Erna Solbergs New Year Speech

The looks bright for Norway.

Since my new year message last year, nearly 14,000 fewer are registered by NAV as unemployed.

More families can start the new year feeling safe and optimistic.

The dramatic fall in the price of oil hit us hard.

Ships lay in dock.

Companies went bankrupt.

Thousands lost jobs.

I met many who were affected.

They told me about all the job applications they had sent, without getting a bite.

About uncertainty for the future.

Anxiety about mortgages, and fear of unemployment.

Norwegians are good at pulling together when necessary.

And we did exactly that this time.

Employers and unions agreed about reasonable salary settlements, meaning Norwegian goods and services can be manufactured cheaper.

The lower value of the krone helped a lot.

Companies created new products and operated in new markets.

Many have been smart about thinking differently.

Take the company Roxel in Stavanger.

Previously, 80% of their income came from oil.

Today, 90% of their income comes from other markets.

They are using their skills to for better building, transportation and aquaculture.

People worked hard to find new jobs, so they could use their knowledge in new ways.

We pledged billions of kroner for additional hospital maintenance, flood protection, road resurfacing and much more.

This was how we kept the wheels turning while business adapted.

We pulled together, and we succeeded together.

Many who were unemployed one or two years ago are now in full unemployment.

But we haven’t solved all our problems.

There are still some who struggle to find a job.

The welfare state will cost more in the future, while at the same time income will grow less than we are used to.

And not least, have have to prepare ourselves for a whole new future.

A future where modernisation and digitalisation in the workplace gains momentum.

A future where there must be growth in green and climate-friendly industry.

We must make sure that the society we leave for our children and grandchildren is at the very least as good as the society we inherited from our parents.

Therefore we have to create what we are calling a sustainable welfare state.

Our large public sector demands significant creation of wealth in the private sector.

Anything else is not sustainable.

The most important thing for Norway moving forwards is to create more lucrative jobs in the private sector.

It requires common effort.

And much effort.

But I believe in Norway.

It will ask a lot, but we can do this together.

There are entrepreneurs, scientists and skilled people in business today who must shape new ideas and new possibilities.

The ideas must take seed and grow more often, creating more safe jobs for more people.

Us as politicians must contribute to good schooling and vocational education.

A tax system which promotes investment in Norwegian workplaces.

And as little bureaucracy as possible.

In addition, we need people who are willing to take risks, and put their own money into new start-ups.

And finally, we need the attitude that in Norway, it is fine both to fail and to succeed.

At the beginning of a new year, and a new era for our country, we should all think about how important it is to create jobs and wealth.

To succeed with integration,

To fight inequality and poverty,

To pay for welfare.

Work will become even more important in the coming decades if we are to succeed in creating a sustainable welfare state.

In nearly every job, tasks and responsibilities will change.

There will be more computers.

More robots.

We have to change if we want to keep up.

Many of us will have to work longer, while at the same time our education goes out of date more quickly.

Many of us will have to add to our education, or perhaps even learn something completely new.

We will make that happen.

The goal is clear: in the Norwegian workplace, nothing should go out of date.

In the future there will be more change.

We have to get used to it.

Not only because it is necessary.

But also because new technology and new knowledge creates a better society for everyone.

There will be new business that do not pollute.

There will be better jobs after robots and computers take over tasks which are either dangerous or dull.

There will be fewer forms and less paperwork, which will free up time for what is important.

Yes. These changes are a challenge to those affected.

But our capacity for change also makes Norway better.

Change has, in many ways, influenced our society throughout history.

Some changes have left a deeper mark than others.

Last year, we commemmorated 500 years since Martin Luther took his debate to the church of the time.

What we call the reformation.

The Reformation was built on the idea of the importance of individuals.

And the development of free speech, education and knowledge.

Without these values, our society today would be quite different.

In everyday life it can be easy to take these values for granted.

We shouldn’t do this.

Our democratic society isn’t threatened today.

But it is challenged in many ways.

Our freedom and liberal values are the most important things we have.

Therefore, we must always be alert.

We must fight radicalisation and recruitment to extremist Islam.

And to right wing extremists.

Norway is a peaceful country.

However, we have seen that conflicts abroad can be mirrored here at home.

Earlier in the Autumn I visited Haugeåsen middle school in Fredrikstad.

They have developed learning experiences for their pupils about radicalisation.

They discuss many things, including how the words we use in everyday discussion can affect us.

I met with thoughtful young people who wish to counter radicalisation with informed and open debate.

Many can learn from this.

We must build up this power in all young people: to stand up to those who might lure people in with simple solutions to complex problems.

We also need a free and independent media, who can help us to separate the important from the trivial, and the truth from the lies.

A media that can help us understand that there are often many sides to the same issue.

Many of us grew up in a home where there were always one or two newspapers on the kitchen table.

Today, there’s a mobile phone on the table.

Will our children keep themselves updated about society in the same way that we used to?

Will they keep themselves open to other opinions?

Will they rely on documented facts?

This is perhaps even more important now, while conspiracy theories and fake news can be spread so easily.

I say to parents and adults: the best way to encourage children and young people to be informed citizens is to be one yourself.

We should remember this when we sit at the kitchen table, engaging with social media.

This will help to protect our values and our democracy.

Everyone in our society should be able to enjoy the freedom we value so highly.

For some people, it is a hard fight.

They might be sitting next to you on the bus, at school or in the neighbouring office.

Last year, more and more women and girls from a minority background took courageous steps into the public debate.

It came at a price.

Several people experienced serious threats and harassment.

Some of them call themselves “the shameless girls”.

For some, shame – something we call negative social control - is a prison in which some girls are sentenced to live their whole lives.

We have fought against this for a long time.

Culture is difficult to change.

Now we are seeing a new generation of girls from minority backgrounds stepping up.

A freedom generation.

A freedom generation who are choosing for themselves who they want to be, who they want to flirt with at a party, and who they want to share their lives with.

They need to know: they have my, and our, full support.

There are probably some worried parents watching.

I know you love your children.

That’s why I hope you can see how important it is to give them confidence.

Let them try, make mistakes, and grow.

Think more about them having a good life than what others might think.

This way, your children will succeed in Norwegian society.

Listen to Azra Gilani.

She came to Norway in the 1970s, and has raised four children in Norway.

She wrote the following in Aftenposten: “There is no such thing as honour regarding a girl’s sexuality. The only honour is when us as parents manage to raise our children to be good people.”

This is well said, and an inspiration to all of us, regardless of background.

Change can be difficult, but it often leads to something better.

A society under change needs to come together.

In Norway, our king and queen perform that role.

Last year the whole country celebrated the royal couple’s 80th birthdays.

It’s an impressive age.

At the same time, they are able to see today’s society with the benefit of hindsight.

They represent the constant, which allows us to be open to, and to enjoy, the new at the same time.

I send greetings to the royal family, and thank them for the inspiration they give to all of us.

I also send greetings to all Norwegians overseas.

Soldiers serving abroad, aid workers, diplomats and others who work to promote the values in which we believe, do an important job.

Many of you miss your families, friends and loved ones during the festive season.

Know that we are thinking about you, and are grateful for your service.

We can now look forward a brighter future for Norway.

This means we can start the challenges of the new year with optimism.

Happy New Year.