Church, vocal minorities and academics oppose plans to abolish public holidays, but businesses are mostly in favour

Church, vocal minorities and academics oppose plans to abolish public holidays, but businesses are mostly in favour

The new government has decided to cut one of the three public holidays that Danes enjoy every spring – the timing of all three always depends on how early or late Easter can be.

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From 2024, Denmark can expect to say goodbye to Store Bededag – Den Great Bededag, which since 1686 has represented a number of different holidays, which were then scooped up into one day: the fourth Friday after Easter.

From a religious perspective, it makes sense. The other two holidays that follow in the following month celebrate unique Christian holidays: Ascension and Pentecost.

Skewed logic?
However, the government did not cite religious reasons for its decision. Instead, it argued that the cut would improve Danish productivity at a time when there is a need to find extra revenue to finance defense spending.

“We are asking the Danes to work one more day so that we can more quickly fulfill our international defense and security policy obligations,” explained Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen yesterday.

And this reasoning has been met with disbelief by many. After all, Ascension Day traditionally falls on a Thursday, and a great many businesses remain closed until the following Monday, even though Friday is not a public holiday.

If the government had cut Ascension, it would have gained two working days – which in turn would have contributed more tangibly to productivity.

New Citizens want referendum
New Citizens are decidedly against the plans: They simply do not want the Great Prayer Day to be abolished.

Its leader, Pernille Vermund, wants the matter decided by a public referendum.

She cites a 1953 law that allows large minorities, when they strongly oppose a bill, to request a referendum. Almost 70 years ago, the minority consisted of 60 of the 179 members of the Danish Parliament.

And they will probably have support on the left. The last time the proposal to scrap a public holiday arose, in 2012, it was the Radicals who argued strongly against it.

Church worried about losing the favorite day for confirmations
The church does not like the proposal either and argues that Great Prayer Day is traditionally a popular confirmation day.

Kjeld Holm, a former bishop, warned DR of “strong public significance” and argued that Pentecost would be a much better choice.

Hans Raun Iversen, theology researcher at the University of Copenhagen, agrees that the abolition is a bad idea.

“The day off is needed. There must be room to be able to stop, take a breath and pray if you need it,” he says to DR.

Backed by business
However, business approves the plans. Dansk Industri’s deputy head Steen Nielsen claims that it will increase productivity significantly – equivalent to an additional 8,000 people in work – and take the pressure off companies to meet their workloads at a very busy time.

“It’s a helping hand for the companies that are having a hard time getting the employees they need,” he said. “Having an extra working day will mean that it will be easier to produce what is needed.”

But Professor Henning Jørgensen, labor market expert at Aalborg University, does not think that the average person on the street will enjoy working an extra day without extra pay.

“You ask people to work more. They don’t get extra pay. I think the wage earner will respond,” he said.

Source: The Nordic Page

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