Friday, March 13, 2009

Rural & urban Norwegians

Mainland Norway covers 324,000 square kilometres, but because of all the mountains, it supports only a comparatively small population of 4.5 million.

The government actively encourages growth in outlying districts by supporting smaller towns and hamlets with grants and other funding schemes. As a result, industries, schools and hospitals, as well as cultural institutions, can be found throughout rural Norway.

A double latte, please!
This also means that infrastructure in rural Norway is surprisingly developed, and you can now get broadband internet and a double latte on almost every last piece of rock in Norway. In keeping with this policy, university colleges have been established in the countryside as well as in the cities.

Still, the rural/urban distinction remains important. The difference between urban centres and rural periphery is one of the driving forces in Norwegian culture and politics, and this is also reflected at the most basic level of government, since our election system has proportional representation. This means that the more sparsely populated constituencies around Norway have a greater representation in the Storting (our parliament) than their population would suggest, the idea being that this keeps the cities from legislating unfairly and draining the rural districts of resources.

Despite all this, the rural part of Norway has grown increasingly depopulated over the past 25 years. Due to globalisation and the tendency towards outsourcing, many Norwegian companies have felt compelled to close down many local cornerstone industries, and this has led to previously prosperous small towns losing the ability to sustain themselves.


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