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Danes and Inequality: Private Schools and Migrants Who Sleep in Sandboxes

By Kay Xander Mellish

I was on Danish morning TV recently, which isn’t really something to boast about.  In a country of 5 million, 10 guests a show, 365 days a year – you do the math.  Just about everyone gets on TV sooner or later.   Some of my friends and colleagues mentioned that they had seen me, stumbling through with my imperfect Danish, trying to promote my book, How to Live in Denmark.  But just SOME of my friends and colleagues, not all.  Specifically, it was my friends and colleagues who work in trendy creative industries - advertising, app designers, actors.   That’s because I was on TV at 8:45 in the morning, when people in those industries are just getting out of bed in preparation to roll into the office around 10.     My friends who have more conventional office jobs, like working in a bank, have to be their desk at 9am, so some of them had seen teasers – you know, coming up next, someone who doesn’t speak Danish properly, trying to promote a book – but they hadn’t seen the show itself.    And my friends who do real, physical work had no idea I was on TV at all. Airport tarmac staff, postal carriers, builders. They start work at 7am. Or even earlier, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had your deep sleep interrupted by a Danish builder banging on something outside your house at, say, 5:30 in the morning.  My personal Danish builder wake-up record is 4:45 in the morning, during the light summer months. They were driving a motorized crane past my fifth floor window.   While there’s no official class system in Denmark, there is when it comes to working hours.  And working clothing – people who work with their hands often wear blue jumpsuits to and from work, or painters pants, or bright fluorescent vests if they work outside in the dark.  While people in the creative industries wear aggressively ugly eyeglasses, and unusual shoes, and the men have chic little Hugo Boss scarves around their necks.   Different clothes, different starting times, that’s not big news, but recently other forms of inequality have been increasing in Denmark. In fact, according to the Denmark's Statistics, the GINI coefficient, which measures inequality, has been rising faster in Denmark than in any other country in Europe.  It's now 27.9, compared with 22 at the turn of the century. 

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