Most volunteer work is in sports organisations


Nearly half of all parents with school-aged children have carried out unpaid work for a sports team in the last year.


The survey on living conditions 2017 maps the Norwegian population’s participation in organisations. In the population as a whole, 4 in 10 are active members of at least one organisation, and almost as many have done volunteer work during the last 12 months.

Active membership here refers to participation in members’ meetings, training or similar activities, whereas volunteer work includes unpaid work such as coaching, board work etc.

Active parents in sports

Sports teams are the type of organisation that has the largest proportion of active members, with 15 per cent of persons aged 16 or older regarding themselves as an active member of a sports team. In comparison, 8 per cent are active members of a music, theatre or art organisation, and 6 per cent are active members of a non-profit organisation within the environment, human rights or humanitarian issues.

Figure 1. Activity in selected organisations among persons aged 16 and older, by type of organisation and participation. 2017

Active member Unpaid work
Non-profit organisation (environment, humanitarian issues, etc.) 6 6
Patient or relatives organisation 3 2
Music, theatre or art organisation 8 4
Outdoor activity organisation 5 2
Non-religious belief organisation 0 0
Religious association 4 3
Sports team 15 16
Political party 2 1
In at least one organisation 42 38

The most active groups in sports organisations are young people living with their parents and parents of children under 19. While young people are more often active members of a sports team, their parents do more volunteer work. Nearly half – 44 per cent – of couples with children aged 7-19 years have carried out such volunteer work for a sports team during the past 12 months.

Figure 2. Participation in sports organisations among persons aged 16 years and older, by activity and family cycle. 2017

All Single 16-24. At parents Single 16-24. Others Single 25-44 Couple 16-44 without child Single parent Couple with child 0-6 years Couple with child 7-19 years Couple 45-66 years without child Couple 67 years or more without child Single 45-66 years Single 67 years or more
Active member 15 27 15 15 13 16 18 30 14 8 8 4
Unpaid work 16 19 10 9 10 29 20 44 12 6 9 1

More members with a higher education and a job

Those who are employed or have a higher education more often participate in organisations than those who are unemployed or disabled, or persons whose highest level of education is primary or lower secondary level. Among persons with only a compulsory education, 67 per cent are not active members of any organisation, compared to 48 per cent of holders of a master’s degree. The corresponding shares among disabled and unemployed persons are 72 and 76 per cent respectively.

Figure 3. Participation in organisations among persons aged 16 years and older, by activity and educational level. 2017

All educational levels Below upper secondary level Upper secondary level Tertiary education, short Tertiary education, long
Active member of at least one organisation 42 33 42 49 52
Performed unpaid work in the last year 38 28 40 46 49

Persons who work and those who hold a higher degree are also the most active within sports organisations. Twenty-two per cent of persons with a master’s degree or equivalent are active members of a sports team, compared to 12 per cent of persons with a primary/lower secondary education.

The same pattern is found for volunteer work. However, those who are not active in the labour market, but still carry out volunteer work appear to spend at least as many hours on unpaid work in the course of a year as those who are employed.

Weak decline in participation over time

Despite the popularity of sports organisations, the proportion of the population who are active members in such organisations has declined somewhat over the past 20 years.

There has been a weak decline in the proportion who are members of a sports team from 28 per cent of the population in 1997 to 25 per cent in 2017. A similar decline is found for the proportion who are active members, from 18 to 15 per cent of the population.

Figure 4. Members of selected organisations, 1997-2017. Persons aged 16 years and older

1997 2001 2004 2007 2011 2014 2017
Member of sports team 28 27 26 26 27 25 25
Active member of sports team 18 18 18 18 18 17 15
Member of outdoor activity organisation 12 14 14 14 15 15 14
Active member of outdoor activity organisation 5 7 6 7 7 7 5

Lower participation in Oslo and Akershus

Generally, participation in organisations is slightly lower in Oslo and Akershus than in the rest of the country. Furthermore, a smaller percentage of persons living in the Oslo area have carried out volunteer work during the past year: 34 per cent compared to 40 per cent in the rest of Eastern Norway and Western Norway, and 41 per cent in Agder and Rogaland.

Figure 5. Volunteer work for organisations in the last 12 months among persons aged 16 years and older, by region. 2017

The whole country Agder and Rogaland Western Norway Trøndelag Northern Norway Eastern Norway n.e.c. Akershus and Oslo
For at least one organisation 38 34 40 41 40 37 38
Sports team 16 13 18 16 16 16 15
Religious association 3 2 3 6 3 2 2
Music, theatre or art organisation 4 3 4 4 6 5 3
Residents' association, community group, etc. 6 5 6 5 8 5 7

Although sports teams have the most active members throughout the country, their popularity varies to some extent between regions. Religious associations are more popular in Agder and Rogaland than in the rest of the country, and the largest proportion who have volunteered for a residents’ association, community group or similar is found in Western Norway.