What is it about inequality that bothers us: the fact that some people are ‘rich’ and others are ‘poor’? Or that not everyone has an equal shot? Or something else? Regardless of the perspective of looking at this phenomenon, reducing it must be primordial for any given society. Inequalities are to be found in rather any context one could look into, be it social, economical, healthcare or any other one and can range from disparities in the distribution of economic assets and income to the overall quality of each individual’s existence within a society; or from a denial of individual opportunity to a more structural understanding of inequality of social condition. Inequality has become one of the priorities on the political agenda once with the global transition in the 1980s to a neoliberal economic regime, and it has been in time proved that the health of a population depends on having compressed social hierarchies. Thus, one of the various countries that have managed to reduce inequalities not only on the social level, but also on the other spheres that form a society, is represented by Norway.
Needless to say, Norway has succeeded in positioning itself on the first place out of 189 countries and territories, reaching a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.954 in the year of 2018, which placed it in the high human development category. One of the main aims of sustainable development is enlarging the freedom of people. If inequalities in human development would persist, the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would remain unfulfilled. Moreover, the Gender Inequality Index (GII) is 0.44, ranking it 5 out of 162 states. GII displays gender-based inequalities within three dimensions, namely reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity.
In what regards income and a high living standard, Norway possesses small differences. The tax and transfer systems provide redistribution to individuals and households with low income. Several measures that have improved the national situation on reducing inequalities have been public investment in infrastructure, social protection and public care services, which became essential in narrowing the gender gap and the expansion of women’s participation in the labour market, which has contributed to the wealth creation. One measure that has been recognised as one of the most ambitious and encompassing in Europe has been The Norwegian Strategy for Reducing Health Inequalities, from the year 2007. This strategy has tackled the social determinants of health, such as employment opportunities, income and child-care and has been successful in increasing availability of child-care, tax reforms and school abandonment reduction. However, not all of the actions of this strategy have been managed to be fulfilled. Another worth mentioning measure for achieving the target of the 10th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is the distribution of a large share of Norway’s aid to the world’s poorest countries and simultaneously prioritizing the least developed countries in its foreign trade. This particular model of allocating a high share of aid to the least developed countries is easily applicable to other developed countries, especially in the SDG Agenda, due to the purpose of global development until the year of 2030. Developed or high income countries might also orientate themselves to neighbouring countries, if the case, as the country of Romania intervenes in the development of the Republic of Moldova.
Additionally, it has been reported that in the year 2019 inequalities have slightly increased in Norway due to the changes of the country’s tax system. The changes to income, inheritance tax and indirect taxation have been shown to draw towards the direction of less distribution of wealth. Since the year 2013, budgets have consistently made cuts to tax and it has been overall reduced to 25.5 billion Norwegian Kroner (2.39 billion Euro), including reduction in income tax from 28 to 22 percent. This particular change had the biggest impact on overall income inequality according to the Statistics Norway (SSB) analysis. On the other hand, according to the HLPF Report on Norway in implementing the 2030 Agenda, it has been stated that income inequality in Norway is lower than in almost all other countries and that the tax system helps to reduce income disparities.
- Bryan Lufkin, “There’s a problem with the way we define inequality”, BBC, 7th July 2017, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170706-theres-a-problem-with-the-way-we-define-inequality
- “Social Inequality”, Science Daily, accessed 5 November 2020, https://rebrand.ly/socialinequality
- UNDP. (2019). Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century. Human Development Report. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/NOR.pdf
- Katarina Sætersdal, “HLPF: SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities”, Norway in the UN, 12th of July 2019, https://www.norway.no/en/missions/UN/statements/other-statements/2019/hlpf-discussion-on-sdg-10—reduced-inequalities/
- United Nations, “Norway HLPF Report”, New York, (July 2016).
- Kjetil A. Van der Wel, Espen Dahl, Heidi Bergsli, “The Norwegian policy to reduce health inequalities: key challenges”, Nordic Welfare Research, (July 2016).
This media content was created as a part of Nordic level youth project about SDGs and youth media, supported by Norden 0-30 programme and a a partnership between Norsensus Mediaforum (Norway), Awesome People (Sweden) and City of Helsinki (Finland). Read more about the project here!