Sunday, August 03, 2008

Norway's rise

We've been astounded to learn a few things about Norway's economy. According to Hakon, our host (and a retired Norweigan Legislator), Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe 100 years ago. Right now, Norway has the fourth highest per capita income in the world (the US is sixth). That's a pretty meteoric rise.

Conventional wisdom in the US is that this could only occur with unfettered capitalism and a minimalist social net.

However, Norwegians get 12 months of 85% maternity pay, or 9 months of 100%. The women have to take the first three months, but after that, it can be divided between the mom and dad. Many people retire with at or nearly full pay. Everyone gets free health care, Norwegians live longer than we do, and their minimum wage is like three times ours. Everyone is entitled to 21 paid holiday days (most get much more) and the workweek is 37.5 hours. Higher Education is state funded, just like primary and secondary school.

We were spending time with an anesthesiologist who gets five weeks, and every time he goes over 37.5 hours, it gets added up and he has to take it as comp time. Their medical residents do none of the dangerous constitution exercises ours are put through...

We've met a few people who have children with special needs. One has some pretty intensive medical problems. Until he is in school and attached to multiple specialists, his stay at home mom is compensative for his care (since the state would otherwise provide for it). Another has hyperactivity issues. He has a full time assistant attached to him at school. Another is an older man who can dress himself and do some very basic tasks, but has roughly the mind of a four year old. He is able to live on the family farm in his own place, but the state comes twice a day to help him eat and bathe.

The tradeoffs are higher income taxes (income tax isn't actually that much higher) and higher taxes on certain goods (gasoline costs more than ten dollars per gallon).

Still, lots of vacation, better health care outcomes, health care for all, maternity benefits that really support children, interventions for those who need it, proper training for an information economy, guaranteed support in old age. Nothing to balk at.

2 comments:

Jesse said...

A while back I was researching which countries have the highest charitable contributions and the scandinavian countries were the highest...is that something you have heard? You make Norway sound like the best place on earth. :)

SarahBeth said...

This is all quite fascinating and I am learning a lot!

I am so curious to know how Norway deals with immigration. I may think of Norway (and I claim ignorance) as containing a fairly homogeneous ethnic population. Does it? Does that influence Norway's ability to engage a more maximized "social net"?