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EXPLAINED: Is Norway too focused on Oslo?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Is Norway too focused on Oslo?
Does Norway spend too much money and attention on Oslo? Pictured is the opera house in Oslo. Photo by Hanlin Sun on Unsplash

Many countries fall into the trap of having everything revolve around the capital, but is that the case in Norway, or can residents enjoy a high quality of life and good access to jobs and local services wherever they live?


As a country of just 5.5 million, Norway’s largest cities consist of hundreds of thousands of residents rather than millions. 

The country’s capital, Oslo, is the largest city with just over 700,000 residents. Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, was home to around 289,000 residents in 2023


Oslo is the jobs capital of Norway. Work is the reason most foreign residents end up living in the city when moving to Norway in the first place

Not only is there a larger number of jobs in Oslo, but there is more variety when it comes to foreign workers’ careers. 

Many international firms with offices in Norway and most Norwegian companies with English as their primary working language do their business out of Oslo. This means that many of the English language jobs in Norway are found in the capital. 

There is still a degree of variety when working in Norway’s other big cities, and the opportunity to work in English too. However, some cities have more specialised industries where it may be harder to break into. 

For example, Stavanger is home to Norway’s oil industry, and Trondheim could be considered the tech capital. This means that if you have experience and qualifications that fit into these niches, you may find it as easy to find work in these cities as in Oslo. 

Rural areas will likely have more specialised industries where it may be harder for foreigners to find work, including tourism, farming, agriculture, fishing, and construction. Some rural areas are the exception to this, as their local industries rely on foreign workers to fill jobs. 

That is why some of Norway’s most rural regions have the highest proportion of foreign residents to Norwegians


Working from home also means foreign workers are less tied to a location when it comes to job hunting. 


The highest average salaries are found off the Norwegian mainland, according to figures from Statistics Norway. This is likely due to the high wages offshore workers in Norway can make. 

After that, Oslo was the area with the highest average monthly pay for full-time employees at 62,920 kroner per month. The figures for Oslo and those not on the mainland significantly increase the national average. 

As a result, the only other county above the national average (55,390 kroner per month) is Rogaland (home to Stavanger), with an average monthly salary of 58,440 kroner.  

READ ALSO: Do foreigners get paid less than Norwegians?

Access to local services 

Norway’s local authorities are ranked on centrality on a scale of 1-6. Areas of the country with the shortest travel times to work and essential nearby services were considered the most central. 

The seven most central municipalities were Oslo, Lørenskog, Skedsmo, Bærum, Rælingen, Asker, and Drammen. Even with Oslo excluded, the other six most central municipalities are in the south-east of Norway and close to the capital. 


A centrality index from Statistics Norway shows that Norway’s other biggest cities have worse access to local services than many of the local authorities surrounding Oslo. 

Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger all received a rating of 2. Meanwhile, the biggest city in northern Norway, Tromsø, received a rating of 3. 

Healthcare coverage in Norway is generally reasonable. However, there are some issues with the system. There is a shortage of GPs, meaning there is a large number of people without a doctor. While this is a nationwide issue, the north is disproportionately affected.

The healthcare system in Lofoten has also been under strain recently, and healthcare services in the region have faced cuts

One healthcare feature nationwide is that every municipality in Norway is supposed to have its own emergency room. 

When it comes to schools, many of the country’s best-performing schools are in Oslo. However, this may be due to Oslo’s partial results-based admission system, whereas the rest of the country uses a different admission. 

The perception

Many across Norway believe the capital doesn’t represent the country, and that its residents live within their own bubbles. 

This has led to a perception of the “Oslo elite”. Even within Oslo, there is a perception of an elitist class of residents.

Those in the west of the city are perceived as anything from snobbish, crass and ignorant to arrogant, self-involved and pretentious by those less fond of Oslo. The west of Oslo was traditionally, and still is, the most affluent area of the capital. 

Politically, several parties have sought to push back against the “Oslo elite”. One of the parties in government, the Centre Party, started life as a farmer’s party. In the modern day, it still seeks to look out for the interests of rural communities. 


The populist Progress Party is another party that has pushed back against the “Oslo elite” in the past, particularly on topics such as reducing parking spaces and investing in cycling infrastructure. 

Tax breaks when purchasing electric cars were another policy area criticised for only benefitting affluent Oslo residents. Many are also left upset at the largest infrastructure products being centered around the capital, when other parts of the country are seen as needing investment. 

Many living in other parts of Norway also believe far too much focus is put on Oslo and the south-east, whether it comes in the form of media attention or culture. 

There have been active efforts from the government and the media to shift focus away from the capital. Public broadcaster NRK publishes content in both Nynorsk and Sami. 

Nynorsk is the minority written form of Norwegian based on the dialects of rural Norway and is prominent in western and central Norway. 

Meanwhile, broadcaster TV 2 is headquartered in Bergen, and one of the country’s most respected papers, Bergens Tidende, is also based in the city on Norway’s west coast. 


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