31 May 2010

Health Care System in Norway

All Norwegians are insured by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). This is a universal, tax-funded, single-payer health system. Compared to Poland, France, Italy, Spain and Japan, Norway has the most centralized system and all citizens and residents are covered.

The NIS is funded by general tax revenues. There is no earmarked tax for health care. The Norwegian tax burden is 45% of GDP. The government sets a global budget limiting overall health expenditures and capital investment. However, Norwegians can opt out of the government system and pay out-of-pocket. Many pay ou-of-pocket and travel to a foreign country for medical care when waiting lists are long. There are significant waiting times for many procedures. Many Norwegians go abroad for medical treatments. Also, care can be denied if it is not deemed to be cost-effective.

To conclude, Norwegian Health Care System is very generous. The program also provides sick pay and may even pay for “spa treatments” in some cases.

24 May 2010

Social life in Norway

To continue previous post, let’s concentrate on the facts. The Norwegian Welfare State is being kept by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) handling unemployment benefit, national insurance pensions, family benefits and a range of other social insurance benefits. All persons working and paying taxes in Norway are automatically members of the social insurance scheme. Premiums are paid as part of tax deductions and amount to 7.8% of tax deducted. The employer deducts employer’s premium from his salary. What is more, persons who are not working in Norway, but who hold a residence permit for a year or more are also automatically covered by the social insurance scheme. The benefits of social insurance include retirement pension, disability pension, rehabilitation, occupational injury compensation, single parent benefit, child benefit and paid maternity leave etc. Family related benefits consist of:

(1) Pregnancy, birth and adoption:
- pregnancy benefit – for healthy pregnant women who are unable to continue at work during pregnancy because this might cause risk of injury to the unborn child,
- parental benefit on birth – is paying until children reach the age of 3 years,
- parental benefit on adoption.

(2) Child benefit and cash benefit:
- child benefit – NOK 970 once a month per child,
- cash benefit for parents of infants – is paid for infant from the birth (NOK 3 303 monthly) up to the age of 32 (NOK 661 monthly),
- child benefit and cash benefit for foreign employees in Norway.

(3) Single mother/father:
- benefit for single mother/father – for unmarried, divorced or separated parent to ensure sufficient income to cover living expenses for single mothers/fathers who are the sole carer of a child
- transitional benefit – is granted for a limited period and varies according to the child’s age and needs, currently full transitional benefit is NOK 11 965 a month,
- child care benefit – to help a single parent pay for child minding so they can work, actively seek work or study, currently NOK 3 324 a month per child,
- educational benefit – for single parent who is taking necessary education or training e.g. NOK 54 590 for university studies,
- relocation grant – to help cover relocation costs if parent has to move to find work.
(4) Child support/advance support payment:
- advance support payment – to ensure that children receive money from state each month if the non-custodial parent does not pay enough child support ,
- appeals in maintenance support cases.
I’ve mentioned generally about the family related benefits that are many more of them e.g. children pension, benefits for surviving spouse etc.

17 May 2010

A day off on May 17th, guess why?

May 17th is the National Day of Norway and the day is referred to simply as syttende mai, meaning May Seventeenth. In the small municipality Eidsvoll, there the meeting of Norwegian patriots to draft and sign the Constitution of Norway on 17 May 1814. This constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation. This fact caused the wide celebration spontaneously among students and others from early on. However, Norway was at that time under Swedish rule and for some years Karl Johan, king of Sweden, was reluctant to allow the celebrations. After the Battle of the Square in 1829, an incident that resulted in such a commotion that Karl had to allow it. Indeed, Norway became independent nation in 1905.

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags and shouting “hip hip, hurray, hurray, hurray!” During the parade a marching band play and children sing lyrics about the celebration of the National Day, blowing whistles and shaking rattles. The parade concludes with the stationary singing of the national anthem “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (in English “Yes, we love this country”) written by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. This year I was an observer of the parade in Oslo and that was the longest parade I’ve ever seen. Parade was led by marching bands and children from schools and local choirs and music bands. In addition to flags, people typically wear red, white and blue ribbons. Although a long-standing tradition, it has lately become more popular for men, women, and children to wear traditional outfits, called bunad. This outfit is itching, makes people to look fat and is terribly expensive (approximately NOK 20 000). The parade took place in the morning throughout Karl Johan’s Gate and finished just in front of the Royal Palace, where king Harald V and his wife were waving to crowds.

10 May 2010

Social life origins and a piece of contemporary history of Norway

Norway had undoubtedly one of the best welfare systems in the world, making sure that people who are sick and unable to work, or who are unemployed for whatever reason are not left out in the cold, but are given support so that they are able to live with dignity. Norwegian values are rooted as in Sweden in egalitarian ideals. At the beginning of the 20th century, they began enacting fairly radical welfare laws, culminating in the post-war years sweeping reforms that turned Norway into the progressive welfare state it is today. The welfare state is still the ideal for most Norwegian, not least because it seems to be doing quite well.

Well, sounds interesting? Let’s come back to the beginning of the process of building welfare. Norway declared its independence in 1905 when the union with Sweden was dissolved. The period from 1905 to 1914 was characterized by rapid economic expansion in Norway. The development of the merchant fleet, which begun in previous century, continued, and at the outbreak of World War I Norway’s merchant navy was the fourth largest in the world. From about beginning of the 20th century Norway’s immense resources of waterpower provided a base for great industrial expansion. By 1906 three-fourth of all developed waterpower in Norway was owned by foreign concerns. Norwegian Labour Party (DNA) pressed for legislation to protect the natural resources of the country. By reforms in 1907 and 1913 the vote was extended to women. Once consequence of industrialization and the introduction of universal suffrage was the growing influence of the DNA. A number of social reforms were enacted: a factory act, which included  protection for women and children, accident insurance for seafaring men, health insurance, a 10-hour working (in 1915) and a 48 workweek (in 1919). A 40-hour workweek was introduced in 1977.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Norway, like Sweden and Denmark, issued a declaration of neutrality, but it was badly hurt by the war at sea by about half of Norwegian merchant shipping being lost. After the war the main aim during the 1920s was to guide the currency (the krone) back to its former value. Norway received only an insignificant share in improved world market conditions, and by 1927 the unemployment figures were as high as one-fifth of the workforce. The Great Depression in the early 1930s increased unemployment still further, and by 1933 at least one-third of the workforce, including many civil servants, was unemployed. Despite economic difficulties, the high rate of unemployment, and the many labour conflicts, the interwar years were a period of vigorous expansion, and the country’s industrial production was increased by 75% during the years 1913-38. With the second outbreak of hostilities in 1929, Norway again declared itself neutral. On April 9, 1940,German troops invaded the country and quickly occupied Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik, despite being supported by Polish soldiers. Vidkun Quisling, a traitor and leader of the small Norwegian National Socialist party, proclaimed a “national government”, which aroused such strong resistance of Norwegians.

After World War II the liberation of Norway was followed by trials of collaborators, 25 Norwegians, including Quisling were sentenced to death and executed, and some 19 000 received prison sentenced. By a strict policy that gave priority to the reconstruction of productive capacity in preference to consumer goods, Norway quickly succeeded in repairing the ravages left by the war. By 1949 the merchant fleet had attained its pre-war size, and the figures for both industrial production and housing were greater than in the 1930s. Until the 1980s Norway had full or nearly full employment and swift rising standard of living.

Since the 1970s a central issue in Norway has been the exploitation of the rich natural gas and petroleum deposits in the Norwegian part of the North Sea. As the Norwegian petroleum industry grew in importance, the country became increasingly affected by fluctuations in the world petroleum market, but in the late 20th and early 21st centuries oil revenues played the dominant role in fueling a prosperous Norwegian economy and providing Norwegians with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. The government, prudently preparing for a time when petroleum profits might not be so lucrative, began reinvesting those profits in the Government Pension Fund that I have already described in recent post. The Norwegians rejected membership of the Europan Economic Community in 1972, and of the European Union in1994,despite being urged by their governments to vote “yes”. Norway’ annual oil revenue amounts to around $40bn and more than half of its exports come from this sector. To counter inflation, there is cross-party agreement to restrict spending of oil revenue. Even as much of the rest of the world struggled in the wake of the international financial crisis that began in 2008, Norway continued to prosper, though the international holdings of the Government Pension Fund weakened. In recent decades, Norway has forged a stronger role for itself in international politics. It has mediated between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and from 2000 to 2009 was the chief mediator in the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil separatists.

The egalitarian values which are at the root of the welfare state also manifest themselves throughout Norwegian society in many ways e.g. in the field of gender equality. Because of this, and active government support of gender equality, women have been steadily climbing in standing over the past fifty years. Still, the goal of total equality remains a long way off: while forty percent of representatives on Parliament are female, only one in every ten company directors are women. But, on the other hand, gender equality changed the Norwegian male’s role as a father. Norway has a paternity leave quota, so that fathers can also take extended time off to be with their children. This has helped make the mixing of careers and family a lot easier. In Norway, it is more common for mothers of young children to be employed than in many Western European countries. With the large amount of young mothers in the workplace, it becomes necessary to deal with the issues of maternity leave. The government has therefore created a system meant to care for the families as they care for a new baby. Parents are allowed to choice of either taking 43 weeks off between themselves with full wage compensation, or 53 weeks off with 80% compensation. If they wish, the mother may take up to 12 weeks of their parental leave prior to the birth, so they can prepare for the baby or give themselves rest. 9 weeks of leave must be used by the mother, and 5 weeks by the father. The remaining weeks can be divided between the parents as they wish. In addition, in the case that a child must stay home sick from school when they reach school age, the state grants each parent 10 days of leave per year to spend taking care of the child. 

3 May 2010

The next story about adventures of famous Koala!

Do you remember the famous Koala? I've heard another funny joke about him recently:

The Koala walks into a pub reads a menu above the table:
"Sandwich 2$
Beer 5$
Hand job 4$"

After that the Koala comes to the hot woman behind the table. The girl was very hot, more beautiful than the prostitute. The Koala asks her - Excuse me, are you the one who does the hand job?
She smiles at him and answers - Yes!
Then the Koala replies - Can you wash your hands? I'd like to buy a ham sandwich, please.