Is Denmark A Multicultural Society?

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Introduction

Multicultural societies are characterized in the same community by people of various races, ethnicity, and nationalities alike. Multiculturalism can occur on a national scale, or within the communities of a nation. People retain, pass, celebrate, and share their unique cultural ways of life, languages, art, traditions, and behaviours in multicultural communities. The society maintains, respects, and even promotes culture. Not only does it enhance itself but it also allows various cultures to peacefully coexist. Multiculturalism is the key to achieving a high degree of cultural diversity.[footnoteRef:1] In the era of globalization, countries are more and more closely linked, and different ethnic groups have more and more frequent contacts. In this case, multiculturalism is becoming more and more important. It is conducive to improving people's awareness of their own culture, promoting exchanges and progress among different cultures, and promoting mutual respect and common development of people all over the world. [1: Longley, Robert. 'What Is Multiculturalism? Definition, Theories, and Examples.' ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-multiculturalism-4689285.]

Multiculturalism has been most commonly invoked in societies where different cultural communities live together: The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Yugoslavia, and, more recently, Britain, Germany, and France.[footnoteRef:2] How about Denmark? In recent years, a large number of immigrants have come to Denmark. However, Denmark is not a multicultural society. At least not yet. As an exchange student in Denmark, by discussing this issue, I can better understand Danish policy and the attitude of Danes towards multiculturalism. [2: Rita Chin. (2017) The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe: A History: Princeton University Press, pp.8]

The purpose of this essay is clear. I try to analyse the reason why Denmark is not a multicultural society. The essay is organised as follows. First, I discuss the mutual restriction between immigration and Denmark. Next, I will analyse the attitude of Danes towards multiculturalism. I finally conclude the first two points and express my positive attitude towards Danish multicultural society.

Analysis of the mutual restriction between immigration and Denmark

Denmark is in many ways a very homogeneous society by international standards, in terms of both ethnicity and religion.[footnoteRef:3] In 2005, 85 per cent of the Danish population were members of the State Lutheran Church, and Islam was the second largest religion with 3 per cent.[footnoteRef:4] Over the years, more and more immigrants have come to Denmark to settle down and live here. But that doesn't mean Denmark is moving towards a multicultural society. Not only immigration affects Denmark, but some of Denmark's increasingly strict restrictions on immigration and social integration are also affecting a large number of immigrants. To some degree, immigration is a threat to the Danish welfare state. Denmark has always been famous for its welfare system. The Danish government has done an outstanding job in terms of national happiness and satisfaction. However, non-Western immigration tends to weaken the foundation of the welfare state in Denmark. An assessment of the net costs of immigration suggested that in 2010 immigrants and descendants from ‘less developed countries’ cost the Danish state 4 billion and 11.7 billion DKK respectively. However, the group of descendants is relatively young which will both involve fewer costs and larger contributions later in their lives.[footnoteRef:5] Due to the low level of employment, it is difficult for non-Western immigrants to integrate into the labour market. This means that the higher the number of years that an immigrant has lived in Denmark, the more the unemployment insurance costs. Due to the Danish labour market system, those who do not have work but who still wish to receive unemployment benefits are obliged to follow a range of ‘activation courses’, i.e. courses offered to prepare the individual for the labour market, assist in job applications, or upgrade an applicant’s skills. As a consequence, women may spend years participating in one course after another on topics such as Danish, sewing, computers, labour market preparation, etc. Although some women found such courses useful, others considered them an unnecessary waste of time that was completely irrelevant to their general goals in life.[footnoteRef:6] These phenomena show that non-Western immigrants lead to an increase in social welfare expenditure. The loss is the biggest, but the contribution to Danish Society is the smallest. Therefore, the Danish government has reason to restrict the integration of immigrants into Danish Society, tighten immigration requirements and reduce the social welfare of immigrants. [3: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 192] [4: Kærgård, Niels (2010), ‘Social cohesion and the transformation from ethnic to multicultural society: The case of Denmark’, Ethnicities, 10 (4), pp. 470–87.] [5: Regeringens arbejdsgruppe om udredning af indvandringens økonomiske konsekvenser (2011), Indvandringens økonomiske konsekvenser. ] [6: Marianne Holm Pedersen (2012) Going on a Class Journey: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Iraqi Refugees in Denmark, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38:7, 1101-1117]

Western European and Nordic countries have traditionally embraced welfare systems very strongly. All people are like a big family with a sense of shared belonging and identification. The social cohesion of some Western European and Nordic countries is therefore very high, as is the case in Denmark. Nevertheless, this common sense of belonging and identification seems to some extent weakened by immigration. Immigration means different races are going to live in the same country. Immigrants are also bringing new and different cultures. They know neither the race nor the culture of each other. This contributes to mutual distrust and thereby decreases social cohesion. A focal point in recent Danish debates on integration and immigration is the significance attached to social cohesion. This subject has played an increasingly important role since former Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Social Democrat) began in the late 1990s to express concern for ‘cohesion’ as the glue that holds society together. With the election of the Liberal-Conservative coalition in 2001 social cohesion became ‘ethnicized’, in the sense that ethnic and other forms of diversity became regarded as a threat to social cohesion.[footnoteRef:7] It can be seen that social cohesion is of great significance for a welfare country like Denmark. They don't want a society with no sense of trust, no sense of belonging and no sense of identity. To preserve a high degree of social cohesion, they want to avoid cultural and religious differences brought by immigrants. [7: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 196]

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It is precisely due to the above-mentioned impact of immigration on Denmark that the Danish government has adopted policies to restrict immigration in recent years, which also have an impact on immigration. Thus, applicants need a certain number of points to qualify with points being obtained in four categories: education, work experience, language qualifications and ‘other’.[footnoteRef:8] This means that applicants who want to immigrate to Denmark need to pass some tests and meet some conditions. Improve the requirements of applicants to ensure the quality of immigrants. Only in this way can immigrants be able to contribute to and benefit Denmark to a certain extent, rather than causing losses to Denmark. Moreover, highly educated and experienced immigrants are more likely to accept new things and new cultures and integrate into Danish society. This also limits the migration of some people with low education level and lack of experience in Denmark. [8: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 193]

Immigration is an important factor in multiculturalism. Because of the existence of immigrants, there will be a variety of cultures, bringing fresh blood to the local, to collide, integrate and finally realize multiculturalism. However, it can be seen from the above two points that immigrants and Denmark are still in a state of mutual restriction, which also limits Denmark's access to multicultural culture. There is still a long way to go before Denmark becomes a multicultural society.

Analysis of the Danish attitudes

In a survey of twenty-seven countries carried out in 2003 by the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), Denmark came out as the country most opposed to multiculturalism: 77 per cent believed that it is best for a country if different races and ethnic groups adapt and blend into the society that surrounds them, whereas 11 per cent responded that it is best for a country if these groups maintain their distinctive customs and traditions.[footnoteRef:9] It seems that Danes hope that immigrants can give up their own traditions and culture, fully integrate into Danish society, and become a real Dane. But multiculturalism does not mean total assimilation. In the process of collision and integration of different cultures, both sides need to try new cultures and new things, rather than only immigrants to adapt to the local society, and local people still live with the original culture. [9: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 202]

Danes are more worried about threats to the economy and the welfare state than about threats to Danish culture.[footnoteRef:10] This echoes the point I made earlier. People in the welfare state attach great importance to social cohesion. Rather than influence their own culture, they hope that immigrants can also maintain a high degree of social cohesion. While Danes have been pushing for more restrictive immigration and integration policies, there is now evidence that they are content with the present level of restrictions.[footnoteRef:11] Because of the influence of immigration on Denmark, the immigration and integration policy in Denmark has become more and more strict in recent years. It can be seen from the Danish's support and satisfaction that they also hope to have more high-quality immigrants to Denmark, which can contribute to Danish Society, promote the development of Denmark and consolidate social cohesion together. [10: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 206] [11: Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 208]

It can be seen from the above points that Danes do not completely reject the multicultural phenomenon brought about by immigration. Everyone hopes that their country will become better and better, especially the people in the welfare state. They trust each other with the government and have high social cohesion. So, they also have high expectations for immigrants, hoping to have immigrants who really love Denmark and can contribute to Denmark. Their attitude is actually positive, which is also conducive to Denmark's development into a multicultural society in the future.

Conclusion

As a result, it can be seen from Denmark's immigration restriction policy and the attitude of Danes towards multiculturalism that Denmark cannot be called a multicultural society at present. On the other side, Denmark is expected to become a multicultural society. Due to time constraints, the analysis is not comprehensive enough, there are certain limitations. However, I have a positive attitude towards Denmark becoming a multicultural society. Based on strict policies, the Danish government can encourage immigrants and local people to understand each other and eliminate their estrangement and mistrust. Denmark should also look at multiculturalism from an international perspective, rather than just from a Western perspective, which is more conducive to solving the immigration problem and promoting the realization of multiculturalism.

Bibliography

  1. Dorte Skot-Hansen (2002) Danish cultural policy--from Monoculture towards Cultural Diversity, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 8:2, 197-210,
  2. Longley, Robert. 'What Is Multiculturalism? Definition, Theories, and Examples.' ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-multiculturalism-4689285.
  3. Kærgård, Niels (2010), ‘Social cohesion and the transformation from ethnic to multicultural society: The case of Denmark’, Ethnicities, 10 (4), pp. 470–87.
  4. Marianne Holm Pedersen (2012) Going on a Class Journey: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Iraqi Refugees in Denmark, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38:7, 1101-1117
  5. Nils Holtug (2013). “Danish Multiculturalism, Where Art Thou?”, in Raymond Taras (ed.) Challenging Multiculturalism, European Models of Diversity: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 192-208
  6. Regeringens arbejdsgruppe om udredning af indvandringens økonomiske konsekvenser (2011), Indvandringens økonomiske konsekvenser. Available at http://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Nyheder/Pressemeddelelser/Integrationsministeriet/2011/April/udlaendingeplitikken_sparer_aarligt_staten_for_mia.htm
  7. Rita Chin. (2017) The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe: A History: Princeton University Press, pp.8
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Is Denmark A Multicultural Society? (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/is-denmark-a-multicultural-society/
“Is Denmark A Multicultural Society?” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/is-denmark-a-multicultural-society/
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