Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite lingering concerns related to recent oil price declines, Norway’s economic policies are ranked among the best internationally (rank 6). Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points since 2014.

Declining petroleum and gas prices have speeded up a focus on transitioning away from dependence on oil and gas revenues. While the economy has struggled somewhat with reduced investments in the offshore industry, activity picked up again in 2017. The economy remains strong overall, although a self-imposed constraint on using oil revenues to cover current spending has been relaxed.

Labor-market policies have kept unemployment minimal and employment rates high, in part due to women’s high participation rates. After a short-term rise, unemployment rates in the extraction industries have again fallen. Income and consumption taxes are high, though corporate rates are moderate. Rising house prices and high private-debt levels are becoming an increasing concern.

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.

Social Policies

With a wide-ranging social safety net, Norway takes the SGI 2018’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 immigrants face discrimination in labor and housing markets. While the increase in immigration has become an electoral issue, there is no significant right-wing anti-immigrant political party. 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 3). Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Sensitive to environmental concerns, the country has a well-developed regulatory system on the issue. 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. Thanks to subsidies, more new electric cars were sold than new petroleum-fueled cars in 2017.

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, the state petroleum fund has said it would stop investing in petroleum-related businesses.

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.



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. 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. Access to government information is broad.

Civil rights and political liberties receive strong protections, and gender-equality provisions are robust. The #MeToo campaign disclosed instances of gender-based discrimination. 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.



Executive Capacity

Reflecting a broadly consensual society, Norway’s scores for executive capacity are in the top ranks (rank 5) worldwide. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point 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 tight deadlines can limit external influence. While implementation efficiency is generally good, slowdowns and barriers to several major reform projects have exposed difficulties.

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. An agreement normalizing government-level relations with China drew concern, as it prevents Norway from criticizing Chinese government policies on human rights and related issues.

Executive Accountability

With a wide and effective range of oversight mechanisms, Norway takes the SGI 2018’s top position (rank 1) in terms of executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points 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 and are widely respected.

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. The shift to social media and diverse platforms is undermining the informational basis for a common understanding of events.

While political parties show considerable internal democracy, membership is overall in decline. Some are experimenting with new ways of picking candidates. Economic and other civil-society organizations are both sophisticated and influential.
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