Economy For Members

What does Denmark spend its tax revenues on?

The Local Denmark
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What does Denmark spend its tax revenues on?
Denmark got through over a trillion kroner of public spending in 2021. Illustration photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

A new analysis breaks down the areas on which Denmark primarily spends public funds.


National agency Statistics Denmark (DST) published on Wednesday a new analysis in which it categorises broad areas of public spending in 2021.

The state spent a total of 1.272 trillion kroner in 2021. In its analysis, DST treats this dizzying amount as if it is a 1,000-krone note and sets out how much as a proportion of this total is spent on various areas of society.

The 10 different categories follow EU agency Eurostat's Classification of the Functions of Government (COFOG).


An additional breakdown of the ten main categories can be viewed on DST’s website.

If public spending in 2021 is taken to be a theoretical 1,000 kroner, almost half – 416 kroner – was spent on the category “Social Protection”.

“More than 40 percent of the state budget in 2021 went to social protection. More than one third of this was spent on elderly care, which includes things like the state pension,” DST official Louise Mathilde Justesen said.

This category also includes costly areas of public welfare spending such as statutory sick pay, contributions to childcare facilities like municipal preschools, and parental leave.

Second after social protection in terms of its proportion of state spending is the public health system. This takes 182 kroner from the model 1,000 kroner, an increase from 167 kroner in an earlier analysis of spending in 2020.

“This increase should be seen in respect of the testing and vaccination programmes in relation to Covid-19. In 2021, [rapid] antigen tests were used a lot and vaccination was offered to all members of the public,” Justesen said.

Of the 182 kroner spent on the health service, 126 went to hospital services, making hospitals the largest component of health spending by some distance and the second-largest sub category overall, behind elderly care.

The next two largest categories, both of which received 119 of the theoretical 1,000 kroner, are ‘Education’ and ‘General Public Services’.

In the former of these two categories, public elementary schools got 55 kroner while further and higher education each cost 29 kroner.

‘General Public Service’ encompasses a broad range of public activities. These include tax authorities, public research at universities and foreign development aid.

The next largest category – 80 kroner out of the 1,000-krone note – is titled ‘Financial Matters’.

“In 2019, 62 kroner of the 1,000 went on this post. Covid-19 has also had an effect on costs here,” Justesen said.

Compensation to businesses which lost income due to the pandemic and resulting lockdowns and other restrictions form part of this category, she explained.

Spending on this area in 2021 was however lower than in 2020, when it comprised a 93-krone share of the 1,000, equivalent to just under 10 percent.

Other categories that cost the state under 100 kroner in every 1,000 kroner spent include ‘Leisure, Culture and Religion’ (32 kroner), the military (24 kroner), ‘Public Order and Security’ (19 kroner), environmental protection (7 kroner) and ‘Housing and Public Facilities’ (2 kroner).


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