Norway has been declared the happiest country on earth. The country’s efforts to build equality and trust is two of the reasons why its people are becoming happier. Norway also has the best welfare system in the Nordics, which is another result of trust. Sustainable Develop Solutions Network’s 2017 World Happiness Report says that Nordics are the most content, and this level of happiness is leading to a very prosperous Norway. Even confidence in government is high because of social trust and an economy that is running well.
When compared to the United States, Norway is far ahead in the realm of happiness. Unfortunately, U.S. citizens are experiencing inequality, corruption within the government, and distrust. Economically, the U.S. has seen a rebound, and this is benefitting Americans in some way. However, some experts state that the economic measures being pursued by President Donald Trump could lead to a negative effect, and that is causing strong distrust among citizens.
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Looking deeper at what is occurring in the U.S., people are being kicked off the healthcare rolls and senior programs are being cut so that military spending can be increased. Norway is the complete opposite, as funds go into the people rather than other initiatives.
The Norwegian Welfare Model
Norwegians have a lot of faith in the pension system, the healthcare system, welfare availability, and support for unemployed individuals. Plus, Norwegians don’t work as much, at least when compared to the U.S. where the average age of a 40-hour per week laborer is 49 years old. Approximately 20 percent of these workers worked more than 60 hours per week. Norwegians, however, work approximately 37 hours per week and the workday ends at approximately 4 p.m., allowing time for other activities. Norwegians also have time for lengthy vacations away from work. Personal loans are a popular option for financing these vacations.
Compared to the U.S., Norwegians have more time to spend with their families, go on a hike before the sun goes down, have a drink with friends, or watch TV. There’s also greater job satisfaction and seamless refinancing opportunities. All of these factors contribute to healthier lifestyles, and, of course, healthier people are happier people.
Looking at mothers and their children, they even lead healthier and happier lives. Norway is the top state for its welfare system. Fewer women die from childbirth, fewer children die before the age of 5, and the average annual income is $56,120. Women also play a larger role in the government compared to other countries with 39 percent of the seats being held by women.
The Norwegian Welfare Model works because it is deeply committed to democracy and equality. Trying to have one without the other is impossible. It’s a system that is smart and simple. It takes a step away from the capitalist model that is used by America, which the rest of the world now sees as the most unequal country among developed countries. From the outside, it doesn’t appear to be the democracy it once was. Norway has embraced democracy but looked for a middle path, especially being geographically placed in an area where it is between the hot and cold wars waged by other countries.
After finding the right path, Norway established a system that makes capitalism cooperative so that wealth is redistributed equitably. As time has progressed, the bad ideas have been thrown out and the good ideas have been embraced. Capitalist enterprises are strictly monitored, and there are many factors that determine working conditions and wages so that people can be as free as possible and still create wealth. The con is the high income tax, but it funds the universal welfare system that benefits every resident. The confederations in Norway also work strategically to shrink the disparity between lower-wage jobs and higher-wage jobs. This has placed the country at the top of the list of income-equal countries.
Capitalism That Works
When looking at the capitalist aspect of Norway, its capitalism works for the people. The government that the people elect ensures this is the case, which is why the government has earned the trust of its people. Parliament is also committed to maintaining the welfare state that is working for the people, which manifests confidence and security among citizens.
Norway hasn’t seen some of the reversals that the American model has seen, such as the elimination of organized labor. Norway has labor unions that work for their workers. There’s also no policies created that favor the interests of a certain class, sector, company, or industry. This eliminates much of the corruption seen in other countries.
When compared to a “free marketplace” system where people have the freedom to create their own business and then it’s their own fault for being dealt losses, Norway gives its people freedom from the market by using capitalism differently. Capitalism is a tool that is designed to benefit the whole. This ensures that the people don’t become trapped by those with a motive to profit, giving people the ability to follow their dreams instead of being stifled by larger entities with less-than-pure motives. In other words, the people of Norway can follow their bliss.
Why aren’t some areas of the world hearing more about the Norwegian Welfare Model, which is the secret behind Norway being the happiest country in the world? It’s because some politicians don’t want to acknowledge that capitalism can be used as a tool to help the whole rather than a tool to help the wealthy.
The Norwegian model is universal, so it is there to help the elderly, sick, poor, and anyone else needing help. Since it is universal, it isn’t seen as a charity like the welfare systems in other parts of the world. In other words, a person receiving welfare isn’t seen as poor socially, which helps avoid social stigmas. Welfare is a right and not an “entitlement.” This is another element of equality that Norway exercises.
Equality in Norway
And speaking of equality, this is something that Norway has deeply embraced because equality leads to happiness. Happy citizens are more productive. Men and women enjoy equal footing in the workplace. There is no “wage gap” since pay is based on skill and a variety of other factors that both men and women are judged upon. When women fought for these rights in Norway in the 1970s, the men in Parliament didn’t wage a war on them. By setting women free from the constraints of the “nuclear family” and giving them the same rights as men, the family unit becomes more authentic. Both parents receive paid leave, which allows the parents to be there with their children when needed. This makes Norwegian parents, particularly mothers, less overwhelmed than mothers in other parts of the developed world.
In fact, the equality given to working men and women has resulted in happier children. Save the Children says that Norway is the best country in the world to raise children.
The Bottom Line
While there are some countries that will criticize the Norwegian Welfare Model, there is plenty of evidence to show that it is working. The government has worked hard to earn the trust of its people by doing what they want. This is important since all the people want is to be happy, and, deservedly so, Norway has earned the title of the Happiest Country on Earth.