Nearly three decades after Norway’s oil wealth started visibly changing everyday life and attitudes in the country, researchers can claim that Norwegians have never been prouder of being Norwegian. It’s not so much because of the affluent society that’s arisen, they say, but the way Norwegians have managed their wealth that makes them proud.
“We’re not so proud that we’ve become wealthy,” Erik Dalen, director of the public opinion research institute MMI, told newspaper Aftenposten in its Christmas Eve edition. “But the wealth gives reason to believe that the way we have organized our society is correct and good. The wealth therefore contributes indirectly to the Norwegian pride.”
Dalen and Professor Ottar Hellevik of the University of Oslo have been responsible for conducting a national survey called Norsk Monitor every year since 1985. It questions around 4,000 Norwegians regarding their values and attitudes on a wide range of social issues.
It most recently has culminated in the sharp rise in the number of Norwegians saying they were proud of being Norwegian, from 68 percent in 1985 to fully 90 percent in the latest survey.
‘Gladly pay their taxes’
The latest survey shows a variety of other remarkable results, including a steady increase in the number of Norwegians who believe they earn more money than they need. A general rise in individual affluence has not led to more people wanting to retain their personal wealth and cut taxes, according to Hellevik.
Rather, he said, a vast majority of Norwegians want to keep putting a priority on the distribution of wealth, to maintain a high degree of general affluence and minimize social differences.
Survey results, according to Hellevik, showed that more Norwegians than ever gladly pay their taxes. Fully 70 percent of Norwegians responded that they support a high level of taxes as a means of ensuring social equality and financing the welfare state, compared to 50 percent in 1985. Only 15 percent responded that lower taxes were a priority, down from 50 percent in 1985.
“The feeling seems to be that the higher level of income we have, the more able we are to pay taxes,” Dalen told Aftenposten. “As long as the tax levels don’t ruin individuals’ own personal finances, they find value in the taxes that support the social welfare state.”
Fewer worry, more are happy
Survey results also showed that fewer Norwegians than ever before are worried about their own personal finances, and that more are enjoying life and have become less unassuming. While Norwegians seem to value fellowship, family and the great outdoors most highly, they have become more materialistic. More money has made more people happy, the researchers said.
“There’s a clear connection between good personal finances and happiness,” Hellevik said. “Rising affluence has had a positive effect on levels of personal happiness and satisfaction.”
Fewer Norwegians said they believe in God than they did in 1985 (40 percent, compared to 53 percent in the first Norsk Monitor study), while Norwegians also have become more tolerant of those different than themselves and more positive towards immigration.