The Nordic region includes the countries of Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. The total population for the region is more than 24 million.
The Scandinavian welfare model is often used as a general term for the way in which Denmark, Sweden and Norway have chosen to organise and finance their social security systems, health services and education. The Scandinavian countries are clearly distinguished from other European countries in these areas.
The principle behind the Scandinavian welfare model is that benefits should be given to all citizens who fulfil the conditions, without regard to employment or family situation. The system covers everyone; it is universal. And the benefits are given to the individual, so that e.g. married women have rights independently of their husbands.
In the fields of sickness and unemployment the right to benefit is, however, always dependent on former employment and at times also on membership of a trade union and the payment of contributions; however the largest share of the financial burden is still carried by the State and financed from general taxation, not in the main from earmarked contributions.
A short time ago schooling in Scandinavia typically started at the age of seven. Recently all the countries began offering "pedagogical activities" for the six-years-olds, on a voluntary basis. Iceland (1990) and Norway (1994) have already made admission at the age
of six compulsory.
There are indications that the other countries will be following very soon. Also, it seems to be just a matter of time before all the countries expand the number of compulsory schooling years to ten, as Iceland and Norway have recently done.
Presently, in all the Scandinavian countries, more than 90 percent of graduates from the lower secondary schools take one or more years of schooling at the upper secondary level.
For the vocational part of secondary schooling, two new trends are visible. More importance is being placed on training at workplaces, also known as the apprenticeship system. Simultaneously, the time in vocational schooling is being reduced, and the organizational differentiation between different vocational branches is being delayed to the second year. Whereas earlier there was a choice of 109 different branches (in the first year of the secondary vocational school in Norway), the number has now been reduced to 13.
The standard nordic religious structure combines a secular (non-religious) society with an anachronistic state-backed established church, for example the Lutheran church of Finland. Most people sign up for this church in order to obtain clergy for weddings and funerals.
With distinct pagan roots in Nordic warrior religions Nordics were never subjugated by Christian armies and the Inquisition never gained a hold20. They are now thoroughly secular societies.
On top of that, Scandinavia, in particular Norway, has cultivated and spawned some powerful anti-religious movements. The Black Metal movement that grew to infamy in the 1990s hit the national newspapers with almost one-hundred church burnings, and espoused a venomously anti-Christian doctrine. Its adherents worshipped Odin, the Norse gods, and Satan. They wanted not only the continued decline of Christianity, but a revival of Nordic paganism. In addition, Scandinavia has a healthy population of LaVeyan Satanists.