Unsecured debt increased throughout the 2000s and up to 2020, but since the debt register was established in 2019, unsecured debt has been substantially reduced. Between 2019 and 2021, interest-bearing unsecured debt as defined in this report decreased from NOK 131.5 billion to NOK 112.1 billion.

Almost 1.2 million people over the age of 17 had interest-bearing unsecured debt in 2019. Of these, 364 400 were debt free by the end of 2021. However, 237 500 new borrowers emerged, which resulted in a net reduction in the number of borrowers of 11 per cent, and an increase in the proportion of borrowers with a low income and low level of education. The proportion of borrowers with an immigrant background, in young households and in receipt of social assistance also increased.

Among those who had interest-bearing unsecured debt in both 2019 and 2021, the total reduction in debt was 10.2 per cent. Once again, groups with more resources tended to improve their situation more than those in disadvantaged groups. Persons with a total income in excess of NOK 1 million in 2019 reduced their debt by 21 per cent on average, while those in the income group NOK 1- 99 999 increased their debt by 6 per cent. Measured by other characteristics, those with little formal education reduced their debt less than those with a higher education level. This was also the case for people in young households compared to people in older households, and people in households with an immigrant background compared to people in households with no immigrant background.

For persons with a debt settlement agreement, and who had debt in both 2019 and 2021, the reduction in debt was about the same as for the population as a whole. However, among those who received financial advice and social assistance, there was an increase in average debt from 2019 to 2021. Among those with a debt settlement agreement, those with a low income reduced their debt more than those with a high income, and likewise for persons with a low level of education compared to a high education level. This was contrary to the development in the population in general.

In terms of interest-bearing unsecured debt in the households, there is little difference in debt levels between households with a high income and households with a low income. This means that the debt constitutes a much larger proportion of the income in the households with a low income than the ones with a high income. In the 10 per cent of households with the lowest income in 2020, interest-bearing unsecured debt amounted to 44 per cent of net income among households with such debt, compared to 7 per cent in households with the highest income. A larger proportion of children (age 0-17 years) than adults (18 years and over) live in households with interest-bearing unsecured debt (49 and 38 per cent respectively). In low-income households, the difference is even greater (48 and 29 per cent respectively).

An examination of the distribution of debt between the different types of households shows that single person households and households with elderly people have the lowest proportions of borrowers. However, estimates of the level of debt in households with such debt show that the single person households have the highest debt relative to household income.