Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Despite lingering concerns related to the country’s dependence on oil and gas, Norway’s economic policies are ranked among the best internationally (rank 5). Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points since 2014.

The country’s economy is engaged in a long-term transition aimed at reducing dependence on oil and gas revenues. The recent rise in oil and gas prices has smoothed this transition, but also made it more protracted. The economy remains strong overall, with robust growth and solid public finances.

Labor-market policies have kept unemployment low and employment rates high, in large part due to women’s high participation rates. Labor-market policy is proactive, with an emphasis on retraining long-term unemployed workers. Income and consumption taxes are high, though corporate rates are moderate.

The petroleum fund remains an international model with regard to transparency and resource-wealth management. With its growth, Norway has shifted from being a petro-state to an investor state. This has reduced the country’s exposure to oil price shifts, but increased its exposure to volatile financial markets. Key R&D areas include energy and ocean-related topics.

Social Policies

With a wide-ranging social safety net, Norway takes the SGI 2020’s top rank (rank 1) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.3 points since 2014.

Educational attainment is very high, though PISA scores are below average in some areas. Broad and generous social-insurance programs keep poverty rates very low. Though the universally available health care system is of high quality, reforms consolidating smaller hospitals and encouraging more cost-effective treatment have met with some protest.

Generous family benefits and gender-equality programs enable a high employment rate for women as well as a high birth rate. Resource income ensures the sustainability of the pension system, and new incentives for delaying retirement are in place.

Integration policy is well funded, but policies have been less than fully effective. Non-Western immigrants sometimes face discrimination in labor and housing markets. Integration policy is well-organized and well-funded, but non-Western immigrants continue to experience higher unemployment rates and are paid less than native Norwegians. Crime rates are quite low.

Environmental Policies

With a strong focus on renewable-energy production, Norway’s environmental policies are deemed to be among the best worldwide (rank 2). Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Highly sensitive to ecological concerns, the country has a well-developed environmental regulatory system. The rate of renewable-resource use is among the world’s highest, aided by a low population density and strong utilization of hydroelectric power. Air and water quality are very good. Strong incentives for the purchase of electric cars are provided, creating a high and rising market share.

As an oil and gas producer, Norway contributes both directly and indirectly to global CO2 emissions. Per capita energy demand and usage are high. Plans to offset emissions by buying international CO2 quotas have been criticized as an evasion of domestic obligations. However, CO2 emissions are also taxed, and emissions reductions are being promoted across the economy

The country does not have a good waste-management record, and has been internationally criticized for its whale-hunting policy. It has invested strongly in carbon-capture technologies, but these initiatives have proven difficult to take out of the research phase.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

With strong outcomes in nearly every category, Norway falls into the top group worldwide (rank 3) with regard to the quality of democracy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The country’s electoral processes are free and fair. Political-party financing is mostly public, with strong reporting requirements. Party advertisements are not allowed on TV or radio, but are allowed on digital media. The media are independent, showing considerable plurality of opinion, but digital media and particularly social media platforms are drawing audiences and advertising away from traditional media.

Civil rights and political liberties receive strong protections, and gender-equality provisions are robust, but the labor market remains strongly segregated by gender and occupation. Some labor-market discrimination against immigrants persists, despite being illegal. The legal system is transparent, predictable and respected, but can be very slow.

Corruption is rare, with considerable social stigma attached. However, some corruption related to overseas Norwegian business activities has emerged in recent years.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Reflecting a broadly consensual society, Norway’s scores for executive capacity are in the top ranks (rank 4) worldwide. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Careful strategic planning, with participation by experts, guides decision-making. The Ministry of Finance is a key actor in long-term planning, while the Office of the Prime Minister coordinates rather than evaluates policies, working closely with line ministries. Cabinet cohesion is strong, and the coalition-government tradition necessitates coordination among coalition members.

RIAs are frequently performed but not mandatory. Stakeholders are integrated in the legislative process, with societal consensus the goal, though increasingly compressed decision-making times can limit external influence. Governance is highly digitized. While implementation efficiency is generally good, a gradual decline in government effectiveness has been seen in some areas.

Policy is becoming increasingly centralized at the state level, with some tension over the extent of local governments’ discretionary powers. While not an EU member, Norway adopts much of that entity’s legislation. The increase in geopolitical tensions is proving a challenge to Norwegian foreign policy, as it is becoming more difficult for smaller states to wield influence.

Executive Accountability

With a wide and effective range of oversight mechanisms, Norway takes the SGI 2020’s top position (rank 1) in terms of executive accountability. Its score in this area is unchanged relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have access to party-based support staff, and have broad executive-oversight powers. Governments strongly respect the legislative right to access information. The audit and ombuds offices, both parliamentary bodies, act independently, but ombuds recommendations are often disregarded. A decades-old data-protection authority monitors both public and private organizations on privacy issues.

The population remains generally well-informed about policy, although traditional media organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain staffing levels and produce high-quality content. Power and resources are shifting from the professionally edited media to new digital actors and unedited social media.

Political parties show considerable internal democracy, with some experimenting with new ways of picking candidates. While membership is overall in decline, political parties remain strong organizations compared to counterparts elsewhere in Europe. Economic and other civil-society organizations are both sophisticated and influential.
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