JUNCTION CITY, Oregon – Norway is the best place to live on the planet, while the United States lags behind, states the United Nations annual “A-to-Z” report that rates all the world’s nations on such areas as global wealth, poverty, health and education. Norway boasts long life expectancy of its citizens – at an average of 81 years of life – and “an average annual income of $58,810,” putting this Scandinavian country at the top of the Human Development Index for all but two years since 2001.
Norway’s focus is on people programs
Republicans are for less government and fewer government programs to help people. Thus, Republicans would no doubt hate Norway for having national health insurance, free college for all its citizens, and a national security blanket that out-laws the idea of being homeless.
According to the UN, Norway has been a pioneer in the field of social welfare and is often called a welfare state because all its citizens benefit from its oil-rich stats.
For instance, the UN’s annual report said “Norway’s all-round performance – in helping its people live quality lives – gave it superiority in the UN Development Program (UNDP) 20th annual rankings.”
The UN report put Australia second as having the best quality of life, followed by New Zealand and then the United States. However, the UN warned that with the continuing U.S. recession – and more and more Americans going under the poverty line, America is falling in quality of life.
In the 1930s, Norway expanded its social welfare schemes to include a seniors pension scheme; aid for the blind and crippled; and unemployment insurance for all workers.
Health insurance is “compulsory for all people” in Norway. Sickness benefits, family allowances during hospitalization, and grants for funeral expenses are paid. Costs of this scheme are met by deductions from wages and contributions by employers and by state and local authorities.
Public assistance, available in Norway since 1845, supplements the foregoing programs. Social welfare has long included maternity benefits with free prenatal clinics.
Norwegians in America wish they were “back home”
Ron Hermanson is struggling like many in Junction City, Oregon. This community, located outside of Eugene, was settled by mostly Norwegians and other Scandinavians back in the late 19th century and throughout the early 20th century.
“My grandfather came here from Oslo to make a better life for his family. Life was hard back in Norway when he immigrated in the 1920’s. But I don’t think grandpa would want to be here now,” says Hermanson with a cold, hard-pinched expression on his face.
News that the United Nations just named Norway has having “the best quality of life” sort of irked Hermanson who, like millions of other Oregonians is out of work and on the brink of being homeless. Oregon leads the nation with both the highest unemployment and homeless population.
“You look at my home, and how we’re living and I wonder if we should immigrate back to Norway,” muses Hermanson, who with his wife Lisa and four kids, just about to exhaust his emergency unemployment benefits that Republicans in the House and Senate voted against this year.
“Sure we worry. We wonder if our food stamps and other social benefits will be taken away by the Republicans who gained power in the election. Yes, another reason to long for life in Norway where every citizen is considered important,” he adds.
Why Norway has a better quality of life than America
Junction City is proud of its rich Scandinavian heritage. Since 1961, when the community began its annual “Scandinavian Festival,” Junction City has become a national showplace for paying homage to the cultures of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
“Visitors from across the country find treasured handicrafts including rosemalling, hardanger, pottery, woodcrafts, needle work, and original Scandinavian paintings,” states the Junction City Chamber of Commerce view on the annual festival that’s dubbed as one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest. It’s also one of the largest annual gatherings for Norwegians in the U.S.
Thus, it’s no surprise that locals -- who report an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent in Junction City – find it ironic that their former homeland is tops in the world these days.
“We are seeing a cold America right now, when our former country of Norway is warm and friendly towards its people. Norway is for all its people, and not just the rich,” says Junction City local Patty Olson whose great-grandparents immigrated from Norway.
This single parent of three also wonders about her future. “Look how we’re living in Junction City today. Our home is a mess, but that’s all we can afford,” Olson says with tears in her eyes.