Bringing up the £200K baby: What Would Borgen Do?

Childcare costs more expensive than Eton” screams the Daily Torygraph headline.

Never mind Eton, nursery fees maxing out at a whopping £42K a year, with an average of £11K, are now way beyond the reach of anyone on the minimum wage – the very people most in need of affordable childcare.

Now, here in Our Green and Pleasant Land, we like to think of ourselves as a pretty decent bunch, really. So why is it that, as soon as someone’s over a barrel – someone else can be sure to waste no time in finishing them off completely?

Too much month left at the end of your money? No problem! Just click here and 500 quid is yours…at 4000% interest. KERCHING!

Can’t afford to live near work? No problem! Save thousands by moving miles away – then pay it all back on Europe’s highest rail fares. KERCHING!

And the most sinister of all – the one problem you can’t just walk away from: Children. You either have them or you don’t. You do have some? No problem! Let someone else look after them while you work. BUT – on the average wage – you’ll have to fork out around a quarter of your pay packet to foot the bill. KERCHING!

A quick calculation reveals that, once you’ve paid off Don Corleone, the Fat Controller and Mary Poppins, you’re likely back to square one: still plenty of month left.

Depressed? You should be!

So let’s consult the Oracle: What Would Borgen Do?

According to  ‘Over a Barrel’ equates to being helpless, in someone’s power.  An American phrase that first appeared in the mid-20th century, it alludes to the actual situation of being draped over a barrel, either to be given a flogging or to empty the lungs of someone who has been close to drowning.

Britannia must have stopped reading half way through and gone straight for the flogging option.

In contrast, Borgen seems to have persevered to the end of the paragraph and opted to empty the lungs of those who have been close to drowning.

Danes simply can’t face 4000% interest. Usury – i.e. interest rates that make you laugh – are a criminal offense in Denmark. In fact, 21 EU countries have laws against such practices. Britain has no usury laws and ministers have just blocked a move to cap sky-high interest rates. That should also make you laugh. Hysterically.

As for the extortionate cost of your travel card, see the previous blog post for details of the UK’s perplexing pricing structure, compared with the “IKEA version”.

So, what about childcare – Borgen style?Borgen’s ‘all day’ childcare costs parents about £200-£300 a month, a fraction of the actual cost. Danish parents spend, on average, 7% of their income on childcare, UK mums and dads spend 27% – or four times as much – of theirs.

That’s one hell of a difference, so let’s examine if Brits get four times more care for their cash?

BRITAIN: In the UK, you need a minimum of 2 GCSEs to qualify as a child carer and you’re likely to get paid around £14K a year. Some claim that, in Britain, more qualifications are needed to look after animals than toddlers.

BORGEN: The majority of Danish childcare practitioners hold degrees in child development and earn around £25,000 – £40,000 a year. This focus on highly-qualified staff enables Denmark to maintain less statutory regulation on ratios, inspection and the curriculum. The system pretty much looks after itself and so, it costs less to run.

But how do they do that?!


Danes may pay upwards of 50% in your actual direct tax but, in return, they contribute just 25% of the costs of a day care place. The Town Hall throws in the remaining 75%. The same goes for health,education, transport – but that’s for another day.

And yet, Denmark spends only slightly more of its national income on children and families than Britain (DK=1.3% of GDP, UK=1.1% of GDP) but it devotes a much greater proportion to parental leave and childcare.

To quote Liam Byrne, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: “The Danes are squeezing more daycare out of the same money than we are – because they have a different mixture of services rather than cash injections.”

In other words, Borgen gets more bang for its buck, while wimpish British politicians are petrified at suggesting even a tincy wincy tax hike to voters, for fear of being ditched at the next election – even though they know it makes all the sense in the world.

So, there we have it; the flatpack approach to childcare, Borgen style. More integrated and viewed as the key part of the whole education system.  There’s a clear line to who’s actually responsible for delivering it – so no buck-passing. Compare this to the UK, where support for childcare comes from a dizzying array of different funding streams in different departments.

So, it looks as if we can safely chalk this up as another omnishambles then. Between them, Boy George, Call-me-Dave, the Cleggmeister and the Ginger Rodent seem hell-bent on perfecting the technique.

And can someone please work out what the REAL rate of UK “tax” is, once all these hidden charges in the smallprint are taken into account?

In all probability, it would reveal that our Scandi neighbours have a good deal more money than month left for fun stuff than the Brits. Which could be why they’re happier.


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