University of Copenhagen, Denmark
This paper wishes to raise questions concerning the growing economic inequality in European societies and in particular its impact on frail older people and explore relevant social policies. The case study in this paper will be Denmark, a country considered an ‘outlier’ in Europe in this regard in part because of its relative low inequality, a redistributive universal pension system and its universal (and gratis) care system. The paper will show how inequality is encroaching on the Danish pensions system, albeit slowly (a pending report for a pension committee may stimulate exacerbation of the system). Crucial in this regard are the cutbacks in the care system, cutbacks which are universal in Danish municipalities, and which impact on both rich and poor alike, since there is no means testing for care. Wealthier pensioners can relatively easily find help for practical assistance (by paying for it themselves) to deal with these cutbacks. Poorer pensioners on the other hand cannot employ this strategy. They must either forego certain things or turn to informal care as substitutes. While these problems are just beginning to appear in Denmark, they are more obvious in other countries. Therefore the paper will argue that it is vital for researchers to work together to elucidate this issue in several countries and develop suggestions for securing the situation of frail elderly people of all incomes.