Norway is a country located on the Scandinavian Peninsula with just over 5 million inhabitants and spread over more than 230 thousand islands. It is world renowned for its landscapes of fjords and northern lights, the Winter Olympics, Munch’s Cry and its rich history of Viking descent. It is also recognized around the world as the prototype of a social-capitalist mixed economy done right.
It´s also a country where we find a distinct socio-economic equality. On average, after taxes, an individual belonging to the poorest 20% of the population earns only 4 times less than an individual belonging to the richest 20%. This does not sound incredibly fair, but when compared to the average of OECD countries where this difference is more than 10 times, we better understand the reduced real income disparity in this society. The Norwegian economy also has extremely robust labor protection measures, which means that social problems such as precarious work or the need for a second job are very rare. Only 3% of the Norwegian workforce works more than 50 hours per week, with this figure being 11% in the OECD and 33% in the US.
Everything changed in 1959, when the discovery of natural gas off the coast of Groningen in the Netherlands led to the widespread belief that there was a great potential for the exploitation of natural resources – namely oil – on the North Sea Continental Plate. In May 1963, the Kingdom of Norway declared and exercised sovereign rights over an enormous area of this maritime region, in a move that, at the time, would hardly not have been condemned had it not been carried out by a member of NATO. This meant that all resources found in this region would belong to the King – and, in practice, to the government – and, as such, only the latter could grant exploration and production licenses to third parties. Over the next few years hundreds of licenses were issued to private companies in the Black Sea oil rush. The Norwegian oil adventure only really started in 1969, when the Philips Petroleum company’s Ocean Viking ship first struck oil in a hole drilled in the current Ekofisk field, starting production in 1971. This is still one of the most productive oil exploration fields in the world. Thereafter, numerous discoveries were made along the Plate, this initial work being developed mostly by private companies, with the participation of Statoil, a public company founded in 1972. During the 1970s, Norway produced more oil per capita than any other country in the world and even today is only surpassed by Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, producing around 2 003 747.53 barrels of oil per day.