Lecture that was held at Toyonaka Foundation for Gender Equality Promotion, May the 12th 2001, and at Takefu Gender Equality Association, May the 13th 2001.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for me to have been invited to address you here today. The topic of my speech will be the Social Welfare system in Norway, with special reference to the support systems we have for our working mothers. I shall do my best to cover this topic as seen from my own perspective, as I happen to be one of about 125 000 single Norwegians mothers in that position.

History
Let me first give you a little historic background for the establishment of the Norwegian Social Welfare system. It all started with the famous "Castberg children’s’ laws" in 1915, named after our country’s first Minister for social welfare. Norway had only just emerged as an independent country after more than 400 years of Danish and Swedish domination (1905). The nation was poor, but energetic and optimistic. We managed to stay out of World War 1, and our Liberal Parliament had already decided to give women voting rights.

There were many female activists, who were fighting for the rights of women and their children, whether they were conceived inside or outside the frame of marriage. They also worked for the establishment of homes for poor unmarried women, information about contraception and for legalizing abortions.

It took more than half a century to realize these goals, as our young nation had more pressing problems to attend to, as indeed did the rest of the world. One of the first tasks to be solved after World War 2 and the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation of Norway, was the issue of Family Allowance. This was passed as a law already in 1945, and since then our social welfare system has been developed continuously and today Norway can claim to be among the leading nations in this respect.

The Impact of Politics
Norway’s political life has been influenced by the development in our society as a whole. "If women are to have any say in the lives they lead, they must enter politics." Said Fernanda Nissen (1862-1920), a well known feminist and politician.

Mariko Mitsui has written the book "Cross Men Out!-Women's Coup in Norway" in japanese language, and it recounts the women in Norwegian politics, Norwegian women's liberation history, our quota system, etc.

In 1981 Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland rose to the position of Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democrates. She dominated the political scene in our country for a number of years, together with a considerable number of female politicians in all political parties, irrespective of their ideological basis.

From the outset, however, it is fair to say that the social democrates were leading the way in the building of Norway’s social welfare system.

Level of Child Supports
The level of Child Support Payments from the other partner is set by the public authorities. It will as a general rule, amount to a percentage of his or her income. Basically, he or she must pay 11 percent for the first child, 18 percent for two children and 24 percent for three children.

When I separated from my husband in Luxembourg, I was not under Norwegian jurisdiction - unfortunately. Irrespective of the maintenance payer’s income and payments, the Norwegians may apply for child support advances from the local insurance office. This will at least provide the single parent with some level of support if the other partner refuses to pay.

I would like to mention that a girlfriend of mine is paying maintenance to her ex-husband since he is taking care of their child. This is quite unusual in Norway but it gives a practical example of gender equality. A parent’s obligation to pay support normally ceases when the child reaches the age of 18.

My own Background
I would say the actual figures for the various allowances and benefits in Norway would probably be difficult to compare to your own system here in Japan. But what is extremely important, is that we are aware of our opportunities and that we have a real choice concerning what we want to do in our lives, and how we want to do it.

Economic support provides us with different alternatives and a degree of independency. This was very important to me when I chose to leave Luxembourg and move back to Norway with my three children.

© Copyright 2001 - Bodil Krogh

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