Denmark's industrialized market economy depends on imported raw materials and foreign trade. Within the European Union, Denmark advocates a liberal trade policy. Its standard of living is among the highest in the world, and the Danes devote about 1% of the gross national product (GNP) towards foreign aid in less developed countries.
Denmark is a net exporter of food and energy, and its principal exports are machinery, instruments, and food products. The United States is Denmark's largest non-European trading partner, accounting for about 7% of total Danish merchandise trade. Aircraft, computers, machinery, and instruments are among the major U.S. exports to Denmark. Among major Danish exports to the United States are industrial machinery, chemical products, furniture, pharmaceuticals, canned ham and pork, windmills, and plastic toy blocks (Lego). In addition, Denmark has a significant services trade with the U.S., a major share of it stemming from Danish-controlled ships engaged in container traffic to and from the United States (notably by Maersk). There are well over 400 U.S.-owned companies in Denmark.
The Danish economy is fundamentally strong. Since the mid-1990s, economic growth rates have been positive, the unemployment rate is generally low and public finances are often in surplus. The recent financial crisis did also impact Denmark and currently the economy is experiencing less than one percent annual growth rates. Danes pay relatively high personal taxes – some of the highest in the EU – for an extensive welfare system.
In general Danes are proud of their welfare safety net, which ensures that all Danes receive basic health care and can avoid real poverty. However, the number of working-age Danes relying primarily on government transfer payments accounts for roughly one fourth of the working-age population. Although this number has been reduced in recent years, the heavy load of government transfer payments burdens other parts of the system. Health care, other than for acute problems, and care for the elderly and children have particularly suffered, while taxes remain at a rather high level. About one-quarter of the labor force is employed in the public sector.