Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Norway

Norway has already achieved 28 of the 129 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, is expected to meet 5 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Norway has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned by the 2030 Agenda (details in Table 1). Denmark is one of the world leader in environmental policies and is one of the OECD countries with lower inequalities. Yet, pressures on marine ecosystems remain important and, as in many other OECD countries, long-term growth of both GDP and labour productivity have been slowing down (Targets 8.1 and 8.2).

This country profile provides a high-level overview some of Norway’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG targets. As such, it differs in nature from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Norway is one of the most equal countries in the world, yet it has not been immune from the recent global rise in income inequality (Target 10.1). Norway also has one of the lowest relative income poverty rates in the OECD but this rate that has been increasing over the past decades (Targets 1.2 and 10.2). Low levels of income inequality and poverty are partly explained by the breadth of the redistributive system (Target 10.4) and high coverage by social protection (Target 1.3) – though coverage is lower when it comes to the unemployed receiving unemployment benefits (58%) and poor working-age population receiving secondary out-of-work benefits (23%). They also reflect a dynamic labour market. Average hourly earnings are among the highest in the OECD (USD PPP 25 per hour in 2018) and both the unemployment rate (4% in 2020) and the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (8% in 2020) are well below the OECD average (Targets 8.5 and 8.6). Norway also meets the criteria on migration policies to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people (Target 10.7), and 90% of the population believes Norway is a good place to live for racial and ethnic minorities (10.3).On gender equality, the picture is more nuanced. While Norway outperforms most OECD countries on Targets 5.4, with a gender gap in unpaid work which is half the OECD average, there is scope to make the legal frameworks fostering gender equality more comprehensive (Target 5.1 and 5.3). Further, gender parity is not yet achieved in women’ presence in decision making, most notably among economic spheres (Target 5.5) where women make up only around a third of managerial position.

Health status is high and behavioural risk factors are below the OECD average. Non-medical determinants of health such as poor diets, smoking and alcohol consumption contribute to a smaller share of deaths in Norway than for the OECD average (Target 3.4). Adult smoking (Target 3.a) had been declining and is now one of the lowest in the OECD area, although around one in ten Norwegian still smoke daily – and other tobacco products, such as snus (a smokeless oral tobacco product) are not included in this rate. In addition, alcohol consumption per adult is below the OECD average. Norway is also below the OECD average on obesity (Target 2.2) and on alcohol consumption (Target 3.5). Still, 13% of the adult population is obese (Target 2.2) and this rate had been increasing over time. Beyond such risk factors, Norway already meets Targets 3.6 on road traffic accidents, 3.7 on access to sexual healthcare (the adolescent fertility rate, at 2 per 1 000 women aged 15-19 in 2019, is very low) and 3.b on vaccination. It is also close to meeting Targets 3.3 on communicable diseases, 3.5 on prevention of substance abuse, and 3.d on health emergency preparedness.

Environmental impacts of the Norwegian economy are relatively small. Use of renewables has continued to grow and now covers almost all the electricity generated and a majority of the energy delivered to final consumers (Target 7.2). Norway has been very successful in decreasing GHG intensities (Target 13.2). As a result of the low-carbon energy mix, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion per unit of GDP are among the lowest across OECD countries (Target 9.4). The environmental impact of cities has also declined. The material productivity of Norway’s economy is high and improving, in part thanks to an effective waste management policy (Target 8.4). All municipal solid waste is collected and around 40% of municipal waste is being fed back into the economy (Targets 11.6 and 12.5). Mean human exposure to PM2.5 in cities (at 7 µg per cubic meter in 2016) was below the WHO-recommended level, and has been falling (Target 11.6). As a result, both deaths and illness from air pollution are low (Target 3.9).

While there is scope for improvement, Norway is among the most advanced OECD countries in terms of achievement of Goal 16 on Peace, justice and institutions and Goal 17 on Partnerships. Norway is well below the OECD average on homicide and deaths from assault and more than 90% of the population feel safe when walking alone at night (Target 16.1). Further, 91% of the Norwegian citizens trust the judicial system (Target 16.6) and Norway has already met Target 16.a on the independence of National Human Rights Institutions. Norway is also ahead of the OECD average on most indicators underpinning Goal 17. For instance, Norway devoted to Official Development Assistance 1.11% of its GNI in 2020, the third highest rate among DAC donor countries (Target 17.2).

There is scope to improve education and skills. Norway’s education system provides substantial support and encouragement for learning. Participation and educational attainment are high (Target 4.1) and Norway has close-to universal enrolment of 3-year olds in early childhood education and care (Target 4.2). Still, Norway is below the OECD average on Target 4.1 because of high shares of students achieving low proficiency level in reading and/or mathematics. The share of adults achieving at least a minimal level of proficiency in functional skills is above the OECD average but lags behind top performers (Target 4.6). Differences in socio-economic background, gender, immigration status and location account for a large share of these disparities in education outcomes (Target 4.5).

Several marine-based economic sectors exert pressures on marine ecosystems. While protected marine areas covers less than 1% of Norway’s Exclusive Economic Zone (Target 14.5), there is increasing evidence of the vulnerability of the Baltic Sea and new pressures are emerging, including climate change, acidification and invasive alien species. Norway is below the maximum score when it comes to implementing international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (Target 14.6). The agriculture still impose a heavy toll on the environment. In 2016, nitrogen surplus was almost 50% above the OECD average (Target 2.4), and marine ecosystems still suffer from eutrophication caused by surface run-off and marine debris (Target 14.1). Groundwater bodies also appear to be suffering (Target 6.3) and both measures of lake water quality are below the OECD average.

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Norway, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 129 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While eight goals (mostly within the People, Planet and Prosperity categories) have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goals 11 on cities, 13 on climate action and 14 on life below water, with 60% or less of their targets covered. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% for only Goals 3 on health, 4 on education and 10 on inequalities. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within the Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, data are lacking to monitor changes over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Norway’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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