Norway’s main strategy in achieving gender equality has been to strengthen women’s economic independence through increasing their labour market participation. The welfare system in Norway is to take care of all of the country’s inhabitants “from the cradle to the grave”. The system is gender neutral and guarantees most basic needs. Still, the division of resources is greatly gendered. Women's income is approximately 87 % of men’s income.
The Norwegian welfare system ensures child care and parental leave. These measures have been crucial for the dual career family policy. Today, women’s labour market participation in Norway is among the highest in Europe. At the same we have one of the highest birth rates, which indicates that every woman gives birth to 1.62 children on average during her lifetime. Still, we have a pay gap by hour at the average of the European countries. The pay gap reflects the gender segregated labour market, and not differences in length of education or employment. In addition: the pay gap increases when having small children.
Major challenges still remain in the following fields: reconciliation of work and family, single parenthood and work, unequal pay, involuntary underemployment among women, discrimination on the ground of pregnancy, gender segregated labour market, low proportion of female entrepreneurs, and challenges presented by a more multicultural society. Many men with ethnic minority backgrounds work in low-paid, traditionally female occupations, such as cleaning. Women with non-western ethnic minority backgrounds are the worst off in the labour market. This indicates that social background, or class, together with gender also “divide” the labour market, and this complexity needs to be addressed.
Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, national origin, descent, colour, language, religion, ethical and cultural orientation, political views, and membership in trade unions, sexual orientation, disability or age is illegal.
Development in a regional perspective is also in focus in Norway. Gender research early on raised the issue of women’s and men’s living conditions in rural areas. Agriculture, fishing and work in other primary industries form the daily lives of women and men outside the cities and bigger communities. Regional politics is also yet to see development from a gender equality perspective.