In 1998, the labor force totaled 2.86 million.. Of those employed in 2002, 79% were in service, 17% in industry, and 4% in agriculture. Unemployment stood at 5.1% in 2002. The 1982–90 period brought a 1.3% decline in agricultural employment, a slight decrease in employment in manufacturing, and a large increase in employment in services, especially government services (education, social welfare, etc.). With the aim of holding down unemployment, the government offers the option of early retirement, apprenticeship and trainee programs, and special job offerings for the long-term unemployed.
As of 2002, an estimated 80% of all wage-earners, mostly blue-collar workers and government employees, were organized in trade unions. These unions are independent of the government or political parties. Most unions are limited to particular trades. The largest affiliation is with the Confederation of Danish Labor (LO). Most workers are entitled to strike and that option is exercised often. Collective bargaining is practiced widely.
National labor agreements set a wage minimum, and a national minimum wage is legally mandated. In 2002, the lowest paid hourly wage came to $10, which was sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a family. The typical private sector workweek, as set by contract, was 37 hours in 2002, with a minimum of 11 hours between work days. The minimum age for full time work is 15 years. Health and safety standards are set by law.