Economics abroad: Denmark surpasses Sweden for world’s highest tax burden

When it comes to choosing a place to live abroad, we all know the Scandinavian countries have it made. The standard of living is high, upper education is subsidized and everyone seems to have a job and a nice living situation. But all of this comes at a price; it’s called taxes.

Sweden has long been known for its high taxes, the highest in the world in fact. But Denmark recently beat out it’s northern neighbor for first place according to Danish newspaper Dagbladet Børsen (a daily business and finance paper). Based on a figure giving by tax authorities in both countries, the Danes have the highest tax burden in the world at 48.4%, compared to the 47.8% that Swedes pay. As an interesting side note, Swedish and Danish salaries are paid in krona and krone; both countries still use their own currencies instead of the euro.

Although the percentages for taxes may seem high for those of us that don’t live in more socialized countries, the Scandinavians certainly aren’t feeling an economic burden; the standards of living in these countries is quite high. In the most recent United Nations Human Development Index, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden were all ranked in the top 15. Add to that government structures that provide for universal health care and paying near 50% for taxes seems to make a little more sense. Health care, Volvos, vikings, IKEA and moose; who wouldn’t want to live there?

What Countries Have Universal Health Care?

A few nights ago, I watched Michael Moore’s new documentary, SiCKO, which focuses its crosshair on the health care industry in the United States. At one point in the movie, Mr. Moore claims that the United States is the only “westernized” country without universal health care. Is that true?

First, what does he mean by “westernized”? Defining the “western world” can be subjective, and definitions will vary depending on what criteria is used. Are you defining it from a cultural standpoint? Political? Economical? Perhaps this is why Mr. Moore felt comfortable making such a broad generalization. Is it even possible to truly define what the “western world” really is?

Okay, forget the western world. (I think I know what he meant anyway.) What countries on our good green Earth provide some sort of universal health care for their citizens? Here they are:

Countries in blue have some type of universal health care. Countries in green are currently attempting to implement some type of universal health care. Orange countries have universal health coverage provided by United States war funding. Source. Click to enlarge.

Afghanistan*, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq*, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the United Kingdom

*Universal health coverage provided by United States war funding

There you go. Keep in mind: this is a simple list of countries that have some sort of publicly sponsored health care system. For instance, Sri Lanka may be far from having a true, working universal health care system like France, but prescription drugs are provided by a government-owned drug manufacturer. This qualifies as “some sort of publicly sponsored, universal health care system.”