There is broad agreement in Norway that the state should contribute actively to the well-being of its inhabitants from cradle to grave, and that part of the public sector's job is to compensate for inequities. An important factor in this consensus is the strong confidence Norwegians have in the ability of the authorities to keep promises. Generations of Norwegians have concluded that they can trust the state, perhaps because the country's social support mechanisms have functioned fairly well for several centuries. There is also a long tradition of egalitarianism. Norway abolished its aristocracy in 1821, and has a long history of economic equalization. The principle of full equality between the sexes is no longer controversial; the only debate left is how to put the principle into practice.
The Equality and anti-discrimination ombud in Norway enforces legal prohibitions agains discriminations, provides guidance and promotes equality and diversity.
Agreement on goals, debate on methods
Although there is general agreement in Norway that part of the state's role is to provide welfare for all, there is less agreement about how this should be done. Debates over welfare entitlements and policy details are part of everyday politics. State and municipal agencies offer a great deal, but will never be able to satisfy all the wishes of the population. And although there is broad support for the notion of equal opportunities and rights, equality does not follow automatically. It takes a lot to change traditions and old habits across an entire population.
Teamwork and development
Good welfare policies must constantly evolve in step with changes in the community. The Norwegian state acknowledges that its health-care, education, pension and social security systems are imperfect and subject to reform. It is also obvious that the state can't solve all challenges alone. That's why developments within the Norwegian welfare system are undertaken jointly by state and local authorities in collaboration with research communities, business groups and other organizations. New programme ideas are studied continuously, and all key welfare mechanisms have been reformed to some degree in recent years. The state also uses legislation and other instruments to stimulate change. One example is a law that says 40 percent of the board seats in Norway's largest companies must be held by women. Another is a set of rules that reserves for fathers a substantial portion of the parental leave period after child is born.
Norway became a country of equal opportunity in gradual steps with many influences. People from different walks of life have joined forces to move the process forward. The Norwegian welfare model is a big reason why the UN Development Programme has several times named Norway the world's best country to live in. Concrete examples of Norway's leadership in these areas include: the gender balance on boards of directors in most Norwegian companies, the fact that kindergarten availability will soon be universal, and the fact that 9 of 10 fathers who are entitled to parental leave now take it during the child’s first year.