Norway is the Fairest CountryNorway, with a population of just over 5 million, is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Yet, even with its small size, Norway has shown to be mighty in terms of social progress and equality. In fact, Norway ranks as the country with the highest level of income equality, while also ranking second for gender equality worldwide. However, even though Norway is the fairest country, it still has much more work to truly become equal.

Improvements in Equality

Norway’s main successes in improving gender equality come from ensuring that all women are given exactly the same opportunities as men. For instance, Norway’s Gender Equality Act specifically guards against gender discrimination. It mandates that employers provide equal opportunity and report on instances of discrimination. Similarly, the Ministry of Culture annually collects equality assessments from subordinate agencies. This helps identify the possible weaknesses in Norway’s policies so they can work to improve them.

Because of these acts and agencies, Norway’s reforms have had incredible results. One significant improvement is in higher education; as early as 2001 women earned over two-thirds of university degrees, even with men earning more degrees in STEM fields. In regards to labor, in 2020, only 5.2% more men than women were in the Norwegian workforce.

Not only is it one of the fairest nations in the world with regards to gender, but Norway is the fairest country when it comes to income. For instance, while the top 10% of Norway’s earners owned almost 25% of the GDP in 2006, this number dropped to about 20% in 2015, which is a much lower number than the world average. In 2017, Norway also ranked fourth out of 30 high-income countries in terms of the ratio of women to men in the workforce and the ratio of female to male income, highlighting its extraordinary response to gender issues.

Significant Flaws Persist

Although Norway is making significant progress with gender and income equality, it still has a long way to go in regard to racial equity. Due to a severe lack of diversity in the country, with over 83% ethnically Norwegian, it does not come as a surprise that less than 1% of employees at Norway’s top 50 companies are minorities. Also, Norwegians have a bias against immigrants; 84% of the population believes that immigrants are discriminated against at the workplace.  Even though Norway is the fairest country in the world, these numbers emphasize the need for further reforms.

More work needs to continue on the gender gap for income. For example, in 2016 a man in Norway earned $1.27 for every dollar a woman earned. That is a difference of about $16,000 in annual salaries between men and women.  That gap remained about the same in 2021. 

Norway’s Future

As the pandemic has spread throughout the world, it has hit Norway hard. In fact, in March 2021, over 52% of businesses had said that they had experienced lower demands or cancellations.  Furthermore, even after the worst of the pandemic, 13.4% of Norwegians are still in poverty, especially for those in occupations like transportation that have shut down due to COVID. Even with just over 180,000 cases in the country and less than 1,000 deaths, it is easy to see how the pandemic has had harsh economic effects.

With that said, Norway has made tremendous efforts to move towards a sustainable future. The country has cut oil and gas prices to increase demand and has helped stabilize the national debt. Norway has also taken a lead in driving toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These SDGs boldly aim to end poverty by the year 2030. They also strive to eliminate gender equality worldwide in the next decade. In fact, the Norwegian Prime Minister is co-chair of the Goals, helping lead an ambitious mission towards an equal society.

Norway is one of the fairest countries in the world even with flaws relating to racial and gender inequality. The country has shown impressive improvements and has placed a significant emphasis on equality in recent years. Even during the tough times of COVID-19, Norway is in a strong position to lead the world towards a bright future.

– Calvin Franke
Photo: Pixabay

The nation of Rwanda burst into the mainstream consciousness during the infamous mass murders of Rwandan Tutsi.  From early April through mid-July in 1994, approximately 500,000 to 1 million individuals were murdered.  As we approach the 20-year anniversary of the genocide, we should take some moments to not only reflect on the tragedies and lessons learned, but also examine the progress exhibited by Rwanda’s people.

In annual remembrance of the genocide, the nation of Rwanda will launch Kwibuka 20.  The word Kwibuka means ‘remember’ in Rwanda’s national language, Kinyarwanda.  Kwibuku 20, the twentieth commemoration of the genocide, is being used to promote solidarity between families that lost relatives and other survivors while working to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

The three-pronged approach Rwanda is taking against genocide is to remember, to unite and to renew.

A Flame of Remembrance, similar to that of the running of the Olympic torch, will travel through Rwanda’s 30 districts until it reaches Kigali on April 7, 2014, which begins the start of the national mourning period.  The torch will be used to light memorial lamps within communities throughout Rwanda while acting as the source of fire for the candlelit vigil at Amahoro Stadium on April 7.

Events are being held in countries throughout the world as a symbol of solidarity.  From Nigeria and Sudan, to Sweden and the United States, Rwandan embassies are engaging their local communities in discussions on causes and consequences while promoting genocide prevention principles.

The events will also shine light on the tremendous resilience and progress of the once-embattled nation.  In the last five years, 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty.  Life expectancy rose from a low of 28 years in 1994 to 56 years in 2011.  Infant mortality has dropped from 61,000 in 2000 to 23,000 in 2011.   To add to these amazing accomplishments, 81% of the Rwandan population now has health insurance.

Rwanda also boasts the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world at 64%.  The nation set a goal of universal access to primary education by 2015 and its on pace to meet that goal.  Today, the primary level net enrollment rate is nearly 97%, however secondary level net enrollment is only 28%.

The progress made in honor of those that were lost is commendable and other nations would be well served to learn from Rwanda’s successes.  To get involved with, host an event, or simply learn about Kwibuku 20, visit the website at Kwibuku20.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Kwibuku20, UNICEF, UN
Photo: IGIHE Pictures

The Butterfly Effect
Often, consumers in the developed world assume that the greatest impact they can have on developing countries is philanthropic: by choosing certain products, certain brands and certain charities, they can improve the lives of citizens far away. It is a widely held belief that the developed world’s major interaction with the developing is that of a benevolent elder sibling: offering advice and help when necessary, while also attending to their own, separate affairs.

A recent report by The Atlantic once again highlights how incorrect this idea is. Indeed, the activities of the first world often have profound consequences for the developing world as they bear the brunt of paying for the sins of those who are more advantaged.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, a famine devastated parts of northern Africa, leaving 100,000 dead and upward of 700,000 relying on foreign food aid for survival. Infamous across the world, photos of starving cattle marching across dusty plains and children with shriveled arms and distended bellies still remain burned in many minds. Initially, this was blamed on poor farming practices leading to desertification. New research by scientists, however, shows that the drought which caused the famine was triggered by the number of factory emissions from Western Europe and the United States of America. The release of sulfate aerosols, which cool the climate around them, disrupted rainfall patterns for decades until clean-air laws were passed in the industrialized countries.

It is an uncomfortable reality that the world is interconnected and that the decisions of one country will undoubtedly have ramifications for another. More than ever in today’s connected and globalized world, countries have to work in sincere cooperation, not just for individual benefit, but for the good of the international community.

The developed world, having such power, also carries an immense amount of responsibility in wielding it. To a large extent, it is failing at that responsibility: smartphones continue to fly off the shelves, despite the myriad controversies surrounding them, including Apple’s suicidal factory workers and the conflict minerals necessary for production. Fairtrade products are still pushing to be the norm, and clean energy bills struggle to be passed.

Too often, citizens rely on governments to take the initiative in social progress. As we continue to dive deeper and deeper into climate change and growing levels of inequality, however, the average citizen has to start harnessing their individual power. The old saying goes that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane; while this may be an exaggeration, one must ask themselves what the potential impact of human life can be, even the most ordinary one, across the globe.

– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source: Science Daily,The Atlantic
Photo: The Guardian