmark are higher than in the United States. Curiously, the “no one wants to work” Danish employees are also more productive than their U.S. counterparts.
Regan was correct in saying that Denmark pays its citizens to study rather than charging tuition. But the country still has some of Europe’s lowest university dropout rates and performs better than nations charging their students.
Any direct comparison between European and U.S. university degrees is somewhat flawed, but to suggest the U.S. system is successful at retaining students would be flat-out wrong. Less than 60 percent of undergraduate students in the United States finished their studies within six years, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Meanwhile, a cross-European survey conducted roughly at the same time found that 79 percent of Danish undergraduate students completed their courses. (Among those students are an increasing number of U.S. citizens who can’t afford college in their home country.) The numbers suggest paying students to study actually encourages children of lower-income families to graduate from college, which has decreased inequality in Denmark.
Once young Danes have completed their courses, they can rely on universal access to health care and can move to Copenhagen — currently the world’s ninth most-livable city. (No U.S. city made it into the top 10 this year.)
Despite all the hardship they apparently experience in their socialist dystopia, the Danes have retained their sense of humor.
After last week’s Fox report, Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, Lars Gert Lose, prepared a handy guide for anyone interested in finding out more about living in the Scandinavian “socialist” state.
Inviting Regan to Denmark, Lose kindly offered “to assist,” before warning that the “lack of cupcake cafés probl [sic] will be disappointing.”
This post has been updated to include a clarification by Fox Business Network host Trish Regan.