Controversial Danish plan for compulsory day care; targets certain neighbourhoods
Denmark has reportedly adopted legislation making childcare mandatory for all children over the age of one who live in certain neighbourhoods, according to local media. Families who do not comply with the legislation are said to lose welfare payments as a result.
The findings are of interest to the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector as the Nordic countries, including Denmark, are frequently juxtaposed with Australia when evaluating educational spend, policy decision making, and educator training and preparation.
Danish Social Affairs Minister Mai Mercado told news agency Ritzau that the reasoning behind the decision was based on reducing an ‘achievement gap’ when children start formal schooling, saying “When some of these children start school, they risk being up to two years behind (their peers)”.
The neighbourhoods targeted in the legislation “tend to have large immigrant populations”, local media said, with some children not learning to speak Danish, placing them at a disadvantage when starting school at age six.
“We are offering a framework for learning, encouraging their language development and helping them prepare for school,” Ms Mercado reportedly said, adding that the reforms “can only be a good thing”.
The reforms, to commence from 1 July 2019, have allegedly met with harsh local criticism, with concerns about discrimination based on location, and the use of the term “ghetto”.
“It’s obscene to discriminate against people living in Denmark based on where their residence is located and whether or not they live in a so-called ‘ghetto’,” the head of Denmark’s Council for Socially Marginalised People Jann Sjursen told Ritzau.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of the Liberal (Venstre) Party announced a “zero ghetto” target by 2030. He said too many immigrants were living “concentrated in a small number of neighbourhoods”, and behaving “differently” than “the average Dane”.
Other elements the government’s so-called ‘ghetto plan’ include demolition of housing units, double punishment for certain crimes in certain areas, stricter rules regarding social welfare benefits, easier access for municipalities to residents’ data and financial incentive for municipalities to achieve high levels of integration.