Volunteering, political participation and trust, survey on living conditions

Updated: 18 November 2020

Next update: 13 December 2022

Written internet article to influence an issue in the last 12 months
Written internet article to influence an issue in the last 12 months

About the statistics

Statistics on civic engagement in the Norwegian population, covering topics such as organisational activity and membership, political and religious participation, social networks and interpersonal trust. The data is based on the survey on living conditions EU-SILC.

Organisation membership : Organisation membership includes, for example, trade unions, political parties, bands and choirs, sports teams - a total of 11 different types of organisations.

Organisational activity and volunteer work: We ask those who are members of an organisation about how active they are in the organisation, and count the number of organisations the individual is active in. In addition, volunteer work for organisations and political parties are mapped, as well as how many hours the volunteers work for free per year.

Religious affiliation and participation: Here we look at whether people define themselves as religious, and how often they attend service and religious meetings, except for special occasions such as weddings, funerals and baptisms.

Political participation: Political participation includes self-reported voting in the last parliamentary election and to what extent people participate politically through writing newspaper articles, participate in demonstrations, etc.

Social network: This topic covers social networks in terms of whether people have someone to ask for advice and practical help.

Inter-human trust is measured on a scale from 0 to 10 and published as a mean score. The score is based on questions about to which extent people can be trusted and to what extent people will take advantage of you if given the chance. The respondents answer on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 indicates low confidence, while 10 indicates high confidence.

Overall, the topics political participation, social networks and inter-human trust are different aspects of what is often referred to as social capital.


Persons are grouped by age at the beginning of the year for the completion of the main part of the interview.

Area of residence

Persons are grouped according to sparsely populated areas or densely populated areas of different size. Sparsely populated areas include clusters of houses with less than 200 inhabitants. Densely populated areas include areas with 200 inhabitants or more, and a distance between houses – as a main rule – of not more than 50 metres.


On January 1st 2020, the Norwegian counties were changed. Beginning in 2020, SSB divides the country as follows:

Oslo and Viken


Agder and South Eastern Norway: Vestfold and Telemark, Agder

Western Norway: Rogaland, Møre and Romsdal, Vestland


Northern Norway: Nordland, Troms and Finnmark

Before 2020, SSB divided the country into as follows:

Oslo and Akershus

Eastern Norway excluding Oslo and Akershus: Østfold, Vestfold, Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud and Telemark

Agder and Rogaland: Aust-Agder, Vest-Agder and Rogaland

Western Norway: Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Møre and Romsdal

Trøndelag (Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag up to and including January 1st 2018).

Northern Norway: Nordland, Troms and Finnmark.

Family cycle phase

Persons are grouped mainly by age, marital status and whether the person has children. There is a distinction between singles and couples, where couples include both married couples and cohabitants. The concept “single person” does not necessarily refer to persons living alone in the household.

The groups with children consist of persons living with their own child(ren) (including stepchildren and adopted children) aged 0-19 years in the household.


Highest level of attained education divided into four levels: below upper secondary level, upper secondary level, short tertiary education and long tertiary education.

Economic status

This variable covers the person's own perception of the main activity on the date of interview. This differs from the ILO definition, which has a predefined classification of economic status.

Working full time: includes employees and the self-employed

Working part time: includes employees and the self-employed


Student, pupil, further training, unpaid work experience: includes persons in vocational training and military service

In retirement

Permanently disabled or/and unfit to work

Fulfilling domestic tasks and care responsibilities

Name: Volunteering, political participation, and trust, survey on living conditions

Topic: Culture and recreation

13 December 2022

Division for Income and social welfare statistics

National, regional and residential area.

The Survey of Living Conditions EU-SILC is carried out annually. From 2011 onwards, the survey consists of a set of core questions and theme sections with rotating topics. The topics are repeated in a cycle of three years. Outdoor activities, organisational activity, political participation and social networks were topics in the 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2020 surveys. The other rotating topics are sports and physical activities, housing conditions and offences and fear of crime. There are separate surveys of health, care and social relations and work and working conditions.

In 2011, the data collection of the national topics in the Survey on Living Conditions was merged with the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC is a European sample survey of income, social exclusion and living conditions that is coordinated through the EU's statistics agency Eurostat, and anchored in the European Statistical System (ESS). Cross-sectional and panel files are sent to Eurostat annually. EU-SILC microdata is available to researchers and students through Eurostat.

Data files with results from the interviews and statistical files with coded variables, linked information and weights are stored. Anonymised files are also available for researchers through the NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data.


The Norwegian Survey of Living Conditions EU-SILC will give insight into the main aspects of and differences in living conditions, and follow their development over time. The Norwegian Survey of Living Conditions EU-SILC will over a 3-year period be able to cover the major aspects of living conditions in the Norwegian population (when including the separate surveys of working conditions and health care and social contact as described in the section “Frequency and timeliness”).


The first surveys of living conditions in Norway were conducted six times between 1973 and 1995. These surveys shed light on the general components of living conditions; economics, housing conditions, leisure, social contact, health, education, employment and working conditions.

In 1996 a coordinated system of surveys was introduced. The system consisted of annual surveys with a repeating panel survey (EU-SILC from 2003) and a set of national rotating topics repeated every three years. The rotating topics were Work, Housing, leisure activities and victims of crime, Health care and social relations.

In 2011 the present system for surveying living conditions was introduced. A key objective of the new system was better coordination with international requirements connected to EU-SILC. National themes were coordinated with the European EU-SILC. The new system covers the presented topics from previous living condition surveys, in addition to new themes to illuminate political participation, social networks and economic and social problems.

In addition to the regular surveys of living conditions, Statistics Norway can on commission conduct individual surveys among selected groups.

The main users are government ministries, directorates, and research communities in the areas of working environment, health care, housing, leisure and local environment and living conditions in general.

Data from the survey is also widely used by the media and the general public.

No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on ssb.no at 08:00 am. Prior to this, a minimum of three months' advance notice is given in the Statistics Release Calendar. This is one of Statistics Norway’s key principles for ensuring that all users are treated equally.

The concept of living conditions covers a very wide range of topics. Statistics on living conditions are therefore associated with many other statistics.

Information on housing is also available from registers. The register-based statistics on housing conditions enable breakdowns at a more detailed geographical level. The Survey of Consumer Expenditure also has issues on housing conditions, including a more detailed summary of most kinds of housing expenditures.

Information on employment is collected from several sources. The Labour Force Survey is an important source and provides information that supplements the information in the study of living conditions, e.g. training in the workplace, weekend work, working arrangements and the attachment of the disabled to the labour market. Some records, such as the employee/employer registry, sick leave registry etc. are also relevant. The information in these registers can also be utilised in the Survey on Living Conditions.

Information on wealth and income is retrieved from registry data. Furthermore, data on some demographic variables and data on education and social benefits are provided from registers.

The topic leisure activities no longer includes information about cultural activities. This can be obtained from the Cultural and Media Use Surveys conducted by Statistics Norway and from different cultural statistics.

Voluntary survey


The population is residents aged 16 years and over not living in institutions.

Data sources are interview data from representative sample surveys and various associated registries.

The gross sample for the Survey on Living Conditions, EU-SILC comprises approximately 11 500 individuals.

The sample is drawn according to the procedures for random selection.

Data collection is mainly done by telephone (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview CATI), and in some cases the interviewer visits the interviewee (Computer Assisted Personal Interview CAPI). Data collection for the Survey of Living Conditions EU-SILC mainly occurs from January to May in the year of interview.

The interview takes place using a computer-based questionnaire. The questionnaire includes various controls to prevent incorrect answers or registration errors during the interview. In some cases, the interviewer receives warnings for the registered response. In other cases, there is a limit on values that cannot be exceeded. Moreover, it verifies that only valid codes are recorded.

Surveys that collect information on industry and occupation are encoded by Statistics Norway.

The sample consists of people. The analysis unit is primarily a person, but can in some cases be a household. Using the household as the unit of analysis requires the use of weights.

Not relevant
Not relevant

The current questions about organisational activity, political participation and social networks are partly based on earlier surveys. Organisational activity was a topic in the Survey on Living Conditions in 1997, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2017. Political participation and social network were introduced as topics in 2011. Some time series on organisational activity can be traced back to the Survey on level of living from the years 1980-1995.

Current categories that are comparable with earlier surveys are:

Member/active member in political party

Member/active member of sports team

Member/active member of outdoor activity organisation

Employed and member/active member of trade union

Employed and member/active member of trade organisation, trade association or professional body

Non-response errors

The gross sample for the survey is drawn in order to reflect the whole population, however, because non-response is not equally distributed, the net sample will not be fully representative. This bias will vary for the relevant groups and variables. In order to adjust for some of the biases, the data is weighted for gender, age, education and family size.

Sampling errors

Uncertainty of data based on only a part of the population is often called sampling variance. The standard deviation is a measure of this uncertainty. The size of the standard deviation partly depends on the number of observations in the sample, and on the distribution of a variable in the whole population.

Statistics Norway has not made exact calculations of standard deviation of the data. However, in table 1, the approximate size of the standard deviation is given for a selection of observed percentages.

To illustrate the uncertainty associated with a percentage, we can use an interval to give the level of the true value of an estimated quantity (the value obtained if making an observation on the whole population instead of an observation based on part of the population). Such intervals are called confidence intervals if constructed in a special way. In this connection, the following method can be applied: let M be the estimated quantity, and S the estimate of standard deviation of M. The confidence interval will be an interval with limits (M - 2*S) and (M + 2*S). This method will give an interval containing the true value, with approximately 95 per cent probability.

The following example illustrates the use of table 1 for finding confidence intervals: The estimate of standard deviation of 70 per cent is 3.2 when the estimate is based on 300 observations. The confidence interval for the true value has limits 70 ± 2*3.2, which means the interval is from 63.6 to 76.4 per cent.

Table 1. Standard deviation in per cent

Not relevant


Håvard Bergesen Dalen


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