Last week, the president of the United States wondered aloud why America takes so many immigrants from poor countries (lest you forget, shithole was his term) and so few from places like, say, Norway. The comment was widely seen as crude, ungenerous, un-American, and more than faintly racist; it also displayed surprising ignorance of the many reasons why Norwegians of all people might choose to stay put. Following news of Trump’s reported (and disputed) remark, commentators pointed out that thanks to oil wealth and generous social policies, Norway ranks as the world’s happiest country.
As the Atlantic pointed out, once-poor Norway now “has higher life expectancy at birth than the U.S., lower rates of infant mortality, low unemployment, and access to the European Union’s labor market.” It also ranks first in prosperity and political and press freedom—much higher than the United States.
Somehow, Norway looks even better from a working parent’s perspective: Norway has one of the world’s most generous paid leave plans for new parents, who, together, are entitled to roughly a year of paid leave after the birth of a child. Like a growing number of countries, particularly (but not only) in Scandinavia and Europe, Norway ensures that children can be cared for by parents in their vulnerable early months and that families don’t have to face poverty or unemployment as a result.