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How many foreigners are in Denmark’s top 1% of earners?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
How many foreigners are in Denmark’s top 1% of earners?
Danish banknotes being printed. How many foreigners are among the country's top earners? File photo: Handout/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

You need an annual income of at least 1.9 million kroner to be in Denmark’s top one percent of high earners. So, who qualifies and where are they from?


The most common characteristics of Denmark’s top earners are that they are aged between 50 and 54, are male and were born in Denmark.

But over 8 percent of the country’s top 1 percent of earners were born abroad, demonstrating the contribution made by foreigners at the very top end of Denmark’s wealth scale.

Earlier this year, Danish thinktank the Economic Council of the Labour Movement (ECLM) reported, based on Statistics Denmark figures, that the 1 percent of people with the highest pre-tax incomes in Denmark earn around 1.9 million kroner annually, before tax is deducted.

That corresponds to around 160,000 kroner per month.

The average wage for the top 1 percent is 4.1 million kroner pre-tax, according to the ECLM report. The thinktank noted that the proportion of Denmark’s total personal income that goes to the top 1 percent has grown over the years, and is now over 9 percent for the first time. It was 7.4 percent a decade ago and 6.3 percent in 2003.


Data provided to The Local by Statistics Denmark show that some 91 percent, or 41,280 people, in the top 1 percent of earners were born in Denmark.

The data for income is drawn from people over the age of 20. It accounts for the highest total pre-tax incomes in 2021 including earnings from businesses they may own, existing capital and money transfers, as well as regular salaries.

So which countries do the remaining 3,916 people – just under 9 percent – among Denmark’s top earners come from?

The category øvrig udland or “other foreign country” accounts for some 1,384 of the top 1 percent of earners, around 3 percent. So the second-largest category for nationalities is not specific.

The rest of the data provide interesting insights into high earners in Denmark. No other country contributes more than 1 percent of the top 1 percent of earners, but there are three – the UK, Germany and Sweden – with over 0.7 percent, or 403, 348 and 345 people respectively.

Just behind is the United States with 294 people or 0.65 percent of the 1 percent.

These numbers show that the proportions of people of these nationalities among the top earners are higher than their proportions among the general Danish population.


For example, there were 18,110 British nationals living in Denmark in the second quarter of 2023 according to the Statistics Denmark databank. The country’s population is 5,941,388 according to latest figures. As such, the proportion of Britons in the Danish population is 0.3 percent, lower than the proportion of UK nationals who are top earners.

For Germany, Sweden and the United States, the corresponding numbers are, respectively, 39,665 (0.66 percent); 17,477 (0.29 percent) and 12,109 (0.2 percent).

Speculatively, it is possible that this reflects the reasons people of these nationalities have for moving to Denmark. For example, the United States and India, which also appears on the list, have a lot of highly-educated immigrants who work in high-earning professions in Denmark, such as the IT engineering or tech industries.

It should be noted that the general population also includes people under the age of 20 and therefore not part of the income statistics.

The data also reveal a huge gap between the number of men and women – regardless of nationality – who are in the top 1 percent of earners in Denmark.

Some 36,969 of the 45,196 top earners are men. That corresponds to 81.7 percent. As such, 8,227 or less than 19 percent of Denmark’s top 1 percent of earners are women.

The age of the top earners is distributed relatively normally. For both men and women, the age group with the most top earners is 50-54 years, followed by 55-59 years (men) and 45-49 years (women).


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