Norway: A divided country

The world looks to Norway as an egalitarian, cooperative society. But confronting increasing inequality is our greatest challenge. The current generation may be the first in over a century to experience less financial security than their parents. Luckily, there is still time to turn things around. Rødt fights for a Norway for the many, not the few.

It is unfair that those with the highest incomes can expect better treatment in the healthcare system than the rest of us. Photo: Ihne Pedersen.

Growing income inequality and privatisation are threatening everything the labour movement has fought for and won in Norway – financial security, welfare, and a strong sense of community and solidarity. The result is an unfair distribution of power and opportunity. People are increasingly judged according to the size of their wallets.

A society based on equality is healthier, happier, and more socially just than a society based on capitalist competition. Community works. Cooperation works. Solidarity works. That’s why the fight against the increasing gap between the wealthy and those who struggle to make ends meet is Rødt’s priority.

Inequality in Norway

Rødt’s aim is to fight inequality in Norway. The growth of social disparities in the country means the top few percent get richer, while the purchasing power of ordinary people is progressively weakened.

Inequality has increased in Norway since the 1980s. Over the course of 30 years, the richest few percent in Norway has doubled its share of income. The number of children living in poverty is growing, while the number of billionaires has increased fivefold over the last 15 years.

But the gap between rich and poor is about more than just numbers; it’s about people finding it more and more difficult to get by:

Inequality in Norway means people are unable to plan how their family will spend the weekend because they don’t know whether they might have to work.

  • It’s about women still earning only 85 percent of what men earn, even if their jobs are equally important.
  • It’s is about having to work two jobs to make ends meet, while the wealthy complain about low interest rates. You need to have over 80 million kroner in the bank to live off interest alone.
  • It means people living in rural areas face increased risks of complications or even death because their local hospital no longer offers emergency medical treatment, while people in cities receive adequate care.
  • It means working for an employment agency and not knowing when or where you’ll get your next shift, while young millionaires who inherited their wealth are out house hunting.

A political failure

Today’s generation is the first in over a century to be at risk of being worse off than their parents. This is not because we are poorer than before, but because our welfare system is being undermined.

What we lack is fairness and social justice. It is a sign of political failure that coming generations face greater challenges than those that came before them – that the distance between ordinary people and the political elite has become so large that democracy is falling apart, and special interests are prevailing at the expense of the majority.

Time and again, other parties have had the opportunity to do something about increasing economic inequality. Yet these disparities continue to grow.

That is why Rødt’s political project is about more than just a shift in government. We are building a political revolution.

Why Rødt is against inequality in Norway

Rødt is not against inequality because we envy the rich, but because it is fundamentally unfair. It makes society a worse place for all of us. It weakens democracy, trust between people, and opportunities for all.

It should pay to work – not to inherit

We depend on the contributions of everyone for our society to function. It should not be more profitable to inherit than to work. Norwegian conservatives talk about how it should pay to work, but it is now more profitable to inherit wealth. 77 of the 100 richest individuals in Norway did not earn their fortune but inherited it. If hard work really did pay off, the country’s nurses, dockers, and cleaners would be millionaires.

Inequality in Norway is unfair

It is unfair …

Norwegians want to reduce inequality

For a long time now, the majority (two-thirds) of Norwegians have believed that it is the main task of politicians to reduce economic inequality. In other words, it isn’t average Norwegians who have asked for the unequal society we see today.

Change is on its way

Since Rødt made fighting inequality in Norway its primary struggle, other parties have started saying what Rødt has said for a while now: The gap between the rich and the rest needs to be closed. Rødt’s project for the future is to ensure that we don’t just talk about a fairer society, but that genuine change takes place.

There is still time to turn things around

Rødt wants to put an end to the consensus around neoliberal capitalism being followed regardless of which party is in charge. We are already using our influence in local politics to undermine the right-wing government’s political vision that favours the rich over the poor.

  • While the government is making it harder to find steady work, we have launched a campaign against temporary employment. Over 50 municipalities and county councils have passed laws that prevent employers from taking advantage of loopholes in the Working Environment Act to hire more temporary workers.
  • As the government is privatising more and more of our vital public services, we are responding with proposals for all municipal welfare services to be non-profit. In Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, and Bodø, we have achieved a majority to oppose new kindergartens being run by commercial operators. And while the government has increased the price of daycare, Rødt has responded by preventing a price increase where we have influence, such as in Oslo.
  • While the right-wing government has increased child poverty rates, we are working to ensure free after-school care and kindergartens.

The big picture

Since the 2017 elections, Rødt has been represented in Parliament, where our work against inequality in Norway has continued. But the battle to close the gap between rich and poor is about more than just Parliament. It’s about creating a new society that can change Norway. And change is exactly what is needed. After all, no matter who is prime minister, he or she will be unable to reduce inequality alone.

Politics are about more than who is elected; they are just as much about whether elected politicians can actually make decisions about the issues that matter.

A grassroots movement

After 30 years of ever-increasing inequalities, the richest few and the largest companies have acquired so much power and so much influence that politicians alone are unable to stand up to them.

Look at how our country is being sold to the EU piece by piece. The people have said ‘No’ to the EU twice, yet we have the EEA agreement, which has resulted in Norway gradually being subject to EU legislation we have no say over. The EU interferes in most internal matters and denies Norwegian voters the possibility to decide the political future of the country. And more clandestine trade agreements are in the works that will undermine the right to vote even further.

This will only continue as long as we accept it. If we stand together, we can put an end to voters losing power and inequality increasing. That is why Rødt is working to create a grassroots movement against growing disparities.

There is still time to turn things around. But it’s not just up to us. It’s up to you.

Rødt wants to make Norway more equal through:

  • A non-profit welfare sector in public ownership
  • The right to steady employment and a full-time job
  • A ban on temporary employment agencies
  • Replacing the EEA agreement with trade agreements. Until this happens, the room to manoeuvre in the agreement and right of veto should be used actively
  • Higher tax on capital income, not on ordinary workers’ income
  • Allowing people to retire at the age of 62
  • Ringfencing money during central wage negotiations for reducing the gender wage gap between men and women
  • Higher tax on second homes to curb rising house prices
  • Eliminating charges for health and dental services
  • Allowing asylum seekers to work while waiting for their claims to be processed
  • Legal guarantees establishing the right to an apprenticeship
  • The possibility for local residents to vote on mergers of municipalities, rather than them being centrally imposed