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Mental Health and Work: Denmark

image of Mental Health and Work: Denmark

Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental ill-health in employment or bringing those outside of the labour market back to it, and in preventing mental illness. This report on Denmark is the third in a series of reports looking at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges identified in Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work (OECD, 2012) are being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It concludes that the Danish system has a number of strengths that have yet to be used in a more effective way, but also that quite a few changes are needed in order to raise the labour market particiption of people with mental ill-health.

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Assessment and recommendations

Mental ill-health costs the Danish economy around 3.4% of GDP every year through lost productivity, social benefits and healthcare, and poses increasing problems for the well-functioning of social and labour market policies. A few years into the Great Recession, the situation in Denmark is now characterised by a concurrence of high unemployment and high disability. Importantly, the share of mental disorders is very high among both unemployment and disability benefit claimants – at 30% and 45%, respectively – and even higher among people receiving a social assistance or long-term sickness benefit (55% and 70%, respectively). At the same time, people with a mental disorder face a considerable employment disadvantage, with a gap in employment rates of around 15 percentage points and an unemployment rate which is double the overall rate. On top of this, a large share of those who are employed struggle in their jobs, with four in five workers with a mental disorder reporting occasional reduced productivity at work compared with only one in three workers without such disorder.

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