Norway, drunk on success, becomes a country of layabouts

Date:July 27, 2004 / year-entry #291
Orig Link:
Comments:    11
Summary:Norwegians have it so good that they've started getting lazy: Before the oil boom, when Norway was mostly poor and largely isolated, the country survived on its hard work and self-reliance, two stalwart Scandinavian virtues. Now, with the country still bulging from three decades of oil money, Norway is discovering that sudden wealth does not...

Norwegians have it so good that they've started getting lazy:

Before the oil boom, when Norway was mostly poor and largely isolated, the country survived on its hard work and self-reliance, two stalwart Scandinavian virtues.

Now, with the country still bulging from three decades of oil money, Norway is discovering that sudden wealth does not come without complications: The country's bedrock work ethic is caving in.

On a similar note, here's an essay on Norwegian 'fellesferie'—vacation time—and its impact on getting anything done at all during the summer.

Comments (11)
  1. Matt says:

    Why not? If you earn enough for the basics in life and possibly a few luxuries why spend your time working more? (even at a national level)

  2. Valorie and I had a long discussion about this article. Part of the issue with Norwegian absenteeism is the rather remarkable maternity benefits that the state offers. For example, every woman has the right by law to something like 7 weeks of maternity leave (I don’t remember the exact number), and to an additional 12 MONTHS of maternity leave at 80% pay (or 7 months at 100% pay). Men get a guaranteed 5 weeks of paternity leave.

    Valorie and I were guessing that maybe 1-5% of that 25% absenteeism rate was caused by just that single benefit alone.

  3. Robert Giger says:

    Nooo! You mean there are Norwayians? I thought Norway was one of those made-up countries designed to populate Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the like. Does this mean they don’t taste good when baked into cookies?

  4. robdelacruz says:

    Fascinating. I wonder if they’re so successful because they’re relaxed, or because of the liberal welfare state, or due to that famed nordic work ethic. What’s their secret? (I can’t believe it’s just oil.)

  5. Rune from Norway says:

    Sturdy viking heritage helps alot :) Just kidding, but the welfare state here is fascinating. And radically different from the US, i’d guess.

  6. Petr Kadlec says:

    Larry: Hmm, that’s interesting. How is that in the U.S.? In Czechia, women have the right to 28 weeks of maternity leave, and both parents to additional 3 years of parental leave, BUT during that, they don’t receive wage from the employer, only some social benefits from the state, and the benefits are very small. The only important advantages of parental leave are that the employer cannot lay off the parents while they are on parental leave, and they must keep a position for them until they return to job.

  7. Same in Norway – you can’t be fired while on leave, but you could be downsized as part of a general downsizing program. Also, pregnancy is not an acceptable reason for dismissal. Women must have their old job (or comparable) when they return.

    Men are expected (I think it’s gonna be required pretty soon) to take their 5 weeks of paternity leave as well. Not taking it is seen as callous and a bit suspect.

    There may be many things wrong with the norwegian benefits system, but this part kinda rules. Definitely one of the more popular benefits.

  8. Stacey says:

    About the original subject, I really don’t see much wrong with this!

    Don’t be too quick to brush off "70-degree days are precious." Think about that – it’s a very good point, and one that few of us in the U.S. can relate to.

    I really don’t think it would kill us to "chill" a smidge more here in the States and recognize that we are human beings with lives and not automatons. Not to excess, but there’s a happy medium.

    Here’s an example I like: I live in a metropolitan area of about 1 million people, and I once had a conversation with a pharmacist for a major chain store. On Christmas Day (maybe others, but that’s the one we were talking about) there are only a handful of stores open in the metropolis, just enough to handle emergencies. I asked him if that wasn’t unfair to the employees of those particular stores, that they got stuck working Christmas. He told me they didn’t do it that way; they staffed those stores with people from other stores who didn’t mind working on Christmas for whatever reason.

    I think we should ask ourselves sometimes whether the world would actually crash and burn if we relaxed a bit on this or that. I’m convinced there’s a "sweet spot" of productivity: if people don’t get enough time in a year to refresh themselves, they’re going to end up less productive at work anyway because they’re worn out and taking "desk vacations." At least I find that’s true for me. I’m lucky enough to work for a company – which is over 100 years old – where almost everybody gets 3 or 4 weeks of vacation a year plus a liberal sprinkling of holidays. Far from ruining our company, people have a pretty high energy level at work at least in part because their last vacation is not a distant memory, and they have the next to look forward to.

  9. Zardoz says:

    Sweden (Norway’s neighbour) is pretty much the same. The summer vacation is a Scandinavian thing, not just Norwegian. They worship the sun.

  10. Thomas Thomassen says:

    Sun, we have sun? Never noticed that…

  11. Trying to be more like their Norwegian neighbors, perhaps.

Comments are closed.

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