Economic equity

November 24, 2020

On March 12, Norway began its nationwide lockdown, and by April 7, Parliament had adopted a package that Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, a member of Parliament and the leader of the Center Party, told...

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On March 12, Norway began its nationwide lockdown, and by April 7, Parliament had adopted a package that Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, a member of Parliament and the leader of the Center Party, told Norwegian Broadcasting was “the largest [monetary] commitment the parliament has ever made.”

The roughly $480 million relief package included tax relief for businesses experiencing losses, a reduction in the European Economic Community Value Added Tax, and tax deferrals for self-employed individuals such as freelance writers and artists. The package helped maintain stability in the economy while Norwegians did their part to slow the spread of the virus.

As a result, this fall in Norway has shaped up to be fairly typical. Primary school students and teachers have reunited in the classroom, employees are enjoying company-sponsored wellness nights in the countryside, and bars and gyms are lively again, although they are operating with some restrictions.

As of Oct 22, Norway had reported 16,771 Covid-19 cases among its population of 5.4 million since the beginning of February, according to the World Health Organization. That’s 311 cases per 100,000. A total of 279 people had died from the disease.

Neighboring Denmark has recorded more than 37,000 cases in the same time frame, and Sweden, which took a more laissez-faire approach to lockdowns, has had more than 107,000, or about 1,070 per 100,000 population, and more than 5,900 deaths.

Norwegians beat back the coronavirus from a 10 percent to one percent positivity rate of those tested (although it climbed back to just above 1 percent in October) and the unemployment rate is returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Labor and Welfare Administration, with about 106,000 out of work as of Sept 22 – about 2 percent of the population.

Following medical advice is one reason Norwegians have weathered the pandemic better than most of their neighbors. But that was built on a national ethos of economic equity, laid down decades ago, that prioritizes the well-being of citizens and residents over business profits.

Norwegian workers pay a roughly 25 percent income tax rate—a flat rate of 22 percent, plus a personal income tax of 2-16 percent, depending on income. That’s on par with what the average American family pays in income tax, but in Norway, those taxes pay for generous social welfare programs for almost all Norwegian residents, including migrant workers—or those on temporary work permits—and immigrants with legal residence status.

Norwegian social welfare encompasses comprehensive unemployment benefits, retirement pay, and health care coverage that covers just about everything, from mental health care to

ambulance and emergency services to clinical care for transgender residents.

Excerpted: ‘How Norway Built an Economy That Puts People First’

Commondreams.org



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