In accordance with the new law, which is a result of a cross-party collaboration between the Danish government, the right-wing Danish People's Party and the left-wing Social Democrats, children as young as one year old will be placed in mandatory daycare service starting from next summer, Danish Radio reported.
The new law, which is part of a broader "ghetto agreement" to eliminate dozens of vulnerable areas rife with poverty and crime across the Scandinavian nation, states that hundreds of children will be placed in free care and education for at least 25 hours a week. This measure is estimated to set Denmark's coffers back an annual DKK 94 million ($15 million).
In this initiative targeting "ghettos" from the official ghetto list maintained by the Danish authorities, children will be given an opportunity to learn Danish from an early formative age. The children will also be introduced to Danish traditions and customs, as well as democratic norms and values. The idea is to blend them into Danish society through play and activities.
"Children who grow up in an exposed residential area do not have the same opportunities compared with their peers from other parts of the country," Minister of Children and Social Affairs Mai Mercado of the Conservative Party told the Politiken newspaper when explaining the motivation behind the decision. "If you grow up in a parallel society and do not know Danish values, then you have to learn them," she added.
Mercado ventured that a tender age is not a hindrance for adopting Danish values, as the first 1,000 days are the most important for one's formation. She stressed the importance of all children getting the same prerequisites for entering the Danish system and staying at the same level. Mercado described the initiative as "giving children a better start in life."
If the children are not enrolled in the program or if they don't participate sufficiently in compulsory programs, their parents risk losing child support.
According to Danish People's Party social rapporteur Karin Nødgaard, this should be seen as integration aid rather than a penalty.
"The parents should see this as a gift. It's not a punishment. We want to ensure that children get a certain set of values and traditions," Nødgaard told Danish Radio.
Social Democrat social rapporteur Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil admitted to pushing for still sterner rules during negotiations.
"We'd gladly go a step further, extending this policy from children in socially disadvantaged areas to vulnerable children throughout the country," Rosenkrantz-Theil said.
This measure is part of the Danish government's "ghetto plan" designed to fight parallel societies. According to the plan, Denmark should rid itself of ghettos by 2030. In another measure, the percentage of "ghetto children" in Danish institutions shall be limited by 30 percent. Still other measures include strengthened policing and tighter punishments for crimes committed in vulnerable areas, with the idea of making them a safer place for living.