Since the 10th of September there has been a lot of hype surrounding a Danish welfare recipient called Robert Nielsen. He appeared on national television on Sunday the 9th of September, explaining that he has been a welfare recipient since 2001. He would not have a “Bad job (e.g. cleaning toilets)” which was the only jobs he thought was made available to him by the job centers. This resulted in that Robert Nielsen for the last two years have not had a job, and he would like that to continue. For the last 11 years he had only had two jobs. As he says in the article in Jyllands Posten (Danish Newspaper):”I must admit, that I’m doing less to find a job than other people, because I don’t need the identity that comes with a job to be happy”.
This statement has created a lot of hype in the Media, and on the different Social Medias (Facebook/Twitter) in Denmark. The general public is stunned about Robert Nielsen’s attitude towards life. The general wondering is why others should pay for his life, just because he does not need an identity through a job. Robert replies by saying that it is the way the Danish system works. If he had the choice between a “Bad job” where he is being threated unjustly and being a welfare recipient, he would prefer to be welfare recipient.
Who is Robert Nielsen? Robert Nielsen (Lazy Robert) is actually spokesman for the Nihilistic people’s party. This party’s members are characterized as provocative artists, self-centered narcissist with the need for media exposure. Robert Nielsen position as leader of this party, can explain way he need to be provocative and create hype about his person and daily life.
The politicians are now reacting to this case, and are looking at the social welfare system in Denmark. Robert Nielsen is unfortunately not a single case, other middle-aged man from Copenhagen can tell a story very similar to Robert’s. An independent think tank called Kraka found, that 240 people have been receiving social welfare for more than 10 years, based on official figures from the Danish Ministry of Employment. These 240 people are stated to be ready to work by the Danish Ministry of Employment, and have no mental or physical illness. This brings us to an estimate of 240 people like Robert Nielsen in Denmark.
This is a very bad situation for the current Danish government, and is a very big contrast to the countries struggling with poverty. Denmark is, together with the Netherlands, one of the countries with the lowest poverty rate, with a poverty rate of 13.4%. But it does not mean that it is a country without internal problems.
One way of tackling this situation is by looking at employment effort by Danish Ministry of Employment. They need to set stronger demands to the employment meetings that people like Robert Nielsen need to attend to receive social welfare. The unemployment offices need to be more effective and strict to ensure that we don’t end up with social freeloaders like Robert Nielsen. Today the demand by the employment office is to hand in two applications for a job each week, but there are no restrictions in terms of where in the country and which type of job you should apply for. This means that you in purpose can search for jobs not fitting your profile and in a different part of the country, so the change for getting a job interview is very small. This procedure need to be changed. The unemployment offices should demand more specific applications fitting to the personal profiles and geographical areas.
Of course the Danish Ministry of Employment has to change some of their central procedures, but it is also a question of a personal mindset. Robert Nielsen represents some values that I have very hard to recognize, and values which I think should not be idealized. It is important that you minimize the number of social freeloaders in a country, so everybody is contributing to the Danish welfare society. The social welfare should be applied for people how are not cable of having a normal job, because of mental or physical illnesses.
Written by Thor Bach Krarup Jensen, Nova School of Business and Economics