Norway’s gender gap

Though more equal than most countries, pay for Norway’s women has room for improvement

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Norway ranks consistently high in international comparisons of equality between women and men. In education, in the labor market, and in politics, Norway is among the countries in which women do well compared to men. In the most recent United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Gender Development Index (Further reading), Norway ranks highest ahead of 10 other countries, including the USA and Canada in a shared 10th place. Norway also is on top in the UNDP Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), an index that aims to measure “whether women and men are able to actively participate in economic and political life and take part in decision-making” (Further reading).

Illustration: Statistics Norway (SSB)

These two international indices reflect the efforts of the UNDP to chart common global objectives for gender equality. But they are broad overviews. Like a global map that shows no local features, they lack the depth of detail that may reveal the ways in which gender equality is experienced at the local level, in the everyday lives of men and women that differ from country to country and from culture to culture.

Researchers at Statistisk sentralbyrå (Statistics Norway), the central bureau for government statistics, have reported the figures underlying Norway’s being a world leader in gender equality (Further reading). But they admit that there’s much room for improvement. In March this year, Statistics Norway released the results of a study that explained why this may be so. Entitled “Facts on gender equality” (Further reading), summarized in the illustration shown on page 3.

The largest gap was in pay. In 2015, the average gross annual income for women was NOK 354,000 ($43,844) compared to NOK 530,100 ($65,642) for men. These figures reflect more than gender itself. In terms of total hours spent in both unpaid and paid work, in a year women work more than men, in part because more of their work is unpaid. Moreover, more women than men work part-time. Another figure suggests that the gender gap in pay may be less than that shown by average annual earnings. In 2016, the average full-time monthly pay for a woman was 87.5% that of a man. In private sector and public sector enterprises, municipal administration, and national government agencies, full-time men still earn more than full-time women.

In one sector of the Norwegian society, the gender gap has been reversed. Some 60% of all residents with higher education (college and university) are women. Some educators now wonder what should be done to attract more men to higher education.

Further reading:
• “Gender Development Index (GDI)”, United Nations Development Program Human Development Reports, published online in 2016, link at:

• “Gender Empowerment Measure,” updated 2017 online by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), based on the European Commission’s database on women and men in decision making, link at:

• “Norway—world leader in gender equality,” Statistics Norway article published online Dec. 5, 2003, link at: (English)

• “Fakta om likestilling” (Facts on gender equality”), Statistics Norway overview published online March 17, 2017, link at: (Norwegian only)

This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.