Even more reason to wave their flag

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Norway’s relatively high standard of living, built up over the past few decades with oil and gas revenues, has once again resulted in an international index that ranks Norwegians as among the most satisfied citizens in the world. They have, it seems, more reason than ever to wave their flag.

Norwegians have even more to wave the flag about. PHOTO: Views and News

Norway has long topped United Nations’ lists over the best countries in the world in which to live, and also scored highest in a prosperity index formulated by the London-based Legatum Institute.

Now it’s the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that shows Norwegians most pleased with their jobs and lifestyle of all the OECD’s 34 member countries. Norway also placed second in satisfaction with their mix of job and leisure time, and third in general satisfaction with their lifestyle, reports newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).

Norwegians also feel they enjoy a high level of personal security, have good access to health care and are generally pleased with public sector authorities.

The results were released in connection with the OECD’s 50th anniversary last week, after the OECD’s own authorities decided that money isn’t everything when calculating economic statistics. The OECD launched its “Better Life Index” (external link) to help measure the more intangible qualities of individual satisfaction and how residents of OECD countries themselves view their economic and social well-being.

And Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had more reason to smile. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

Fully 84 percent of Norwegians were happy with their quality of life, a figure that greatly pleased Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party, who has headed the country’s left-center coalition government since 2005. He told DN that the OECD’s Better Life Index results amounted to “recognition of the work we have done.” Previous governments undoubtedly would also like to claim some of the credit but most agree that the majority of Norwegians feel fortunate and are proud of their social welfare state.

The OECD’s new index comprised 11 indicators measuring the satisfaction of member countries’ residents with the quality of their homes, their level of income, their jobs, social factors, education, environment, public authorities, health, overall lifestyle, security and the balance between work and leisure. The survey asked respondents, for example, how comfortable homes are in their respective countries, how clean and safe their neighbourhoods are, and to what degree people take advantage of health care and education offerings.

“When people are happy, they’re also productive,” Norwegian Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen told DN. He claims Norwegian politicians decided early to use revenues from the offshore oil discovered in 1969 to boost social welfare. Norway went from being one of Europe’s poorest countries to one of its wealthiest, with the idea that the wealth should be distributed throughout society.

Johnsen is now largely in charge of overseeing Norway’s finances and still supports saving much of Norway’s oil revenues for future generations. That means limiting use of oil revenues to 4 percent of the size of the country’s so-called oil fund, where revenues have been stashed since the 1990s.

In his revised budget for 2011, he’s opened up for more spending in a few areas, though, including public transport (trains and roads). Johnsen predicts Norway’s strong economy will get even stronger in 2012, and that job growth will continue.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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