Once the seat of Viking raiders and later a major north European power, Denmark has evolved into a modern, prosperous nation that is participating in the general political and economic integration of Europe. It joined NATO in 1949 and the EEC (now the EU) in 1973. However, the country has opted out of certain elements of the EU's Maastricht Treaty, including the European Economic and Monetary Union, European defense cooperation, and issues concerning certain justice and home affairs.
This thoroughly modern market economy features a high-tech agricultural sector, advanced industry with world-leading firms in pharmaceuticals, maritime shipping, and in renewable energy, and a high dependence on foreign trade. Denmark is a net exporter of food, oil, and gas and enjoys a comfortable balance of payments surplus, but depends on imports of raw materials for the manufacturing sector. Danes enjoy a high standard of living, and the Danish economy is characterized by extensive government welfare measures and an equitable distribution of income. An aging population will be a long-term issue.Denmark is a member of the EU; Danish legislation and regulations conform to EU standards on almost all issues. Despite previously meeting the criteria to join the European Economic and Monetary Union, Denmark has negotiated an opt-out with the EU and is not required to adopt the euro. Within the EU, Denmark is among the strongest supporters of trade liberalization.Denmark is experiencing a modest economic expansion. The economy grew by 1.6% in 2015 and an estimated 1.3% in 2016. The expansion is expected to continue at similar rates in 2017 and 2018. The labor market has strengthened since 2013, and unemployment stood at 4.2% in early 2017, based on the national measure. By early 2017, some sectors were experiencing difficulties attracting qualified labor. Productivity growth was significantly below the OECD average from the mid-1990s until 2011, but has increased in recent years. Improvement in productivity is needed to ensure continued growth.Denmark maintained a healthy budget surplus for many years up to 2008, but the global financial crisis swung the budget balance into deficit. The 2016 deficit was 1.4%. The government projects lower deficits in 2017 and 2018, and public debt (EMU debt) as a share of GDP is expected to decline. In 2015, household indebtedness remained relatively high at more than 292% of net disposable income, while household net worth - from private pension schemes and other assets - amounted to 497% of net disposable income.