The gap between rich and poor is growing in Norway, the report says

The richest ten percent of Norway’s population has become much richer since 2010. The bottom 50% has had almost no increase in wealth. Credit: Shutterstock, NTB

Social differences in Norway have grown since 2014, according to a brand new report. The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services commissioned the report.

People struggling with poverty live shorter lives than the rich. Young people who have parents with low socio-economic status are more likely to struggle psychologically. People with limited education are five times more likely to smoke than those with a higher level of education.

These are just a few of the many different areas where people with little money and education are worse off than people with more of both. And this trend is not moving in a positive direction.

“Inequalities between people in Norway have increased, despite political ambitions to reduce social differences in health and quality of life,” says Ottar Ness.

Ness is a professor in NTNU’s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. He is also head of WellFare, the Nordic Research Center for Wellbeing and Social Sustainability.

The work is led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute for Health Equity at University College London (UCL). Marmot is an honorary doctor at NTNU.

NTNU-WellFare was the Norwegian partner in the work on the report and coordinated the contribution of several Norwegian researchers and practitioners.

Child poverty is increasing more than overall poverty

“Child poverty is a cause of health inequalities in a society and an indicator of what needs improvement,” says Sir Michael Marmot.

Although child poverty in Norway is low by international standards, it has increased. The fact that child poverty has increased at a faster rate than for the population as a whole is a call to action, he believes.

“Child poverty is associated with low parental education, weak labor market links, single-parent households and migrant backgrounds. Universal child support has not kept pace with inflation,” says Marmot.

The need to ‘opt-in’ for benefits means that those with low language or financial management skills potentially miss out on vital benefits to keep the family out of poverty.

“The good news is that we know what to do and the political will is there to implement the recommendations in our report,” says Marmot.

He believes that the increase in child poverty, in particular, provides a strong rationale for increasing spending on benefits and services in line with the cost of living.

First and foremost a moral issue

“Some groups who struggle with living conditions issues and who experience discrimination live much shorter lives, with lower participation in society and a lower quality of life,” says Ness.

These are differences that are reflected in wealth inequalities between people in Norway.

“The richest ten percent of Norway’s population has become much richer since 2010. The bottom 50 percent has had almost no increase in wealth,” Ness says.

But this trend need not continue.

“Equalizing social differences is primarily a moral issue, but also a sustainable development issue,” says Ness.

He believes that inequalities are socially created and that it is possible to do something about them if there is the political will to deal with the problems properly.

“We can reduce inequality by doing something about people’s living conditions, where they are born and raised, where we live, play, learn, work and age,” says Ness.

High socioeconomic status increases life expectancy

One of the most dramatic differences can be found in life expectancy. Here, the difference between rich and poor and between low and high levels of education is sometimes very large.

Depending on how and who you measure, high socioeconomic status women can expect to live 3.5 to 5.5 years longer than low socioeconomic status women.

Differences in life expectancy are even greater for men, ranging from 5.0 to 7.3 years.

The discrepancies are closely related to the lifestyle habits between the various groups. People with the lowest socioeconomic level smoke five times more often than those with the highest level. They also have much less healthy eating habits, mainly because living healthy is expensive.

People lower down the social ladder therefore struggle more with many different health problems than people higher up, both physically and psychologically.

The key is to start while children are young

We need to start early if we want to reduce inequalities. Children are often more affected. The type of home they come from plays a big role in their development.

If your parents struggle with poverty and have little or no education, you are more likely to face the same problems throughout your life.

If you come from a low socioeconomic status home, your chances of success later in life are much worse than if you come from a higher socioeconomic status home.

Almost 12 percent of all children in Norway come from homes with long-term poverty. This has consequences. These children are at greater risk of feeling uncomfortable in school, struggling mentally, and being bullied. They often have poor school results in mathematics, writing and reading.

“A family’s socio-economic status is closely linked to how well 15-year-olds do in school and how far they progress in their education,” says Dina von Heimburg.

Heimburg is an associate professor in NTNU’s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. He is also co-head of WellFare: Nordic Research Center for Well-being and Social Sustainability.

Kindergarten is a plus

Families with limited incomes, where parents have a low level of education and immigrant families send their children to kindergarten less often. This can contribute to the strengthening of social inequalities.

The preschool a child attends can already give researchers an idea of ​​how things are likely to go for that child.

“Kids who go to a good preschool are more likely to develop well than those who don’t,” says Heimburg.

Getting an education is even more important

Higher education provides access to a wider labor market and is therefore one of the keys to opening up more opportunities for people with a lower socio-economic status.

Changes in the labor market mean that people with little education have a harder time in the labor market than before. Fewer jobs are available for them, which in turn contributes to increasing socio-economic disparities.

“In 2019, 18 percent of the population between 18 and 66 in Norway were unemployed and at the same time did not receive any education,” says Heimburg.

This segment of the population has an increasing tendency to remain in a difficult situation. Increasingly, this group of people includes those who have never worked or who have been long-term unemployed.

Social support measures have been strengthened in recent years to try to encourage more people to work. These measures do not seem to have worked as they should have.

Efforts to integrate more disabled people into the workforce have not been entirely successful either.

“Employers and support services have not done a good enough job of including people with various forms of disability across socio-economic groups in working life,” says Heimburg.

The pandemic has increased inequalities

The COVID pandemic has contributed to increasing social differences. The jobs that disappeared were largely jobs for people with little education, young people and people with a migrant background from outside the EU.

Fewer people with a migrant background were vaccinated than others. Immigrants from Africa and Asia in particular were overrepresented both among those infected and those who became seriously ill from COVID.

Worrying, says the minister

“The report shows that [Norway has] a society with some large inequalities in health, depending on the background of individuals, and that these differences have only become greater in recent years. This is cause for concern,” says Ingvild Kjerkol, Norway’s Minister of Health and Care Services in a press release.

Kjerkol states that work to reduce these differences is necessary.

“Reducing inequalities is the goal of all our public health work and is the common thread in the public health report we will present on Friday 31 March,” Kjerkol says in the press release.

Possibility to reverse the voltage

So we have the possibility to reverse the trend of the last years. Norway can again become a society with less inequality.

“The most important thing we can do to equalize social disparities is to give all children the best possible start in life and to strengthen intergenerational solidarity and community,” Ness says.

Above all, this work is about equalizing disparities in income, wealth and power. We need to strengthen empowerment and democratic social participation for excluded and marginalized groups, he says.

“This way we can move society in the direction of a better quality of life for everyone,” says Ness.

More information:
Report: www.instituteofhealthequity.or … in Norway-since 2014

Provided by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Reference: Rich-poor differences widening in Norway, report says (2023, March 10) Retrieved March 11, 2023, from html

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