The European Union (EU) definition of the poverty line are those individuals making 60 percent of the national median earnings — for Norway, that would be about $17,000 a year. Using the EU definition, about 10 percent of Norwegians were considered below the relative poverty line in 2006, two years before the 2008 recession hit. Here are seven facts about poverty in Norway.
- The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Researcher Sindre Bangstad of the Frisch Institute in Oslo. He states: “A number of recent studies have shown that socio-economic inequalities continue to rise in Norway. Inequality is due to extensive tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent under the present right-wing government.”
- Aside from tax cuts, Norway provides a massive amount of social welfare programs and many regular citizens are able to find help. According to the “Inequality of Opportunity Index,” first put forth by Fransisco Ferreira of the World Bank, only two percent of Norwegians can attribute the lack of social mobility to a factor such as race, gender, birthplace, or disability.
- The young and old are both at risk. While inequality hurts youth, especially immigrant youth, the elderly are also facing economic hardships. Norway still needs to pay out the services promised to the older population. The elderly receive a good amount of benefits and make up a smaller percentage of the population in poverty. Contraceptive use is high and keeps birth rates low, so new generations are not as large as their predecessors. Only one in 200 children of Norwegian parents live under the poverty line.
- At the same time, four in 10 immigrant children live in poverty in Norway. According to the CIA World Factbook, more than 27,000 refugees reside in Norway, who arrived from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. “Poverty is increasingly racialized in that children of immigrants are much more likely to grow up in poverty than children of white Norwegians born here,” Bangstad said.
- Many people facing economic trouble are centered in urban areas. Homelessness is a growing concern as housing prices remain high. With the wind, the temperature can be negative 15 degrees Celsius at night. People use shrubbery, churchyards, or sheds as toilets. Norway recently passed a law banning street beggars along with giving municipalities the power to begin making other regulations.
- The country’s welfare model makes social programs reliant on oil tax revenue. The decline of oil is a pressing concern for policymakers. According to the CIA World Factbook, this sector comprises nine percent of Norwegian jobs, 15 percent of its GDP and 39 percent of its exports.
- Norway has built up the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, stockpiling more than $800 billion. The budget each year is projected to use only four percent of those funds. The Norwegian government said it is willing to increase public spending to avoid a recession but provides many amenities to its citizens already. Perhaps something as simple as offering increased access or outreach to those who need such amenities could boost productivity and halt progress towards an economic recession.
Poverty looks similar and different across the globe. Norway still has challenges to overcome but has a government that continually works for its people. The current problem for social welfare programs fighting poverty in Norway may be hard to solve, but luckily the stockpile the country has accumulated can buy time for all its citizens to continue working towards a more sustainable future.
– Michael Rose