The Nordic countries, an overview

The Nordic countries have a long tradition of promoting trade development in developing countries and involving their own business community in the process. Apart from the many linguistic, cultural, and historical similarities, the social welfare development in each country makes it relevant to talk about a Nordic model of society, which is unique at the international level. Business culture, consumption patterns, and consumer preferences are basically similar. Although Norway is not a member of the European Union – unlike Denmark, Finland, and Sweden – Norwegian legislation is to a great extent harmonized with EU legislation, thus facilitating one Nordic market.

The Nordic countries offer a large consistent market for exporters with its over 25 million consumers. Some basic facts should be observed when analyzing the Nordic market:

• The average income is high in international comparison; the nominal gross domestic product per capita is on average over
€ 40,000 per year, whereas the European Union average is € 24,500. (*1)

• The Nordic welfare societies are maintained by tax revenues. This is why the Nordic countries have some of the highest tax levels in the world. The tax systems are progressive, higher incomes pay more. It is quite common that people pay more than 40 % of their gross income in tax. (*2)

• Nordic people live, to an increasing extent, in single person households. On average, this represents 44.7 % of the households (22 % of the population) (*3) . University students move away from home, people get married later in life, and the divorce rate is high. Elderly people also tend to live by themselves.

• 68 - 75 % of Nordic women between the ages of 15 and 64 years work outside the home: the high frequency of women working reflects a highly-developed public sector with adequate day care institutions for children.

• In the Nordic countries (*4), over 80 % of all citizens between the ages of 25-64 have a high school or other upper secondary education degree, and over 30 % a degree from university or other higher level education (*5). Education is equally distributed between the genders.

The Nordic countries are highly developed countries with saturated markets. Before entering the Nordic market, long-term planning and substantial efforts are required. The competition is fierce and Nordic companies get plenty of business enquiries from hopeful suppliers. Therefore, it is wise to be well prepared in order to stand out in the competition. Imports from developing countries to the Nordic consumer market consist mainly of foodstuffs and textiles. And not to forget the Baltic and the Russian markets as well, which can be entered via the Nordic market.

(1) Source: Eurostat
(2) Source: OECD report “Taxing Wages 2009/2010”
(3)  Norway is not included in the figures.
(4)  Includes the figures of Norway.
(5)  Source: OECD (2011), Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing.