Though Denmark is part of the European mainland, it is also a part of the Scandinavian countries – this special geographical position therefore makes living in Denmark a combination of both European and Scandinavian lifestyles, which is usually very beneficial for people living there. If you are thinking about relocating as a doctor, and if you are interested in knowing the differences between the Scandinavian countries, this article might be able to help you.
I you are in Denmark, the furthest you can get away from the sea is 50 km, this is also the furthest distance you can get away from a bigger town. Its highest point is at 170 m above sea level, which makes it ideal for cyclists. There are good and frequent connections between all major towns and cities with either train or bus. If you go by car, you have to be really unlucky if you meet a bad patch of road, as all public roads are maintained to a high standard. There are three major airports in Denmark: Kastrup (Copenhagen), Billund (near Aarhus) and Aalborg Airport. All three have international flights and can connect you to the world at large.
Climate (i.e. let’s look at what you might be afraid of)
Hours of light and darkness:
Generally, the winters are dark in Scandinavia, and during summers the sun does not really set for a few days. The further North you get, the bigger the difference is in light between summer and winter. This means almost complete darkness during the winter in northern Norway and Sweden, while Denmark’s rates are closer to the rest of Europe. For example, on the darkest December day the sun is up for a minimum of 7 hours, which is almost the same amount of time as in Vilnius and Warsaw, and even in Budapest it’s only 1,5 hours more. In the meantime, in the picturesque Norwegian city Tromsø it’s completely down all day long for almost 2 months!
Because of its proximity to the sea Denmark usually does not get really hot summers, but in the wintertime, the Gulf Stream brings warm currents to its coast. This means that Denmark is relatively warm compared to other countries on the same latitude. The temperature is very rarely below 0 °C.
Many people think of Denmark as a place where it is always raining or snowing, but that is not entirely true. Denmark has a temperate climate and you will be acquainted with the feeling of fresh and clean air. The greatest rainfall comes between September and November and snow is rare.
If you move to Denmark, the municipality in which you live is obligated to take care of your children within an acceptable distance from your home. You have to apply for childcare services three months in advance, but the municipality almost always finds a place much faster.
Many childcare institutions in Denmark are integrated, which means that they take care of children of all ages (0-6) in the same place. There are age appropriate divisions within the institution, but this means that your child will have a consistent place of care through his/her upbringing.
Parents are often very involved in their children’s care and education. This means that there are many opportunities for parents to become involved in school activities, should they wish to do so.
Denmark’s PDI (Power Distance Index) is low. This low rating indicates that the society promotes equality and opportunity for everyone. Furthermore, Denmark also has a low rate of patriarchy, meaning that the nation has very little discrimination or bias between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of the society. Therefore, in Denmark women are highly respected in business, generally receive equal pay, and have access to senior positions.
In some aspects, the role of the housewife has almost disappeared in Denmark. With the influx of women in the workplace, men are more actively involved in child-rearing activities than in most of the other European countries, although the division of domestic chores is similar to other developed countries –Danish women still do more domestic work than men. However the division of work at home has become more equal, especially in families with small children, where the woman is younger, goes to work and has a higher education.
Maternity leave, benefits:
Parents have the right to a total of 52 weeks leave with maternity subsistence allowance. The mother is entitled to four weeks' maternity leave prior to giving birth and 14 weeks after, the father is entitled to two weeks' leave after the birth, and the remaining time can be divided according to individual wishes.
Public sector employees receive full salary during maternity leave. Private sector employees are entitled to a minimum level of maternity benefit, which is subject to negotiation with the employer. Parents who are not entitled to be paid maternity leave from their workplace can receive maternity maintenance from their municipal office in their place of residence.
The Equal Treatment Act prohibits unfair differential treatment and states that employers are not allowed to dismiss an employee who has exercised their right to absence, or who has been absent in accordance with the Act on Benefits in the Event of Illness and Childbirth or due to pregnancy, maternity/paternity leave or adoption.
You will be entitled to support from Danish state for each child you have between the age of 0 and 18. The yearly rates are as follows (2015):
- 0 - 2 Years of age 17,772
- 3 - 6 Years of age 14,076
- 7 - 14 years of age 11,076
- 15 - 17 years of age 11,076
A workweek consists of 37 hours. For doctors, the duties vary between day, night and evening shifts after an introductory period, while you are learning how the system functions and can take bigger responsibilities. Every doctor is entitled to 6 weeks of paid vacation, although you are only entitled to paid vacation when you have worked for a year.
Social and other benefits:
Most of the foreign doctors who come to Denmark speak highly about the working conditions in the Danish hospitals. They find a reduced stress level, well-equipped hospitals and good career opportunities.
Denmark prides itself of having a healthy work-life balance. The Danish welfare model, with its flexible working conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities, not only puts Denmark at the top of the international equality league table, but also contributes to a generally high standard of living. A family with two children can also live a middle class life in Denmark from one specialist doctor’s salary alone.
Danish society is extremely open-minded about homosexuality. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1933 and the age of consent, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, was set at 15 in 1977. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions, in 1989, and the government introduced same-sex marriage in 2012, allowing couples to marry in Church of Denmark premises as well as in city halls.
When signing a contract to come and work as a doctor in e.g. Sweden you have to commit yourself to three years of work. In Denmark, you have the option to resign within three months. This gives you an increased level of flexibility and peace of mind knowing that you do not have to stay if you don’t like it.
The Nordic labour markets share many common characteristics. Nordic salaries and working conditions are quite considerably regulated by collective bargaining agreements. Unions and employers are also very much involved in drafting legislation, in particular legislation governing the labour market. This model has helped develop a Nordic labour market characterized by a high degree of equality, security and consensus. The model has also played a crucial role in the evolution of the Nordic welfare society as we know it today. The Nordic countries are characterized by high employment and low unemployment. All countries have a well-working labor market. By international standards, a very high proportion of the adult population is economically active – both men and women.
The successful Danish labour market is often ascribed to flexicurity. Flexicurity is a compound of flexibility and security. The Danish model has a third element - active labor market policy - and together these elements comprise the golden triangle of flexicurity.
One side of the triangle is flexible rules for hiring and firing, which makes it easy for the employers to dismiss employees during downturns and hire new staff when things improve. About 25% of Danish private sector workers change jobs each year.
The second side of the triangle is unemployment security in the form of a guarantee for a legally specified unemployment benefit at a relatively high level - up to 90% for the lowest paid workers.
The third side of the triangle is the active labour market policy. An effective system is in place to offer guidance, a job or education to all unemployed. Denmark spends approx. 1.5% of its GDP on active labor market policy.
The European Council adopted a set of Council Conclusions on flexicurity in December 2007, by which the common principles of flexicurity will guide EU member states when implementing reforms in order to meet the aims of the Lisbon Strategy of Growth and Jobs.
Work-life balance in Denmark:
Denmark prides itself on having a healthy work-life balance. The Danish welfare model, with its flexible working conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities, not only puts Denmark at the top of the international equality league table, but also contributes to a generally high standard of living.
Education in Denmark is free and is financed by the state and the municipalities. Universities are also free for Danish, Nordic and EU citizens. Private schools are partly financed by state subsidies, but some fees are also charged.
Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16, with the tenth year being optional. The public school system (Folkeskole) consists of one year of pre-school education, nine years of primary and lower secondary education and an optional tenth grade. A child must be admitted to a pre-school class in the calendar year of their sixth birthday.
Children whose first language is not Danish are offered training in Danish as a second language in primary and lower secondary schools. The pre-school year also offers language stimulation training for bilingual children.
All children in Denmark are entitled to free tuition at primary, lower secondary and upper secondary school. This tuition includes a one-year pre-school class followed by nine years of primary and lower secondary education, an optional 10th grade and an optional high school, which is a requirement if you want to attend university. Almost all continue their education after finishing the first obligatory 9 years of schooling.
The primary and lower secondary schools must equip pupils with academic qualifications and generally prepare them for their role as citizens in a democratic society. The schools work closely together with the parents, and base their approach on child-centered learning. When the school day ends, there are good opportunities for the child to do a variety of activities. SFOs are after-school clubs, where children have the opportunity to play, be together and make friendships.
When you turn 18 and are enrolled in either high school or university, you have the opportunity to receive students’ aid from the government. A student can receive up to about 6000 DKK (about 800 EUR) a month while studying and if you finish your exams, you will not have to pay anything back to the government. On top of that, you can obtain favourable loans through the government while studying. All the Nordic countries offer some kind of student aid, but none as favourable as Denmark.
High quality education at all levels is essential to ensure competitiveness in today’s globalized world. This is why education is a key priority in Denmark. With their high academic standards combined with innovative learning approaches, the Danish institutions are preparing their students to play an active role in a globalized, knowledge-based society.
If you have any further questions regarding relocation and working as a doctor in Denmark, feel free to contact Medicolink’s consultant and Head of Recruitment, Mads Søndergaard. Also feel free to visit Medicolink’s homepage: www.medicolink.com