Statistics provide a foundation for producing factual information and are a necessary component in a well-functioning democracy. In order to ensure public confidence in the statistics, they must be developed, produced and disseminated as a common good, independent of political and other external influences.

The official statistics must be of general interest, cover a wide range of user needs, help increase public knowledge, and provide a basis for analysis, research, decision-making and general public discourse.

Background

The statistical programme was approved by the Government on 18 December 2020, and is subject to the Act relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway. The programme will be operational in the period 2021 – 2023. The proposed statistical programme was developed by Statistics Norway in consultation with the Committee for official statistics. The committee is an advisory body consisting of public authorities that are responsible for official statistics or own registers which are central sources for the statistics.

The statistical programme provides a framework for the Norwegian statistical system and defines which areas of statistics are covered and which public authorities are responsible for the statistics. Official statistics are limited to statistics included in the programme.

Authorities responsible for official statistics

Norway has a centralised statistical system. According to the Statistics Act, Statistics Norway is the central authority responsible for coordinating the development, production and dissemination of official statistics. Statistics Norway produces the majority of official statistics and has overall responsibility for international statistical cooperation.

In addition, the following public authorities are responsible for the production of official statistics in the period 2021–2023:

Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Norwegian Agricultural Agency

Norwegian Environment Agency

Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration

Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research

Norwegian Communications Authority

Research Council of Norway

Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate

Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

Norwegian Directorate of Immigration

Requirements for official statistics

All statistics included in the programme must satisfy a set of common quality requirements. The programme shall promote efficiency by facilitating an appropriate distribution of work and reducing the burden on respondents.

Section 5 of the Statistics Act. Requirements regarding official statistics

1. Official statistics shall be developed, produced and disseminated in a professionally independent, impartial, objective, reliable and cost-effective manner.

2. The development, production and dissemination of official statistics shall be based on uniform standards and harmonised methods. The statistics shall be relevant, accurate, timely, punctual, accessible and clear, comparable and coherent.

Official statistics must be universally accessible free of charge

Independence and impartiality are core values for maintaining public confidence in the statistics.

  • One way to ensure this is to make the official statistics accessible to everyone at the same time. Publication dates and times of statistics are announced in advance.
  • In addition, there must be full transparency about data sources and production methods, i.e. informative and accessible documentation for users of the statistics. Statistics will always entail some degree of uncertainty, and it is important to provide information about possible sources of error and uncertainty.

The statistics must be relevant in that they are adapted to user needs and describe pertinent social conditions. They must be timely, accurate, clear, easily accessible and comparable over time and between countries. Accessibility is ensured through, for example, the use of open data standards and machine-readable formats.

International cooperation improves statistics

The need for statistics changes over time in line with societal development, and is driven by new technology, as well as local and global trends. Challenges related to sustainability, climate and environment, inequality and unforeseen crises such as pandemics are all current topics that need to be covered in the official statistics. Cooperation with other countries is vital, since many of the issues that the statistics are intended to shed light on are of global concern.

The development of official statistics is largely an international matter. Statistical standards and definitions are developed in a partnership between international organisations, such as the UN, the OECD and the EU, and the statistical authorities in the member countries. International quality frameworks provide common quality requirements for official statistics. The UN has 10 principles for official statistics, and in Europe, all EU and EFTA countries must comply with the European Statistics Code of Practice, which sets the standard for the institutional environment, statistical processes and statistical output. The requirements of the Statistics Act are in accordance with this Code of Practice.

Many of the statistics reported to international organisations such as the EU, the UN and the OECD are also Norwegian official statistics. User needs and public interest are documented for these statistics, and the statistical processes are in line with international standards and quality requirements. Statistics produced as part of the obligations under the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement are included in the statistical programme.

Statistics Norway shall coordinate the development, production and dissemination of official statistics in Norway and prepare an annual public report for the Ministry of Finance on the quality of official statistics.

Scope and content of the programme

The statistical programme is divided into 21 main thematic areas and reflects the significance of these areas and the need for statistics. The main areas are divided into a further 88 sub-themes. The programme describes the purpose of the statistics in the sub-themes and provides information about the most important elements of the content. The description often includes a brief outline of important users or how the statistics are used, and in some cases, information is given on data sources or other relevant aspects of the field of statistics. The statistical programme stipulates which public authorities are responsible for production within each sub-theme.

The programme does not describe the individual statistics in detail. Official statistics need to be adapted to changing user needs, new data sources and new technology, and the statistics may change during the programme period. The descriptions include an outline of the development work aimed at new and improved statistics that are planned for release during the programme period, as well as some areas that need to be clarified with a view to development in the longer term.

Statutory statistical obligations in accordance with Annex XXI to the EEA Agreement are specified for each sub-theme. Other international obligations or reporting are mentioned as applicable.