Magazine article New Internationalist

Norse Crossroads: A Nationwide Movement to Defend the Welfare State Is Taking off in Norway, Reports Asbjorn Wahl

Magazine article New Internationalist

Norse Crossroads: A Nationwide Movement to Defend the Welfare State Is Taking off in Norway, Reports Asbjorn Wahl

Article excerpt

A nationwide movement to defend the welfare state is taking off in Norway, reports Asbjorn Wahl.

IN 1999 six Norwegian trade unions formed For Velferdsstaten (For the Welfare State), an alliance to combat `the destructive policies of neo-liberalism, including privatization and deregulation'. Members included municipal employees, teachers, nurses, social workers and civil servants.

Since then the alliance has attracted another 20 national organizations and now represents nearly a million people - almost a quarter of the country's 4.5 million population. More recent members include the Women's Front, the Association of Retired People and the Farmers and Smallholders Union - as well as private-sector trade unions like the Transport Workers Union, the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union and the Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union.

Even though Norway is one of the world's wealthiest countries (and wealthier than at any other time in its history) inequality is increasing. Recent figures show 50,000 children living below the poverty line and that number is growing. At the same time, there are 20 new millionaires every day. While average wages increased by 15 per cent from 1995 to 1998, corporate leaders increased their income by some 35 per cent. And the public share of GNP declined from 52 to 43 per cent between 1992 and 1999.

For Velferdsstaten believes that both public services and democracy are weakened through deregulation, privatization and competitive tendering. The group warns that market forces have gained ground at the expense of public governance. It believes that this is causing social inequality, attacks on general welfare and public services - not to mention ruthless exploitation of natural resources and the environment.

According to Jan Davidsen, president of the Union of Municipal Employees and one of the founders of the alliance: `We are now standing at a crossroads. …

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