Are more Danish Journalists Going Freelance?

Members of Danish Journalist Union
The developement of members if the Danish Journalist Union from 1990 – 2018 (the numbers for 2018 are only for the 1st. quarter).

Are we getting fewer or more freelance journalists in Denmark?

That is a good questions when trying to analyse whether journalism as a profession is endangered or not. In the Scandinavian countries we have a high degree of union membership, and therefore I asked Dansk Journalistforbund – Medier og Kommunikation for help with membership data.

Steen Rønnengart provided the data above regarding the number of members of the two groups within the union; communicators and freelancers. We were both interested in analysing whether there are fewer working as paid journalists for traditional media during the past app. 30 years.

As the graph above shows there are many more members of the Danish Journalist Union. And the numbers of communicators and freelance journalists seem to be growing accordingly. However, when we do a percentage calculation, a different picture emerges:

Freelance journalists
The percentage of freelancers is suprisingly stabile, however the number of communicators have tripled in percentage points the last 28 years.

I had expected the percentage of freelancers to climb just as the percentage of communicators has. However, that is not the case. So maybe my initial theory of an increasing freelance market is wrong. Denmark and the Nordic countries could be different from the rest of Europe, since we have a strong tradition for both union membership and for being an employee.

Many benefits of the Danish welfare society such as paid sick leave and paid maternity leave have not been available to freelancers. Also, the Danish rules for VAT regarding journalism are complicated and until recently you can only get unemployment benefits if you work by an hourly rate and not if you have a company. These rules have been met with great critique because – as many argue – this dampens the willingness to work freelance.

Next week, I will analyse the differences further and use the data from the large editor survey from MyNewsDesk from 2016.