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(Apr 14, 2014) For the last few months, a lively debate on the regulation of child care benefits has raged in Denmark. On February 24, 2014, the Danish government proposed a new regulation under which citizens of other European Union Member States working in Denmark would become eligible for child benefits as soon as they move to Denmark. (Thoring vil skaerpe control med EU borgere [Thoring Wants to Tighten Control of EU Citizens], JYLLANDS-POSTEN (updated Mar. 11, 2014).)

Currently, such individuals must live two years in Denmark before becoming eligible to receive the benefit. The proposal for a new regulation came in the wake of the adoption of two EU decisions outlining the right of citizens of one EU Member State to social welfare benefits in another Member State. (Id.)

The Government's Draft Regulation and Other Proposed Measures

The government's amended April 1 proposal would index the benefit to tie the amount of support provided to the living costs of the child in his or her home country. (Thorning åbner for att indeksere børnechecken [Thorning Open to an Indexation of the Child Care Check], BERLINGSKE, (Apr. 1, 2014).) Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt states that the total government expenditure for child benefits that go to non-Danes is rather low, DKK15 million (about US$2.8 million) and therefore the government can at present afford to pay it. (Thorning vil skærpe control med EU borgere, supra.)

Thorning-Schmidt is more concerned, however, about the payment of general welfare checks, known as dagpeng, to unemployed persons from other countries. (Id.) Proposals to reduce the cost of dagpeng include, among other suggestions, instituting more control over the checks' issuance and requiring a longer period to qualify for well care. (Mette F: EU-borgere skal ikke stilles bedre end danskere [Mette F: EU Citizens Shall Not Be in a Better Position than Danes], JYLLANDS-POSTEN (Mar. 3, 2014).)

The newly proposed rules on child care benefits have not only caused great controversy but also a rush for competing proposals by the opposition. One such suggestion is to transform the benefit into a tax deduction, a benefit for which only persons paying taxes in Denmark are eligible. (FAKTA: sagen om børnechecken ruller fortsat [Fact: The Issue of the Child Care Benefit Continues], JYLLANDS-POSTEN (Mar. 6, 2014).)

The issue of child care will be debated in the Danish Parliament. (Fakta: Få overblick over bornechecksagen [Fact: Get an Overview of the Child Benefit Issue], BERLINGSKE (Apr. 3, 2014).)

Making Its Case Before the European Commission

Denmark also wants to raise in the European Commission the issue of payment of well care benefits to non-citizens and propose implementation of a safety valve that would allow Denmark to alter its well care rules if the burden of such payments becomes too great. (Thorning vil skærpe control med EU borgere, supra.) A Danish EU expert has commented that Denmark is likely to receive criticism of and opposition to its well care reform ideas from other EU Member Nations. (EU-ekspert: Danmark skal vente modstand I dagpengsag [EU Expert: Denmark Should Expect Resistance on Well Care Issue], JYLLANDS-POSTEN (updated Mar. 11, 2014).)

Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt also announced that Denmark will support Finland in its fight in the EU to keep a requirement that the right to well care may accrue only to those that meet certain domestic criteria, such as a specified period of domicile in the country. (Thoring vil skaerpe control med EU borgere, supra.)

Prepared by Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Research Consultant, under the supervision of Edith Palmer, Chief, Foreign, Comparative and International Law Division II.

Author: Edith Palmer More by this author
Topic: Child welfare More on this topic
 Social welfare More on this topic
 Unemployment benefits More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Denmark More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 04/14/2014