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Working in Norway: Is there a gender wage gap?

Many describe Norway as a gender equality pioneer, but are women still paid less than men for doing the same job? 

Pictured is a work meeting.
Here's what you need to know about the gender pay gap in Norway. Pictured is a work meeting. Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Norway is often lauded for its progressive approach to the workplace and for being considered one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. 

The country has a broad set of legislation, which it frequently updates, to ensure parity between genders and other underrepresented groups in society. 

For example, Since 2004, state-owned company boards must be comprised of at least 40 percent women, with that rule being applied to publicly traded firms since 2008.

The government has moved to extend this rule further to apply to another 10,000-25,000 companies. Currently, women make up around 20 percent of boardrooms in Norway. 

Additionally, the Norwegian Gender Equality Act was aimed at reducing discrimination in Norway. Then in 2016, it was the first country globally to establish a gender equality ombud. 

So how does this all add up in terms of the gender pay gap? 

Unfortunately, for all the work Norway has done towards trying to end discrimination in the workplace (and society in general), men still get paid more than women for the same job. 

The World Economic Forum publishes an annual report on the state of men’s and women’s wages. In 2022, it found that Norway has a gender parity of 84.5 percent. 

This means that women in Norway get paid around 84.5 percent of what men earn. 

While this figure may be disappointing, Norway was one of the best-performing countries for gender pay parity in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. 

Only Iceland (90.8 percent) and Finland (86 percent) had a higher gender pay parity than Norway. 

Norway’s national data agency, Statistics Norway (SSB), also keeps data on the gender wage gap. It found in 2022 that women earned an average of 88 percent of men’s wages. This is up from 83.3 percent in 2001. 

Norway’s gender wage gap explained

One of the reasons it said that men earned more than women on average was that men were overrepresented in the highest-paying jobs, bringing the average wage up overall. 

“An important reason why women, on average, earn less than men is that men are overrepresented among wage earners who have the highest salaries. There are, therefore, few women compared to men at the top of the distribution. Correspondingly, there are more women than men in the middle of the distribution,” an earlier report on the gender pay gap reads. 

When the highest wage earners are removed from the equation, the pay gap in Norway is reduced from 87.9 percent to 96.2 percent. 

“When we remove the top 10 percent of salaries, the average salary for men drops considerably, while it does not for women. Among the jobs with the ten percent highest salaries, just under 30 percent are women. There are thus too few women at the top of the distribution for it to raise the average as much as it does for men,” SSB writes. 

 When using a median wage, which doesn’t get skewed by the presence of the highest and lowest earners, women earn 94.1 percent of what men do. 

Another explanation for the wage gap in Norway offered by Statistics Norway centres on where men and women choose to work. 

Men were more likely to be found in the private sector, where the highest-earning jobs were found- while 70 percent of women worked in the public sector.

Women in working and public life

Figures also point to women being underrepresented at the top level in both working and public life. Some 63 percent of management positions in Norway are held by men. When accounting for just the most senior and executive roles, women make up just over a quarter of senior management staff in Norway. 

While Norway’s governemnt cabinet has a majority of women serving, just 34 percent of local mayors in Norway are women. Women also make up just 40 percent of municipal councillors in Norway.  

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Nordic countries urged to set common working from home rules

The Nordic countries should have common conditions on working from the place of residence, including working from home, to fulfil the objective of an integrated labour market, says a report by the region's Freedom of Movement Council.

Nordic countries urged to set common working from home rules

The proposal is part of a series of recommendations to simplify tax agreements to facilitate free movement of people and make the region “the most integrated” in the world by 2030, as agreed by Nordic Prime Ministers.

The Freedom of Movement Council argues that the pandemic revealed the flaws in the current system, as a large proportion of cross-border workers had to operate from home, facing taxation in two countries, different tax levels and mounting bureaucracy.

“Now that more companies are open to their employees working from home, the current Nordic tax agreement just isn’t keeping up. I hope this analysis will pave the way for dialogue and that the end result will be simplification and less bureaucracy,” said Karen Ellemann, secretary-general of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Internationally less known than EU free movement rules, the region has a special agreement on free movement of people that dates back to the 1950s.

Under the Nordic Passport Union, citizens can move within the region without travel documents or residence permits and enjoy more rights than those granted to EU citizens within the European Union. Non-EU residents, however, only partially benefit as they do not have the automatic right to work in another Nordic state.

The Nordic free movement area covers Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands and Åland. Greenland is not part of the Passport Union but is in practice subject to some of its provisions.

The Nordic governments set up the Freedom of Movement Council as an independent body to identify obstacles to this principle and propose how to remove them.

In an interview with The Local, chair Siv Friðleifsdóttir said the Council has identified over 100 barriers to free movement and prioritised 30. The tax system is one of them.

“The Nordic countries currently have several agreements that regulate cross-border and remote working. Common to all of them is that they’re based on the countries’ need to protect their tax base,” the Council notes.


The report, prepared by consultancies KPMG and Resonans Nordic, points at four problems in particular: rules for domestic work, registration obligations in more than one country for employers, as well as taxation of wages and pensions when working in another Nordic state.

The Council therefore proposes to set common conditions on “permanent establishment” when working in the country of residence, including from home. It also suggests to tax salaries in the country of employment and consider work from home in the country of residence equal to work in the country where the employer is located.

In addition, advance tax should be reported and collected in the employer’s country to avoid having different rules for the same salary.

Pension contributions should be mutually recognised as deductible in another Nordic states and returns taxed only under the legislation of the country where the pension plan is established, the Council argues.

In the Øresund region, between Denmark and Sweden, a fully integrated labour market could generate combined annual socio-economic gains of 2.9 billion Danish kroner, the report estimates.

“Our countries have a lot to gain from having a flexible common labour market. It can solve the problem of skills shortages in one country and the problem of unemployment in another. In other words, a functioning labour market is a strong catalyst for our countries’ economies,” says Siv Friðleifsdóttir, chair of the Freedom of Movement Council.

The full report is currently only available in Danish but translations are expected in the coming weeks.