Here’s what the world can learn from Nordic countries

Forget the Aurora Borealis, this is why you should want to move to the Nordics.

Meryl D'Souza January 10, 2017

The Nordic countries were once a region only known for Abba and do-it-yourself furniture. Today, these countries are the epitome of what others strive to be. America even had their chance with Bernie Sanders until he lost his place in the drama that is the US elections.

Apart from dodging the economic sclerosis plaguing the world today, this thinly populated region has also escaped the social problems convulsing the rest of the world. By any measure, the Nordic countries are leading the world today. And here’s why:

They’re peaceful
In a world fraught with violence and terrorism, the Nordic countries resemble a peaceful Utopia. According to the Global Peace Index Iceland is the safest country in the world followed by Denmark. In fact, out of a total of 163 countries, all Nordic countries made it in the top 20.

They know how to treat their women
Gender equality anywhere in the world is yet to be achieved, but if any country can get it right, it would be one of the Nordic countries. These countries have consistently led the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, which measures how well countries are doing at removing the obstacles that hold women back. According to last year’s statistics, Iceland led the way for the fifth year in a row and was closely followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.

They care about the environment
Believe it or not, Sweden is so exceptionally good at recycling that the country imports garbage from other countries to keep its recycling plants running. More than 50% of the country's energy is generated from renewables and only 1% of household waste ends up in landfills. How have they managed it? Sweden was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels way back in 1991.

Sweden also introduced tax breaks on repairs in an effort to combat waste. The initiative also hopes to boost the country’s economy simultaneously. The idea is to fight throwaway consumer culture by making it more affordable to repair goods, rather than ditching broken for brand-new. For items like bikes, clothes and shoes, the value-added tax (VAT) has been chopped from 25 per cent to 12 per cent, while for white goods — items like fridges, freezers, and washing machines — consumers can now claim income tax on repairmen who fix those products. That, according to The Guardian, could reduce the cost of a repair by 87 per cent

Lest you feel like we’re unnecessarily overplaying Sweden’s initiatives, here's a quantitative measure of their effort: according to the Environmental Performance Index, four of the top five ‘greenest’ countries in the world were Nordic.

They prioritise the wellbeing of new parents

  • In Finland, expecting mums can start with their maternity leave seven weeks before the estimated due date post which the government covers 16 additional weeks of paid leave. Dads get eight weeks of paid paternity leave.
  • In Denmark, expecting mothers get a total of 18 weeks of maternity leave at full pay. Fathers are allowed two consecutive weeks off following the birth of the child.
  • In Sweden, mothers are allowed 18 weeks of maternity leave while fathers are allowed a total of 90 days of paid paternity leave. To top it off, new parents are entitled to 480 days of leave.
  • In Iceland, new parents are entitled to nine months of post-childbirth leave with 80 per cent of their salary.
  • In Norway, Mothers are allowed 35 weeks at full pay or 45 weeks at 80 per cent pay while fathers are allowed up to 10 weeks.

These countries are an educational superpower

Finland leads the way when it comes to education. According to the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000.

Finland has achieved this because Finns don’t see academic excellence as a particular priority. To them, education is a way to squeeze out social inequality. As such, Finnish schools assign less homework and have no standardised tests - the only being the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school. The concept of competitiveness is alien in Finland schools. Interestingly, Finland is not home to any private schools or universities and none of them are allowed to charge a tuition fee.