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Whitaker's Almanack: Norway

Information on Norway

See also QFINANCE article

Kongeriket Norge – Kingdom of Norway

Whitaker's Almanack Definitions

  • Area – 386,224 sq. km, of which Svalbard and Jan Mayen have a combined area of 62,422 sq. km
  • Capital – Oslo; population, 874,695 (2009 est)
  • Major cities – Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim
  • Currency – Krone of 100 ore
  • Population – 4,707,270 rising at 0.33 per cent per year (2012 est)
  • Religion – Christian (Lutheran 79 per cent, other Protestant 4 per cent, Roman Catholic 1 per cent), Muslim 2 per cent (est)
  • Language – Bokmal and Nynorsk Norwegian (both official), Finnish, Sami (official in six municipalities)
  • Population density – 16 per sq. km (2010)
  • Urban population – 77.6 per cent (2010 est)
  • Median age (years) – 40 (2011 est)
  • National anthem – 'Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet' ['Yes, We Love This Country']
  • National day – 17 May (Constitution Day)
  • Death penalty – Abolished for all crimes (since 1979)
  • CPI score – 9.0 (2011)

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Climate and Terrain

The terrain is mostly mountainous, with elevated, barren plateaux separated by deep, narrow valleys; the north is arctic tundra. The coastline is deeply indented with numerous fjords and fringed with thousands of rocky islands and islets; Geirangerfjord and Naeroyfjord are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Elevation extremes range from 2,469m (Galdhopiggen) to 0m (Norwegian Sea).

Nearly half of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle, and at North Cape the sun does not appear to set between about 14 May and 29 July, causing the phenomenon known as the midnight sun; conversely, there is no apparent sunrise from about 18 November to 24 January. The climate is temperate on the coast but colder and wetter inland; average temperatures in Oslo range from −7°C in January to 22°C in July, but winter temperatures in parts of the north can drop to −40°C.

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History and Politics

Norway became a unified country under the rule of King Harald Fairhair in c.900 but dissolved after his death and was reunified by Olav II in c.1016–28. Canute brought Norway under Danish rule in 1028 but the throne reverted on his death to Magnus I. When the royal house died out in the 14th century, the Danish monarch was the nearest heir and in 1397 Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united under a single monarch in the Kalmar Union. Sweden seceded from the union in 1523, but Norway continued to be ruled by the Danish crown until 1814, when it was ceded to Sweden.

Although internal self-government was established in 1814, growing tension over constraints on the Norwegian government led to the union being dissolved, and Norway became independent in 1905. The first king of the newly independent country was a Danish prince, who took the throne as King Haakon VII.

The country was neutral in the First World War, but in the Second World War Norway was invaded and occupied by Germany from 1940 until 1945. Norway joined NATO in 1949 and was a founder member of the European Free Trade Association in 1960. Membership of the EU was rejected in referendums in 1972 and 1994.

After 1945, governments pursued policies of economic planning and an extensive welfare state. The Labour Party dominated politics from the 1930s to the early 1980s, governing either on its own or in coalition with smaller parties. It was returned to power in 2005 after winning a majority of seats in the legislative election, forming a coalition government with the Socialist Left and Centre parties. In the 2009 legislative election the governing coalition was returned with a one-seat majority.

Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a hereditary monarch as head of state. Under the 1814 constitution, the unicameral Storting has 169 members who are directly elected for a four-year term; a 2007 constitutional amendment abolished a bicameral division within the Storting, which took effect from the 2009 election. The prime minister, who is responsible to parliament, appoints the cabinet.


HM The King of Norway, King Harald V, KG, GCVO, born 21 February 1937; succeeded 17 January 1991
Heir, HRH Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, born 20 July 1973


Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg
Defence, Espen Barth Eide
Finance, Sigbjorn Johnsen
Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Store


25 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QD
T 020-7591 5500 E W
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, HE Kim Traavik, apptd 2010


Thomas Heftyesgate 8, 0264 Oslo
T (+47) 2313 2700 E W
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, HE Jane Owen, apptd 2010

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All aged 16–49, 2010 estMalesFemales
Available for military service1,079,0431,051,210
Fit for military service888,761865,697

Military expenditure – US$7,083m (2011)
Conscription duration – 12 months plus refresher training

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Economy and Trade

Norway's prosperity depends primarily upon oil and gas extraction, which accounts for nearly half of exports, and its fisheries. Oil production is declining, but exploration for oil and gas in the Barents Sea, and other areas that are becoming more accessible as the Arctic ice cap retreats, is ongoing. Norway has planned for the time when reserves are exhausted by investing revenue from this sector in a government fund. The state retains a majority share in key enterprises, including the oil industry.

The nature of the terrain restricts agriculture, which generates 2.7 per cent of GDP. The main industries apart from oil and gas are fishing, forestry, food processing, shipbuilding, pulp and paper products, metals, chemicals, mining and textiles. Shipping freight services are also significant, with Norwegian companies controlling over 5 per cent of the world’s shipping fleet by tonnage. Industry contributes 38.3 per cent of GDP and services 59 per cent.

The main trading partners are EU countries, the USA and China. Principal exports are oil and petroleum products, machinery and equipment, metals, chemicals, ships and fish. The main imports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals and foodstuffs.

GNI – US$413,979m; US$84,290 per capita (2010)
Annual average growth of GDP – 1.7 per cent (2011 est)
Inflation rate – 1.4 per cent (2011 est)
Unemployment – 3.4 per cent (2011 est)
Total external debt – US$644,500m (2011)
Imports – US$77,252m (2010)
Exports – US$131,395m (2010)


Trade – US$54,144m surplus (2010)
Current Account – US$51,284m surplus (2010)

Trade with UK20102011
Imports from UK£2,982,853,211£3,294,965,087
Exports to UK£19,223,317,249£24,244,871,138

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Airports – There are 98 airports and airfields, including the principal airports at Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim

Waterways – The main ports are Oslo, Bergen, Kristiansand, Tonsberg, Stavanger and Narvik, and there is a large merchant fleet, with 585 ships of over 1,000 tonnes registered in Norway and 974 registered abroad

Roadways and railways – There are 93,509km of roads and 4,169km of railways

Telecommunications – 1.70 million fixed lines and 5.52 million mobile subscriptions (2010); there were 4.43 million internet users in 2009

Major broadcasters – The public broadcaster NRK operates radio and television channels, in competition with a number of commercial rivals

PressVG has the largest circulation amongst the country's daily news publications; other newspapers include The Norway Post and Dagbladet

WPFI score – 0,00 (1)

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Education and Health

Education from six to 16 is free and compulsory in the basic schools, and free from 16 to 19 years.

Gross enrolment ratio (percentage of relevant age group) – primary 99 per cent; secondary 110 per cent; tertiary 74 per cent (2009 est)
Health expenditure (per capita) – US$7,662 (2009)
Hospital beds (per 1,000 people) – 3.5 (2004–9)
Life expectancy (years) – 80.32 (2012 est)
Mortality rate – 9.22 (2012 est)
Birth rate – 10.8 (2012 est)
Infant mortality rate – 3.5 (2012 est)

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Area – 62,045 sq. km
Population – 1,970 (2012 est); Norwegian 55 per cent, Russian and Ukrainian 44 per cent

The Svalbard archipelago consists of Spitsbergen, North East Land, the Wiche Islands, Barents Island, Edge Island, Prince Charles Foreland, Hope Island and Bear Island. It lies north of the Arctic Circle, and glaciers and snow cover around 60 per cent of the area, although the west coast is ice-free for about half the year. Some 65 per cent of the Svalbard archipelago is protected to ensure biodiversity; there are seven national parks, six large nature reserves, 15 bird sanctuaries and one geotopic protected area. A global seed repository has been established on Spitsbergen. Norway's sovereignty was recognised by treaty in 1920 but the other signatories were granted equal rights to exploit mineral deposits, although this right is now only exercised by Russia. The territory is administered by a governor, who is responsible to the Ministry of Justice and Police. The main economic activities are coal mining, tourism, and research and education.

Jan Mayen Island

Area – 377 sq. km
Population – the only residents are the staff of the radio and meteorological stations

The island is barren, volcanic and partially covered by glaciers, with no exploitable natural resources. It lies in the North Atlantic Ocean about 950 km west of Norway and is home to the Beerenberg volcano, the northernmost active volcano on earth. It was annexed by Norway in 1922 and integrated into the kingdom in 1930; since 1995 it has been administered by the governor of Nordland county.

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The Norwegian Antarctic Territory consists of Queen Maud Land, Bouvet Island and Peter the First Island. Claimed in 1938, Queen Maud Land is a sector of the Antarctic continent which extends from 45º E. to 20º E. Peter the First Island was formally claimed in 1931 and is the only claimed area covered under the Antarctic Treaty that is not part of the main land mass. Bouvet Island was claimed in 1930 (see also The North and South Poles).

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