You might know Norway as the land where you can get a good view of the Northern Lights or the beautiful fjords. You might know it for being the best skiing destination or for being the stop to catch the Midnight Sun. Or you might know it to be, of course, the land of the mighty Vikings.
But unlike their ancestors, who were known to be standoffish and even brutal, Norwegians of today are very different. In fact, they are actually and literally one of the happiest people on earth.
According to the World Happiness Report, Norway is the fourth happiest country in the world, shadowed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland by mere points. Since the report was launched in 2012, Norway has been dancing between the top four spots.
The report showed that the happiest countries have more social support, more freedom, have lower perceptions of corruption, and have higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
But what exactly makes Norway really happy?
For starters, they have a variety of benefits that are fully covered by the government. For instance, under the family benefit, all children under the age of 18 are entitled to the child benefit program which helps cover the costs of raising children. They also have a cash-for-care benefit for toddlers (ages one to two) who are not admitted to a daycare facility.
Pregnancy and parental benefits are also entitled to employed women to ensure the income of parents while raising children. Parental leaves (both maternity and paternity) cover a total of 26-36 weeks, including a six-week maternity leave right after birth. Parents have the choice to mix and match their leaves as needed.
The Norwegian government is also quite generous with their health services. All essential medicines and treatments are basically covered by the National Social Insurance as long as people pay a patient’s charge. All citizens must also have a general physician as a regular doctor.
Other sickness benefits include compensation for the loss of income for ill or injured employees, dental insurance, and compensation for persons with disabilities.
Retirement pensions are categorized according to the year a citizen is born. Pensions can be drawn a month after a citizen turns 62, their retirement age. But under this program, retirees can work for as long as they want without having their pensions bracketed or reduced.
Norway even has benefits for the unemployed.This helps citizens seek work and become settled. All you need to do is comply with the requirements, such as registering as a jobseeker and submitting your employment status every 14 days, and you’re good to go.
If you’re planning on spending your college life in Norway as a foreign student, then you’re in for a huge treat. All you have to pay for is the student fee. Everything else? Paid for by the government.
The Norwegian government believes that higher education is important for all future members of the society, so all state-run universities are funded. The required student fee ranges from NOK300 to 600 and entitles students membership to a student welfare organization, and access to campus health services and the student card, which provides discounts in transportation fares and cultural events. Now that’s a great reason to study well.
Only planning on visiting Norway? Don’t fret, because even tourists have benefits. Visitors of Norway can avail themselves the private insurance. In case you get sick during your stay in Norway, your fees will be taken care of by the government.
To top that all off, back in 2014, citizens were paid NOK1,000,000 each–and they didn’t even join a game show!
With all these benefits (that are enough to ensure even your great, great grandchildren’s future) who wouldn’t be happy?
But to quote Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility,” so this doesn’t mean that people can take advantage of the free services whenever they feel like it.
The Norwegians’ success and happiness wouldn’t be possible without the people and the government. By working hand in hand and by listening and caring for everyone’s needs, they were able to achieve good governance and leadership.
Norwegians didn’t set the bar high so no one could reach them. They set it there for everyone to be inspired and believe that they could do it just like they did.