When I first came to Denmark, I stayed with my best friend. Her brother, who had just been fired, was also living with her. Every morning, he would put on a suit as if he was going to work and spend the day at a cafe. He was so relaxed. It seemed like a luxury to be laid off.
His behavior was totally foreign to me. In Italy, where I’m from, I’d be desperate to find a new job. So I asked him why he was so calm. Why wouldn’t I be? he said.
He was still collecting 80% of his previous salary, and would for two years, thanks to a Danish benefit called dagpenge. He felt no bitterness toward his former employer, nor was his employer squeamish about dismissing him, knowing he’d be taken care of and unlikely to complain, or sue. What’s more, when not sipping a latté, my friend’s brother was actively retraining himself, taking classes to learn new, useful skills that appealed to him—all on the government’s dime. That may seem like a hefty tab for taxpayers to pick up, but it ensured that his next job would be a better fit, guarding against the far greater economic risk of repeat unemployment. The message was: Take your time, we need you to be stable, employed, and happy.
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