Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War/Change of Conditions caused by the War

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Change of Conditions caused by the War

I have tried to describe the development of social ideas in Denmark up to the outbreak of the World War in August 1914. A question now remains to be discussed: How have circumstances influenced or changed these ideas during the past five years?

It is worth while to consider some salient facts which underlie all the changes that have taken place since the beginning of the war.

Denmark has not, within its small domain, the varied wealth of raw materials to be found in larger countries. It has no minerals worth mentioning, no coal fields or mines. It is an agricultural country. Industries may be and have been developed, but only by procurement of the necessary raw materials from abroad. Before the war there was a brisk foreign trade, which brought coal and other necessaries into the country and carried out large quantities of agricultural products; but during the war all this was suddenly changed. Various markets were closed; supplies from abroad were procured under ever-increasing difficulties; and certain industries were compelled to either shut down altogether or else to keep going under great disadvantages. Agriculture suffered from lack of fertilizer and cattle from lack of fodder; margarine factories lacked oil; textile factories lacked wool and cotton, etc.

When the World War broke out Denmark had a large supply of live-stock. The number of horses was 567,000, and there immediately began a large foreign sale of them at high prices. This was stopped by the government, however, and in the summer of 1917 the number was the same as it was three years before; but in July 1918 the scarcity of provender had brought it down to 545,000.

With regard to cattle, also, it was necessary to take measures to prevent a too rapid reduction of their number, which in the summer of 1914 was 2,500,000. To this end an export duty on cattle was established in 1916 for the benefit of the home market. In the summer of 1917 the number of cattle had reached the earlier mark; but here also the scarcity of fodder brought about a new loss, reducing the number to 2,100,000 in 1918. Most striking, however, was the loss in swine, of which before the war we had 2,500,000. In the summer of 1917 we had only 1,700,000. Still, even this was more than we had in 1909; but the difficulty of getting feed, coupled with the bad harvest of 1917, caused a further decrease, so that in 1918, in spite of all efforts to stimulate hog-raising, the number had fallen to 621,000, or less than a fourth of the number of four years before.

The grave condition of Danish agriculture, and the effect it necessarily had upon the food situation throughout the entire country, may be shown by the commercial statistics. The net imports of unground wheat in 1913 totalled 132,000,000 kilos; of maize, 403,000,000 kilos. The wheat imports declined from year to year, and in 1917 they totalled only 35,000,000 kilos; and in the same year the maize imports totalled only 241,000,000 kilos.

Of oilcakes of all kinds the net imports in 1913 were 585,000,000 kilos; in 1917, only 154,000,000 kilos; the import of these goods was thus only a fractional part of what it was a few years before. The imports of fats for the manufacture of margarine, which had become an important article in most households, likewise gradually decreased; in 1917 they were between a fourth and a fifth of what they were in 1913. The decrease of imports was reflected in the exports of butter, which in 1917 were only two thirds of what they had been four years before. The imports of fertilizers were also reduced and in 1917 were only a fraction of what they had been.

Of course, it was not only agriculture that suffered under these circumstances. The supply of coal fell below one-half of the normal quantity, and the people had to be most economical in the use of it. The scarcity of coal and raw materials forced many industries to shut down.

The first years of the war, however, occasioned comparatively little privation in Denmark; even 1916 was a good agricultural and commercial year. It was not until America entered the war that real trouble began. This is shown by the statistics of unemployment for 1917 and 1918. The great efforts made through commercial treaties with the belligerent countries to obtain supplies could not make up for the general scarcity. In 1916 organized workmen were unemployed 1,900,000 days; in 1917, 3,600,000 days; and the statistics for 1918, calculated on the basis of the first nine months of the year only, show a new doubling to 7,000,000 days.