Why Fox Business’s comparison of Denmark and Venezuela is built on fallacy

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Why Fox Business’s comparison of Denmark and Venezuela is built on fallacy
Fox Business Network host Trish Regan (R) said Danes do not want to work or complete their studies. File photo: Chuck Burton/Ritzau Scanpix

In a clip that has been widely shared on social media, a host on US television station Fox Business Network has claimed Danes are work-shy and slow at finishing their education, and likened the Scandinavian country to crisis-hit Venezuela.


The claims were made by Trish Regan, a host on the cable news channel, which is owned by the Fox News Group.

The clip, which has currently been seen over 1.6 million times on Facebook, begins with images of anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela.

“It’s a really horrible scene. No food, no healthcare, no jobs. Lots of violence, lots of looting, lots of corruption. This is what socialism looks like in Venezuela, and you know what, it’s getting worse,” the presenter says at the beginning of the monologue.

“But you know what? Democrats say ‘we’re not talking about Venezuela’ when they talk about socialism, they say ‘we’re talking about Denmark!’,” Regan goes on to say, before continuing, “as Shakespeare said, ‘there’s something rotten in Denmark’.”

That is a misquote of Shakespeare, but it is far from the only misleading element of Regan’s report.

“Denmark’s freebies are anything but free,” the cable news host says before claiming the Scandinavian country’s “top federal tax rate [sic.]” is 56 percent.

“In other words, everyone in Denmark is working for the government!” Regan then asserts.

While taxes in the Scandinavian country were last year reported to be the highest of any developed country by the OECD’s economic thinktank, they are not as high as reported by Fox Business.

Top earners - those with an annual income of over 542,283 kroner - pay an increased tax rate known as topskat on earnings over this amount, which can take taxation over 50 percent on top-end earnings (but is still not the overall income tax rate).

The average total income tax is around 34 percent of earnings, according to Danish Ministry of Tax figures from 2016.

Danish Minister of Finance Kristian Jensen offered his response to Regan’s claims via Twitter on Monday.

“So Danes don’t wants [sic.] to work? 11 places better than US in OECD statistics! We are working much more than Americans and at the same time ranking as the world’s best in Work-Life-Balance. You should come to Denmark if you dare be confronted with facts,” Jensen tweeted at the Fox host.

Regan also declares in her Venezuela comparison that only three of Denmark’s 98 municipalities had employment levels over 50 percent in 2013.

“And no-one wants to work,” she says without offering any evidence to support that claim.

According to Statistics Denmark, the national employment rate in 2013 was just under 67 percent for people in Denmark between the ages of 16 and 67. It has since increased to 70.1 percent for people of wage-earning age.

That compares to American employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of 58.7 percent in mid-2013, and 60.5 percent according to latest numbers, Danish news agency Ritzau reports.

READ ALSO: Danish unemployment at lowest level since 2009: stats

Next in Regan’s sights is Denmark’s state student grant, Statens Uddannelsesstøtte (SU), which partially covers living costs for people in full-time higher education.

“School’s free. University’s free, that’s lovely. They have a programme there, it’s supposed to take you five years. But you see, not only is school free, they actually pay you, basically 990 dollars a month to go to school – not bad, eh? Well, you know what happens then? Nobody graduates from school, they just stay in school, longer and longer and longer,” the host says to camera.

A March 2017 analysis by Statistics Denmark shows a significant fall in the average length of time spent in higher education by Danes in recent years. The average time to complete a Master’s degree programme in Denmark fell by three months between 2012 and 2016, while Bachelor’s degree programmes fell slightly to an average duration of just over 36 months – or three years – from start to finish.

That reflects policies by both the current centre-right government and its Social Democrat-led predecessor to significantly reduce the amount of time young people spend in higher education, in part by introducing stricter rules on SU.

Regan also claims in the Fox Business report that “one person who studied Denmark” said “all the kids graduating from school in Denmark, they wanna start cupcake cafés.”

According to a March 2018 government report, 2015 figures show just under 90 percent of eligible people holding Master’s degrees were in employment by their second year following graduation, while Denmark has the eighth-highest employment rate of all OECD member countries for people aged 25-64 with Master’s degrees.

Since 1985, employment levels of people with Master’s degrees have been equal or higher to the overall national employment levels, according to the same report.

“Denmark, like Venezuela, has stripped people of their opportunities,” the Fox Business host concludes.

Factual inaccuracies aside, the aim of Regan’s monologue seems to be to prove that the social welfare model on which Denmark is governed makes it a ‘socialist’ country with a system comparable to Venezuela, rather than the market economy it is in reality.

That misunderstanding has long since been addressed – and dismissed – by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. 

READ ALSO: Danish PM in US: Denmark is not socialist


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