[Hpn] Top-ranked lifestyle belongs to a healthy, wealthy Norway
Thu, 15 Nov 2001 12:34:09 -0800
here's a look at a civil society.
one other note: although this article doesn't point it out, the quality of
life in the U.S. doesn't even make the top ten.
Top-ranked lifestyle belongs to a healthy, wealthy Norway
Wednesday, November 14, 2001
By CAROL J. WILLIAMS
Special from the Los Angeles Times
-- OSLO, Norway
Imagine a world so shielded from modern dangers that children accept candy
Think about a place where lifelong financial security is guaranteed, no
matter how many layoffs, stock market crashes, or catastrophic illnesses
come your way.
Consider the psychological well-being of living in a country where no one is
homeless or hungry, where women and men are equal, where a pristine
environment is reverentially protected, and where sharing the wealth with
the world's less fortunate is a moral obligation.
Norway is not utopia -- after all, it does suffer the occasional incursions
of the cruel outside world. But most Norwegians admit that in terms of
uplifting ideals and earthly comforts, life in this country is as good as it
And this year's U.N. Human Development Report confirms that: It ranks Norway
the No. 1 place in the world to live, based on a cocktail of indicators
about health, wealth, and social outlook.
Of course, the measurements don't take into account the fact that darkness
falls by 3 p.m. half the year and tax rates swallow up to 60 percent of your
income. Also escaping the statisticians' notice are new social strains
created by a sudden influx of immigrants into a long-homogenous nation.
But the glowing report card has filled many Norwegians with newfound pride
and a sense of validation that sharing and caring aren't extinct.
And although there is much muttering over high taxes, many Norwegians
contend they should be giving even more of their money to solve the rest of
the world's problems.
"Our moral obligation to share the wealth increases with the amount of our
wealth," says International Development Minister Anne Kristin Sydnes, noting
that the North Sea oil that is the primary source of Norway's prosperity
should be viewed as a global resource.
Norway's North Sea tracts have proven to be a bountiful source of the
precious commodity, turning this country once dependent on fishing and
farming into the No. 2 oil exporter in the world. Even with fluctuating oil
prices, this country of about 4.5 million people has skillfully managed the
state-owned industry and amassed a public fund of $60 billion.
>From the high-quality public schools that even the royal family attends to
the pandemic informality -- the king is addressed simply as Harald and the
prime minister as Kjell Magne -- this is a society firmly grounded in
"We place a very high value on both work and having a family and believe a
woman should never have to choose one or the other. Most women with children
continue to work in Norway, not because they have to but because they want
to," says Anne Lise Ryel, deputy justice minister.
Three-year maternity leaves, broad part-time opportunities, and creative
application of telecommuting help keep women in the work force. So do the
generous benefits for both men and women of eight weeks' vacation, liberal
sick leave, and day care that is reliable and inexpensive.
But the very success of Norway's social services is presenting the country
with new problems.
Good medical care for every citizen has raised life expectancy to among the
world's highest levels at 78.4 years, placing new demands on the health-care
system as the population ages. State assistance to single mothers is so
generous that there is no need for a father's income. Half the children here
are now born out of wedlock.
And Norway's commitment to providing education, libraries, day care, and
government services of uniform quality across the country eats up more of
the abundant resources with each year, since public investment in thinly
populated regions is just as expensive as in urban centers.
Philosophy professor Arne Naess complains there is also something lacking in
a country that is so self-sufficient.
"People don't talk to each other here. Everyone walks around alone and
preoccupied," says the professor, who will soon turn 90. "There was more of
a sense of togetherness after the war and until the 1960s, when we got all
this oil money."
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