Norway

   

Social Policies

#1
Key Findings
With a wide-ranging social safety net, Norway takes the SGI 2019’s top rank (rank 1) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 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. 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.

Education

#8

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
7
Norway has a tradition of very high education attainment. The Norwegian labor force is one of the most educated in the world, as measured by the share of its working population that has completed secondary or tertiary education. Like other Scandinavian countries, the Norwegian government spends a comparatively significant share of its budget on public education. The emphasis of the primarily public school system is on free access and ensuring equal opportunities. Students with difficulties in learning or socialization receive a high level of attention.

In spite of the high levels of educational attainment, there are shortcomings evident within the system. The share of degrees granted in scientific disciplines is low by international standards, which limits the impact of public investment in education on the country’s competitiveness and capacity for innovation. It is also worrying that a significant share of youth who start a course of education drop out before completing their degree programs.

Another source of major concern is the quality of education in certain subject areas. In the OECD’s PISA study, Norwegian students’ performance was below the OECD average in mathematical, problem-solving and scientific knowledge. In order to improve these performances, the country’s teaching establishment may need to put greater emphasis on providing students with incentives to achieve, improving teaching quality and instilling a culture of excellence.

Social Inclusion

#1

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
9
Like other Scandinavian countries, Norway is a relatively equitable society. Poverty rates are among the lowest in the world. The Norwegian government has assumed responsibility for supporting the standard of living of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. As a result, expenditures for social policy are well above the EU average. Government-provided social insurance is strong in almost all areas. Family-support expenditures exceed 3% of GDP, in the form of child allowances, paid-leave arrangements and child care. Social-insurance spending related to work incapacity (disability, sickness and occupational injury benefits) is also generous.

As Norway’s population is becoming increasingly heterogeneous, debates regarding the rules governing access to welfare benefits, the level of such benefits, and whether it should be possible to export benefits have grown. Increased immigration and unemployment rates are also likely to increase inequalities which, though having increased somewhat in the last decade, remain low compared to many other European countries, the United States and China.

Health

#9

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
7
Norway has an extensive health care system, providing high-quality services to its resident community for free. All residents have a right to publicly provided economic assistance and other forms of community support while ill. Health care for mothers and children is especially good, as is the case in other Scandinavian countries. Infant mortality is the sixth-lowest in the world. Per capita health expenditures in Norway are more than 50% higher than the OECD average. The country’s total health care expenditures total about 12% of GDP, a third more than the OECD average. The public share of this expenditure in Norway is also high, with the government financing 84% of health care spending.

Although the entire population has access to high-quality health care services, the efficiency of this system is questionable. A major structural health care reform introduced in 2002 transferred ownership of all public hospitals from individual counties to the central state. This shift involved the creation of new and larger health care regions that were tasked with managing the delivery of services delivery, but without ownership. The reform objective was to institute a stricter budget discipline by streamlining health care services and promoting regional coordination. In recent years, new reforms have been introduced, closing down or integrating several smaller hospitals with larger hospitals, and encouraging more cost-effective treatment and equitable access to expertise. However, this reform has met with some local protest, as citizens prefer not to have to travel too far to a hospital

Families

#6

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
9
The labor-market participation rate for women in Norway is among the highest in the world; at above 70%, it is only slightly lower than the participation rate for men. However, there is still a gender segregation in the labor market, with much of the increase in women’s employment rates coming in the form of public-sector and/or part-time jobs. The fertility rate is close to two children per woman, just below the replacement rate. As such, it ranks among the highest such rates in Europe.

The country’s family policy is oriented toward promoting equal opportunity and an equitable representation of women in leadership positions, particularly in political and business settings. There is a 12-month maternal/paternal leave program that provides parents with 80% of their salary. Six of the weeks are reserved for the father. These reforms have increased paternal involvement in the first years of children’s lives (about 90% of fathers now take these six weeks).

Government policy treats married and unmarried couples in a nondiscriminatory way. For example, tax declarations for labor income are filed individually, irrespective of whether a citizen is married or not. Informal cohabitation, as compared to formal marriage, is widespread. Almost all new unions start in informal cohabitation, and about half of the country’s children are born to unmarried parents. About one in 10 children are born to single mothers, and institutional support for these women (e.g., the provision of day care and cash transfers) is stronger than in most countries.

Pensions

#1

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
9
Aging represents a significant challenge for public finances in Norway, as across all European countries. Nevertheless, Norway’s pension system is fairly well-positioned to sustain an aging population, based on current expectations, over the next few decades. With birth rates that have been persistently high by European standards, the demographic burden is less than in most comparable countries. However, since pensions in Norway are fairly generous, the burden on public finance remains high. Future pensions are essentially guaranteed by the massive savings accumulated in the oil fund, which since 2006 has been officially renamed the Government Pension Fund – Global (Statens pensjonsfond – Utland), although this is not a pension fund as such.

A pension reform passed in 2009 came into effect in 2011. This has further strengthened the sustainability of the system. The crux of the reform was to introduce more choice and flexibility into the system in terms of retirement, while adding new mechanisms of gradual demographic adjustment. One major goal, in addition to improving financial sustainability, was to redesign contribution and benefit rules so as to encourage employment and discourage early retirement. This reform was carefully prepared, starting with the appointment of a cross-party pension commission in 2001; this body reported its findings in 2004, leading to a five-year process of political implementation that culminated in the 2009 reform, which drew widespread approval. During the process, the proposed reform was criticized as being “too little, too late,” but that criticism has largely subsided today. The government recently created incentives for older citizens to postpone their retirement age from 67 to 70 years.

Pensions are by international comparison generous and equitable, and are set to remain so. The universal basic minimum pension is large enough to essentially eliminate the risk of poverty in old age. The recent reform has strengthened the link between contributions and benefits for earnings-related pensions, while improving the system’s intergenerational equity. The population has broad confidence in the sustainability of state-funded pensions, and there has been no significant push for private sector pension insurance. However, there are concerns that funding the scheme will prove increasingly costly in the long run.

Integration

#6

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
8
Integration policy is fairly well-organized and well-funded in Norway, but the effects of immigration represent a challenge, and policies have to date been less than fully effective. The key policy target is to ensure access to education and employment for immigrants. Non-Western immigrants experience higher unemployment rates and lower wages than native Norwegians, and there are complaints of discrimination in both the labor and housing markets. Though Norway is more successful in integrating immigrants into the labor market than many other countries.

Immigration and integration policies are increasingly contested, and were one of the key issues during the recent elections. There is some social unrest related to problems faced by second- and third-generation immigrants. In 2011, a terrorist attack damaged a government building in the center of Oslo as well as the youth camp run by the Labor Party on the island of Utoeya. This terrorist attack was carried out by a Norwegian right-wing extremist.

And although many voters are expressing concerns regarding immigration, Norway does not have a significant political party on the political far right pursuing an openly xenophobic or anti-immigration policy. Increased immigration in 2015 and 2016, due to the civil war in Syria, has added to this. However, in 2017, Norway experienced a significant drop in the number of immigrants arriving.

Integration policies include free language training and additional school resources allocated to immigrant children. Some of these resources are devoted to preserving cultural identity. For instance, children are offered additional classes in their mother tongue. The acquisition of Norwegian citizenship is relatively quick. Applicants must have lived in the country for at least seven out of the last 10 years, and either be fluent in Norwegian or have attended courses in Norwegian (or Sami) for 300 hours. Immigrants with permanent residence status are entitled to vote in local elections.

An autonomous Directorate of Integration was created in 2006, distinct from the preexisting Directorate of Immigration and Integration, a change that was generally regarded as a sensible and successful reform. However, the challenges of multiculturalism stemming from immigration remain relatively unfamiliar in this traditionally homogenous society, and policies remain unsettled and in some respects immature. For example, the country continues to deny the right to dual citizenship. Islam has become the largest non-Christian religious denomination.

The country’s “old minorities,” mainly the aboriginal Sami population, have in the course of two or three decades gone from facing severe discrimination to a state of equity and integration. This status has been institutionalized in their formal recognition as an aboriginal people, with group rights written into the constitution and the creation of a Sami parliament, elected by the Sami population, which possesses some legislative authority.

Safe Living

#2

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
9
Norway is traditionally a safe country. The country’s security is not seriously threatened by crime. For example, the number of homicides per capita is the third-lowest in the world, and incarceration rates are also small. Police presence is rarely significant, and incidents of police activism are rare. In general, police officers continue to be unarmed. However, police officers have been armed during periods of heightened security risk. Prison sentences are relatively mild, and Norway has relied instead on long-term crime-prevention policies. Theft and petty crimes are relatively infrequent, although there has been some concern over increasing levels of narcotics- and gang-related crimes. There is a perception that knife- and gun-related crimes are increasing in frequency and brutality. In recent years, various reforms have sought to enhance cooperation between various police and intelligence units, both internally and with respect to cross-border cooperation.

In the aftermath of the 22 July 2011 terrorist assaults on the government compound in Oslo and the summer camp of the Labor Party youth organization, the police service was severely criticized for not having put necessary precautions in place. This revealed shortcomings in police organization and logistics, including a low capacity for planning and implementation within the central police directorate. Notable improvements have since been made, including efforts to make better use of resources by requiring the police and military to coordinate their resources allocated for anti-terrorism measures and situations requiring special forces. Police reforms are ongoing.

Global Inequalities

#3

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
8
Norway is a leading contributor to bilateral and multilateral development cooperation activities, as well as to international agencies focusing on development issues. Many Norwegian NGOs play a prominent role in international aid. Norway has further strengthened such policies by increasing its spending and promoting specific initiatives (e.g., education for women, the fight against deforestation and the sustainable development of oceans).

Norway’s activities in these areas actively seek to combat poverty, exclusion and discrimination. On the other hand, it maintains a high level of protectionism with respect to the import of agricultural products.

As a response to the increased number of migrants arriving in Europe, the link between development in fragile societies and developments in domestic politics has become firmer. There is a growing awareness of the need for social support measures as part of creating a safe and secure society.
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