Why Is Scandinavia so Successful?

Beautiful landscapes, crisp cool air, and a quality of life that is second to none. Just how does Scandinavia consistently beat the mark when it comes to their global ranking? If you are from this delectable part of the world, or even if you have Scandinavian heritage in your background, you can be very proud that their well-oiled system is part of your legacy.

Scandinavian Flags
Scandinavian Flags ©Shutterstock

Just what is it about Scandinavia that sets it apart from other countries? What do they have figured out that we can all learn some lessons from? Here are some ways that Norway, Sweden, and Finland continue to raise the bar for the rest of us.

1. Scandinavia takes care of its own

The welfare system in Scandinavia is set up in such a way that it provides support to citizens without promoting dependence on it. Employment resources, family outreach organizations, and other programs are in place to assist families as they regain their solid footing in society once more. This takes an enormous strain off of the government and the need to provide for people longer than necessary.

2. Scandinavian contributions to society are progressive

In a day and age where “every man for himself” has become prevalent, Scandinavians rock the house when it comes to positively contributing to their society and to the global economy as a whole. Doing business in this part of the world is remarkably easy, and contributions to global business are progressive and innovative. People realize the value of being an asset to society, not a burden, and every effort is made to equalize things like public assistance, education, and even taxes. With this ideal permeating the fabric of daily life, it is easy to see that a cooperative society is far superior to one that is highly competitive in nature.

Panorama View Stockholm - Sweden
Panorama View © Shutterstock

3. Scandinavian education is free!

Higher education in Scandinavian countries is largely financed by tax revenue; while this may seem a hefty bill for taxpayers, many buy in to the idea that those who are receiving higher education will continue to contribute more positively to society, paying it forward in that manner. Taxes in Scandinavian countries are quite high, but Swedes and Norwegians alike realize that this money is to be responsibly used to fund other things that they perceive to be valuable. With all of this opportunity for free education at their fingertips, students and adults are always striving to improve their education and occupational pursuits. It’s a win-win for those in the land of the midnight sun.

4. Women are highly involved in local and federal government

Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark all have high levels of representation in parliament. The leader of the pack is Finland, with a whopping 40 percent of participants being female. In contrast, the United States stands at 25 percent female representation. The strength of government and social parties encourages participation by all, and the Scandinavian countries take advantage of this balanced approach to governmental rule. It serves them well.

5. Business and government are transparent.

There is a high level of accountability in Scandinavian countries regarding both business and government operations. Denmark ranks first on this list, while Finland and Sweden tie for third place. With Norway also making the top ten at #5, it is easy to see why this is fast becoming the place to be.


6. Dads get parental leave!

What? Dads get leave as well, for the birth of their children? Scandinavian countries have some of the most generous leave policies in place for both parents, encouraging them to get their family lives in order as they transition slowly back to work. Parental leave in Norway totals 47 weeks for mom, at least 14 for dad. Finnish parents get time both during pregnancy and after for prenatal and postnatal care. Sweden frosts the cake in this area, with 480 days for parental leave, with a required minimum of 60 days for each parent. This leave can be taken any time up until the child turns 8. Are you ready to move yet?

7. Scandinavians are committed to saving the planet.

One glass bottle, one tin can at a time, Nordic folks are committed to recycling and reusing materials in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. In fact, Sweden’s recycling program is so efficient that they IMPORT over 800,000 tons of trash a year from other parts of Europe. That’s some serious recycling.

8. Scandinavians don’t go overboard on the permit policy

Norway has a word for this type of free-range appreciation of nature–it’s called “allemannsrett”. Any man, woman or child is allowed to roam unrestricted across public land, picking wildflowers, downhill skiing, picnicking—as long as it is done responsibly. There is no excessive attempt at government rule, and everyone seems to abide by the common rule of respect and appreciation for nature.

It’s easy to see that this utopian form of society does not come without its cost to the citizens, but the benefits that they all enjoy as a result of cooperative contributions and positive attitudes. We could all do well with taking a few of these lessons back with us to our home countries in search of a better way of life.

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