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Low-Wage Work in Denmark

Niels Westergaard-Nielsen

Publication Year: 2008

The Danish economy offers a dose of American labor market flexibility inside a European welfare state. The Danish government allows employers a relatively high level of freedom to dismiss workers, but also provides generous unemployment insurance. Widespread union coverage and an active system of collective bargaining help regulate working conditions in the absence of strong government regulation. Denmark’s rate of low-wage work—8.5 percent—is the lowest of the five countries under analysis. In Low-Wage Work in Denmark, a team of Danish researchers combines comprehensive national registry data with detailed case studies of five industries to explore why low-end jobs are so different in Denmark. Some jobs that are low-paying in the United States, including hotel maids and meat processors, though still demanding, are much more highly compensated in Denmark. And Danes, unlike American workers, do not stay in low-wage jobs for long. Many go on to higher paying jobs, while a significant minority ends up relying temporarily on income support and benefits sustained by one of the highest tax rates in the world.  Low-Wage Work in Denmark provides an insightful look at the particularities of the Danish labor market and the lessons it holds for both the United States and the rest of Europe.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Series: Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

About the Authors

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-15

By any reasonable standard definition of “low-wage work,” about a quarter of American wage earners are low-wage workers. The corresponding figure is smaller, sometimes much smaller, in other comparable advanced capitalist countries. This fact is not very good...

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pp. 16-31

This book attempts to describe the functioning of the Danish labor market mainly from the perspective of a low-wage earner. In describing conditions for low-wage workers in Denmark, the contributors to this volume focus especially on labor market institutions....

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pp. 32-103

At first sight, an outside observer might find that the Danish labor market looks like other labor markets in Europe and North America, but closer inspection would reveal a number of features that differentiate Denmark from other countries and sometimes even

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pp. 104-139

Work in the Danish food industry is not low-wage work. Even though the globalization of the food industry has given food-processing companies strong reasons to focus on reducing costs (especially companies facing international competition), so far this has...

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pp. 140-185

Working in retailing is a low-status occupation in Denmark. Politicians and various members of the media routinely use supermarket checkout operators when illustrating how economic policies will affect “common people.” Irregular working hours and...

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pp. 186-217

Danish hotels do not differ much from hotels in other parts of the world. Big hotels and hotels in the major cities are typically operated by international chains, whereas other Danish hotels are considerably smaller and scattered around the country. Customers...

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pp. 218-257

In this chapter, we present the results from the study of low-wage workers in Danish health care. The target occupations are the nursing assistants, cleaners, and hospital service assistants who perform basic nursing tasks, clean wards, and serve meals in hospital departments....

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pp. 258-300

The “call center” as an organizational principle is becoming the primary vehicle for customer interaction. As in the United States and several other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany, call center work has been among the...


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pp. 301-312

E-ISBN-13: 9781610445542
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871548962

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Minimum wage -- Denmark.
  • Wages -- Denmark.
  • Unskilled labor -- Denmark.
  • Labor market -- Denmark.
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