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Working in Norway: Are Norwegian wages really that high?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Working in Norway: Are Norwegian wages really that high?
Norwegian wages are famous around the world for being high, but is this really the case? Pictured is the royal palace in Oslo. Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash

How do Norway's wages stack up? Are they as high as everyone makes them out to be, and is the salary gap between Norway and other countries shrinking?

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The average wage in Norway is around 53,150 kroner per month, according to figures from the national data agency Statistics Norway. At current rates, this is around 4,500 euros or 4,980 dollars per month. 

Men earned over ten percent more than women in 2022 at 56,250 kroner per month, compared to 49,280 kroner monthly. 

READ MORE: Is there a gender wage gap in Norway?

This gives an annual salary of 637,800 kroner per year when multiplying the average monthly salary for each month. This equates to 59,780 dollars per year or 54,587 euros each year.

In terms of annual average salary, this puts Norway on a level with the US. According to Forbes, the annual average salary in the US was 59,428 dollars

The very highest earners in Norway pull up the average wage significantly. Full-time employees in Norway had a median salary of 49,540 kroner each month. Annually, this is 55,700 dollars and 50,888 euros. 

Eurostat, the official statistics office of the European Union, measured the average annual salary for a single worker without children at 26,136 euros and 55,573 euros for a working couple with two children. 

The statistics office also keeps data on Norway, which differs slightly from the Statistics Norway figures. It found Norway had the 4th highest average annual net earnings for employees in 2022. 

The Eurostat figures show that workers in Norway made 74,056 euros per year net. The highest-paying countries were Switzerland (106,839 euros), Iceland (81,942 euros) and Luxembourg (79,903 euros). 

These Eurostat figures put the average earnings in Norway among the highest in Europe and significantly more than in the US. 

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Why are wages so high in Norway? 

Many would assume that the high salaries result from a high minimum wage. However, Norway has no universal minimum wage. Instead, a minimum wage is only place in industries where workers may be at risk of exploitation. 

READ ALSO: Which industries in Norway have a minimum wage?

Many factors contribute to high salaries in Norway. Firstly, there are the high levels of union membership. Instead of a legal minimum wage, unions set pay and working conditions for most sectors. 

They govern everything from a minimum wage for a sector to salary bands. 

Then, there is the high cost of living in the country. The high cost of living means that salaries need to be high so people can afford to live. For example, Norway has the second-highest grocery prices out of the EU/EEA countries

Does this mean everyone in Norway is wealthy? 

In median terms, Norway was the eighth wealthiest country in the world, according to the Global Wealth Report from banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse.

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Norwegians were also the seventh wealthiest on average, with the average Norwegian adult having an estimated wealth of around 4.05 million kroner or 385,340 dollars. 

The figures included pay, assets and property. Norway is a nation of homeowners, which would have driven up the average wealth. Numbers from Statistics Norway show that 76.4 percent of households owned a home

When it comes to inequality, analysis from Statistics Norway from 2021 shows that inequality in Norway is increasing, and researchers from the national data agency believe that the disparity is much more significant than the statistics show.

According to UN estimates, around 10 percent of the population in Norway lives below the relative poverty line. This is defined as those who earn less than 60 percent of the median income.

Despite this, Norway could still be classed as one of the countries with the lowest levels of income inequality. 

READ MORE: How much money do you need to earn for a good life in Norway?

How much do the highest earners make? 

The threshold for joining the top one percent in Norway regarding annual earnings is around 1.8 million kroner per year, or 154,207 euros and 168,830 dollars, respectively. 

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The top one percent of earners comprised around 41,600 people in 2021 (the year the most recent figures are available). 

While foreigners and the children of two parents born outside of Norway make up nearly 20 percent of the population, only 11.4 percent of the highest earners (or less than 5,000 people) were among the highest earners.  

Is a weak krone eating in Norway's healthy salaries? 

Over the past decade, Norway's krone has weakened significantly against several major currencies. 

Ten years ago, a euro cost 8.43 kroner and five years ago, a euro traded for 9.63 kroner. These days, the euro is trading for close to 12 kroner. Through exchange rates alone, earnings elsewhere have achieved greater parity with the ones on offer in Norway. 

Hypothetically, if the exchange rate had stayed the same over the past ten years, the average Norwegian annual wage would be worth closer to 75,000 euros. 

If the exchange rate had frozen when converting the krone into pounds, then the average salary in Norway would be the equivalent of 63,381 pounds rather than 47,311 pounds. 

If the same thing happened to the dollar, the average salary would translate to 103,000 dollars rather than 55,000 dollars. 

Before wage earners in Norway get upset at the exchange rate, it's worth remembering that the hypothetical figures don't account for salaries and the cost of living ten years ago.

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