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WHAT CHANGES IN DENMARK

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in 2023?

New laws from the new government, new flight routes, heating bill help, new EU travel rules. Here's what's changing in Denmark in 2023.

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in 2023?
What changes can be expected in Denmark next year? File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Back to school and work with smaller class sizes

After the Christmas break, most schools and work places return on Tuesday 3rd January. It is strange to think that just one year ago, back to school in January came with a trepidation of Covid infections and online learning.

The difference this year is that from August 2023, new classes in grades “0” to 2 (aged 6-8 years) at Denmark’s elementary schools (folkeskoler) will be limited to a maximum of 26 children from next year, rather than the current limit of 28 students.

Key school holiday dates include:

Winter holiday(vinterferie): 11th to 19th February (18th to 26th February for North Jutland schools)

Easter holiday (påskeferie): 1st to 10th April

May bank holidays (1st, 5th, 18th, 19th, 29th May)

Summer holiday (sommerferie): 24th June to 6th August

Autumn holiday (efterårsferie): 14th to 22nd October

Christmas holiday (juleferie): 22nd December to 3rd January 2024

Dates will differ for private schools. 

Public holiday dates

The public holidays in 2022 – and the days they fall on – are as follows:

January 1st (New Year’s Day, Sunday); Palm Sunday (April 2nd); Maundy Thursday (April 6th); Good Friday (April 7th); Easter (April 9th); Easter Monday (April 10th); Great Prayer Day (Friday May 5th); Ascension Day (Thursday May 18th); Whitsunday (May 28th); Pentecost (Monday May 29th); Christmas Day (Monday December 25th); Boxing Day (Tuesday December 26th).

This year could be the last time we see Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) on the above list. The new government wants to abolish one of Denmark’s annual public holidays — most likely to be Great Prayer Day — in a measure it says will enable more spending on defence.

The change would likely take effect in 2024.

READ ALSO: How can Denmark earn money by abolishing a public holiday?

Cost of living help 

The new government says it will put together an “inflation package” aimed at helping people struggling with high living costs caused by inflation.

This will include a new tax-free 5,000 kroner payment to senior citizens who receive the ældrecheck benefit. That is in addition to an already-agreed 5,000 kroner.

The rest of the cost-of-living package will focus on people who face drastic energy bill increases – primarily homes with independent gas heaters.

A pool of 300 million kroner will also be diverted to help vulnerable families.

These measures were outline by the government in the policy agreement between the three coalition parties.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What are the main policies of the new Danish government?

Danish households can postpone paying district heating bills

A scheme which allows businesses and households to defer paying excess district heating bills begins in January.

It is one of the components of the previous government’s winter package in response to record energy prices. In November, a scheme was introduced to allow people to delay payments for excess electricity and gas bills.

It means households and businesses can choose to “freeze” their bill for 12 months, at the price they paid for the same amount of heating last year. The additional cost of the bill, not the entire bill, will be eligible for delayed payment. 

When the freezing period of 12 months has expired, an interest-free year follows. Customers can then choose whether to pay the excess amount to the energy company, or whether to pay it off over a period of four years.

READ ALSO: Danish homes and businesses reluctant to use government’s energy loan scheme

Skilled foreign workers

New government policy could make Denmark more accessible for skilled foreign workers by adding pathways by which a work permit can be granted.

The policy agreement between the three coalition parties in the new government says it will “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

This means making an existing deal to boost international recruitment permanent, and taking measures to prevent social dumping so foreign workers are given the same working conditions as Danes, it states.

“In addition to this, the government will introduce a scheme with lower pay limits [beløbsordninger, ed.] for certified companies which are encompassed by controlled wage and working conditions,” it says.

An annual quota of work permits will be released under the scheme, which will be reviewed every two years, according to the plan.

“This will, under controlled conditions, give access to additional labour,” it says.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Family reunification could become easier

The new government could break with years of passing ever-stricter immigration laws by easing family reunification rules.

Specifically, the new government wants to change language criteria applied in family reunification cases.

It also wants to halve the so-called “bank guarantee” (bankgaranti), a requirement which demands couples deposit a large sum of money with municipalities while the foreign partner is granted residence under family reunification rules.

We have more detail on this in this article.

University students face cuts in education reform

The new government plans to spend more money on vocational education programmes for their improvement, but will reduce the length of around half of university Master’s degree programmes, so that they take one year, not two, to complete.

Rules related to the state student grant, SU, will be tightened so that the right to the grant becomes more limited and available for a shorter period related to the time spent in education.

READ ALSO: Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money

Check your tax payments and tax reforms

The annual tax return statement (årsopgørelse) for 2022 will be ready on the SKAT (tax authority) website from mid-March 2023. Here you can see whether you are due money back or paid too little in tax last year.

The deadline for correcting the annual statement is 1st May 2023 however you can check your preliminary 2023 tax return or forskudsopgørelse from November 2022.

The Tax Authority advises all taxpayers to check their preliminary returns, especially if there have been changes to your life in 2022, as it can ensure you don’t have to pay a tax deficit when the returns are finalised in March 2023.

The new government is going to introduce several tax reforms. A tax deduction for people in full time work, beskæftigelsesfradraget, will be bolstered, as will a special deduction for single parents. Changes to the top tax bracket, topskat, are also set to be made by the new government.

We recently looked at how the existing topskat bracket works.

READ ALSO: How will new Danish government change income tax?

Public transport cost increases

People who use buses and trains in much of eastern Denmark, as well as the Copenhagen Metro, will pay more on average for their journeys from January next year.

Transport operators that are part of the Din Offentlige Transport (DOT) group are to raise prices by an average of 4.9 percent from January 15th.

This means that services operated by DSB and Movia on the islands of Zealand, Lolland, Falster and Møn will generally cost more, as will the Copenhagen Metro. Some journey types will become cheaper, however. The exact details of the changes can be found here.

Increased costs for fuel and electricity are the main reason for the price increases, DOT said.

New direct flights to India, Shanghai and New York

Indian airline Air India will reintroduce its direct connecting flight between Copenhagen and Delhi in 2023 after it was cancelled during the coronavirus crisis.

Three departures per week will connect Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is located just outside the city of New Delhi, and Copenhagen Airport.

From January 6th 2023, airline SAS will fly from Copenhagen to Shanghai two days a week throughout the winter season.

The SAS flight between Copenhagen and Shanghai Pudong International Airport was suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak before being resumed on a one flight per-week schedule.

There will also be a new connection between Denmark and the United States with a direct flight from North Jutland town Aalborg to New York City in 2023.

SAS is to offer three new weekly flights between Aalborg and Newark Liberty International Airport.

The flights will operate throughout the summer 2023 season and will return for the summer 2024 programme, the airline said. SAS already offers a direct flight to New York from Copenhagen. 

Copenhagen Fashion Week

Twice a year thousands of people flock to Copenhagen for Fashion Week. This year the dates are January 31st to February 3rd and 9th to 12th August.

It is always a big event with exhibitions, street parties, mini-concerts and catwalk shows.

EU travel changes to watch out for

There are two bits of EU travel news to keep in mind next year, relating to new passport check systems at Schengen borders and the EU’s Covid-19 certificate.

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry.

If you live in Denmark and are a non-EU citizen, it’s worth knowing that the European Commission has confirmed that EES will not apply for non-EU citizens who live in Denmark.

READ ALSO:

Covid-19 travel certificates are due to expire in the EU on June 30th, unless they’re extended. More on Covid travel certificates here.

We’ll be following these issues and more over the next year, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about any of the above issues.

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN DENMARK

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in February 2023?

Keep saving on gas use, a reminder to check your tax payments, movement on plans to scrap a public holiday, Fastelavn celebrations, Copenhagen Fashion Week and lighter days incoming. Here are some of the things to look out for in Denmark this February.

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in February 2023?

Keep saving on gas

Denmark has cut the majority of its consumption of Russian gas but it is too early to disregard all energy saving measures, experts have advised.

“We’ve been good at cutting back. But if we stop saving now, we’ll run into problems next year,” Trine Villumsen Berling of the Danish Institute for International Studies told DR.

Much of the gas currently stored was originally supplied by Russia. Power plants still need to use gas to produce energy when weather conditions reduce wind output, Berling said.

“We need Danes to still have those good habits. We must remain aware of how we use energy and how much we turn on the heating for quite a while yet,” she said.

Check your tax payments

In January, the Tax Authority advised all taxpayers to check their preliminary returns (forskudsopgørelse), especially if there were changes to their circumstances in 2022. This can ensure you don’t have to pay a tax deficit when 2023’s tax returns are finalised next year.

The advice is still relevant in February (it’s still early in the year)) and you can read more information about it in our explainer.

The preliminary tax return can be viewed (and information corrected) by visiting the Skat (tax authority) website and signing in with MitID. The agency can also be contacted over the phone or in writing for guidance on the return and other tax matters.

The annual tax return statement (årsopgørelse) for 2022 will meanwhile be ready on the Skat website on March 13th. Here you can see whether you are due money back or paid too little in tax last year. The deadline for correcting the annual statement is May 1st.

READ MORE: Denmark’s tax authority to release annual returns on March 13th

Plans on abolishing public holiday move forward

The formal bill to scrap the Great Prayer Day public holiday, which is now in consultation, could be passed by the end of February but is facing significant resistance.

It’s at the first stage of the process before it becomes law and a speedy process means there is less time in which objections can be brought up against it in parliament.

The government’s ambition is to pass the law before collective bargaining agreements are voted on by trade unions in the spring. Negotiations for these have already begun with employer organisations in some sectors.

The three governing parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – want to abolish springtime public holiday Great Prayer Day from 2024, in a move they say will enable increased defence spending to meet Nato targets by 2030, three years ahead of the current schedule.

The policy has met with criticism from trade unionsthe church and opposition parties, while the military has also distanced itself from the plan.

Fastelavn

Fastelavn is celebrated in Denmark every year on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, which this year is February 19th. Nurseries, kindergartens and schools may also celebrate the day in the week leading up to it and it adds some excitement to what can feel like a boring winter month. 

Some call it a Nordic Halloween. Children dress up, but unlike Halloween, they don’t have to be scary – any costume goes, so parents can raid the dressing up box for whatever they can find.

Once dressed up, the children form an orderly queue and take it in turns to hit a large barrel. It’s similar to piñata, but is called slå katten af tønden, which means hit the cat out of the barrel. It comes from a very old tradition when a poor cat would be placed in the barrel and the barrel hit with a stick until the cat escaped. The cat was then chased out of the town, with the idea it was taking bad luck away with it. 

Instead of a cat escaping, sweets now fall out of the barrel. The child who successfully frees the sweets, is named the Queen of Cats (Kattedronning). The child who takes down the last piece of barrel, is named King of cats (Kattekongen).

After barrel-hitting is complete, some children then go around their neighbours knocking on doors for sweets or money, or some people hold a little party.

Fastelavn also involves fastelavnsboller. These are sweet rolls covered in icing and filled with cream – there are many variations so try all you can. 

There’s also a Fastelavn song, that is guaranteed to stick in your head.

READ MORE: Fastelavn: What is the Danish childrens’ carnival all about?

Copenhagen Fashion Week

If you live in the capital, you may have already noticed the increased buzz around the centre. Copenhagen Fashion Week started on January 31st and runs until February 3rd. The biannual event attracts thousands of people to Copenhagen, as fashion is celebrated with exhibitions, street parties, mini-concerts and catwalk shows.

Lighter days are coming

February is still very much the depth of winter in Denmark but the days are slowly getting longer. The sun is now rising just after 8am and setting just before 5pm.

Nights remain longer than days until the spring equinox or jævndøgn in Danish, which occurs on March 20th this year.

Denmark’s dark winters aren’t as severe as in Sweden and Norway, which both experience polar nights – when the sun doesn’t rise at all for several weeks.

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