Social conditions, welfare and crime;Public sector
soshjelpk, Social assistance, social assistance recipients, social assistance, qualification programme, assistant status, social services, duration of support, support cases, type of support (allowance, loan), personnel in the social services (for example social workers, child welfare officers, office employees), operating costsSocial security and benefits , KOSTRA , Social conditions, welfare and crime, Public sector

Social assistance


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Key figures


billion NOK in expenditure on social assistance in 2017

Social assistance
Recipients of social assistance132 659
Single males total52 129
Single females total29 034
Social assistance as primary source of income53 620
Expenditure on social assistance (1 000 NOK)6 556 485
Average payment per month9 252

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Table 1 
Recipients of social assistance, by duration of benefit and family cycle

Recipients of social assistance, by duration of benefit and family cycle
Average duration, monthsAverage duration, monthsAverage duration, months
Family cycle phase, total5.25.15.3
Single males total5.15.15.2
Single males - 19 years3.94.34.3
Single males 20 - 24 years4.84.84.9
Single males 25 - 44 years5.25.15.3
Single males 45 - 66 years5.55.55.7
Single males 67 years or more3.63.33.7
Single females total4.95.05.2
Single females - 19 years4.24.24.2
Single females 20 - 24 years4.64.64.6
Single females 25 - 44 years5.15.15.2
Single females 45 - 66 years5.45.45.7
Single females 67 years or more3.73.85.3
Single parents with children 0-17 years5.35.25.6
Single males with children 0-17 years5.14.95.2
Single females with children 0-17 years5.45.35.6
Couples without children 0-17 years4.84.85.0
Couples with children 0-17 years5.95.76.0
Unknown family cycle phase0.00.00.0

Table 2 
Recipients of social assistance, by labour force status, year and family cycle phase

Recipients of social assistance, by labour force status, year and family cycle phase
Recipients of social assistance
Labour force status, total127 372130 405132 659
Employed full-time6 5036 0756 420
Employed part-time9 6169 81810 161
On governmental employment measures5 5935 9826 188
On municipal employment measures1 2781 4291 428
In education5 7776 1996 509
Unemployed50 36650 31650 184
Not in the labour force35 43235 47435 633
On introductory programme for newly arrived immigrants9 04111 72313 087
With qualification benefit3 6713 2933 019

About the statistics

The statistics comprise recipients of social assistance, figures on fixed levels of payments of municipal assistance, participants in qualification programs, other municipal social services, municipal programs for drug and alcohol abusers, shelters and violence in close relations.


Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Number of cases and recipients of social assistance

The statistics is divided in number of cases and recipients. The number of cases is higher than receivers since it is possible for one person to receive social assistance in several municipalities. A person receiving social assistance in more than one municipality will be counted as several cases, but as one recipient.

In cases where a married couple receive economic social assistance it is arbitrary which of them that is regarded as a recipient, however the guidelines say that the person who first seeks assistance is to be counted.

Economic assistance

The statistics only cover payments in cash. Social assistance includes both allowances and loans. All figures in the statistics refer to the gross amount received. Neither public reimbursements nor repayment of loans are registered. Economic assistance does not include expenses for different social services such as institutionalisations.

Main income source for life subsistence

The main source of income in the last reported month for receiving social assistance is classified as the main income source for the recipient.

New and old recipients

New recipients are persons that did not receive social assistance the previous year, but they might have received support at an earlier point of time. Clients receiving social assistance both this and the previous year are named "reappearances".

By matching the files containing recipients for the last two years by the national identity number, reappearances are identified. Recipients lacking the national identity number are divided among "new" and "old" recipients in the same proportion as found in the population with a known number.

Standard classifications

Figures are given after different classifications, for instance age, family cycle phase, municipality, county and size of the municipality.

Administrative information

Name and topic

Name: Social assistance
Topic: Social conditions, welfare and crime

Responsible division

Division for Health, care and social statistics

Regional level

The statistics is given on national-, county- and municipal level and on an urban district level for Oslo (and Bergen until 2004) via KOSTRA.

Frequency and timeliness

Annually - unrevised figures are published/released March 15 and revised figures on June 15.

Final figures are released once a year.

International reporting

Not relevant


Raw data files and explanations are stored.


Background and purpose

The purpose of the social assistance statistics is to give information about the number of recipients, average payments, total expenditure and development of economic social assistance.

Statistics about public assistance has been compiled since 1866. Until 1881 the Ministry of Church and Education held the responsibility of the statistics, from then it has been the responsibility of Statistics Norway. The statistics has been published in a number of different publications. In 1965 public assistance was replaced by social care in accordance with the Social Care Act of 1964. This new statistics began in 1966, and collection changed from summaries per municipality to information about each individual case.

In 1992 a new registration system was introduced. From now on only recipients receiving economic assistance were registered. Changes in methods of collection can make comparisons across different years difficult. January 1 1993, a new law concerning social assistance was implemented - the Social Services Act. January 1. 2010, Act on social services in the Labour and Welfare Service was implemented.

From 2001, all reporting is done through KOSTRA. KOSTRA is based on electronic reporting from the municipalities to Statistics Norway. Publishing through KOSTRA is largely based on the coupling of data from various sources, e.g. data on accounts, data on service- and personnel and data on the population.

Until 2013, "Qualification benefits" was published as a separate statistics. From 2014 on, this is a part of the Social assistance statistics  

Users and applications

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Directorate of Health, Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, counties and municipalities, research institutions, media and students in public health, are the main users of the statistics. The statistics are also used in public planning, education and public debate. The intention of KOSTRA is also to provide information about government in municipalities and counties for the population, for the municipalities themselves and for the central authorities.

Equal treatment of users

Not relevant

Coherence with other statistics

Economic social assistance is also part of Statistics Norway's Income Statistics:

See: http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/05/01/

The data is gathered via KOSTRA.

For more information about KOSTRA see: http://www.ssb.no/kostra/

Legal authority

Act concerning official statistics and the Central Bureau of Statistics (The Statistics Act) no 54 of June 16 1989, §§ 2-2, 3-2.

Act on social services in the Labour and Welfare Service no 131 of December 18 2009, § 8.

EEA reference

Not relevant



The statistics cover all recipients of economic social assistance. For recipients of economic social assistance the actual year the statistics also contains information about their sex, age, marital status and the number of children they (or their spouse) are accountable for.

Furthermore the statistics covers self reported information concerning the recipient’s main income source for life subsistence, other social security benefits, their relation to the labour market, and amount and duration of the economic social assistance.

From 1992 the statistics also contains information on what months they received support and the recipients' financial situation at their final contact with the municipal social service department (that year), for instance is he/she employed by government measures, receiving rehabilitation or on education?

From 1997 recipients with negative values are excluded from the statistics. This means that repayments are not counted; also see section 4.1 about Economic assistance.

Data sources and sampling

The data is gathered from municipal social service departments.

For collecting the data, the following forms from KOSTRA are used:

Schema 7 Man-years and activity in the municipal social services on December 31

Schema 12 Support rates economic social assistance

Schema 11 Registration form social assistance

All recipients of economic social assistance from every municipality are covered.

Collection of data, editing and estimations

Data are collected annually via electronic schemes and electronic account files. If a municipality does not manage to deliver data for the current year, older data are used.

The response burden varies according to the number of recipients of economic social assistance in the municipality. No specific measurement of the burden is carried out.

Both automatic sum controls and comparisons with information from previous years are utilized. Municipalities are contacted in the event of missing data or discrepancies in the data.

After data delivery, the municipalities receive tables from Statistics Norway for control purposes. These tables show unrevised information about the number of recipients, duration of benefit and payment of social assistance. Data concerning recipients lacking information are also returned.

The main focus of the quality control is to ensure the reliability of the main figures in the statistics, e.g. number of recipients, payment of social assistance and duration of benefit.

At last there have been done some automatic corrections in the data such as this: recipients 67 years or older have all been given old age pension unless they are receiving complementary pension.

Benefit per case and per resident is calculated. It is also calculated how many residents (per 1 000) that receive economic social assistance.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


Figures are not given when based upon less than four units.

Comparability over time and space

Due to changes in the statistics from 1996 to 1997, comparisons made to earlier releases may be difficult. The changes include registration of the recipients' working situation, cohabiting couples and citizenship. Since 1997 the social assistance has been part of KOSTRA registration, but since the municipalities joined KOSTRA at different points of time, time series for all municipalities are not available.

In 1992 employees in the social services were separated from child welfare services, even if these in several municipalities are organized as one office. From 2001, when all the municipalities delivered data via KOSTRA, the registration has become more detailed and it now includes functions.

The act relating to benefits to recently arrived refugees and immigrants was introduced as a voluntary arrangement for the local authorities on September 1 2003, and as a compulsory arrangement on September 1 2004. As the benefit was introduced late in the year, the figures for 2003 and 2004 are not fully comparable with each other or previous years.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

It is difficult to disclose certain types of errors, for instance whether the number of clients and/or payments is too high or too low. The municipalities must themselves, based on the unrevised tables, make the errors known to Statistics Norway. There is also a possibility that some recipients are not covered or reported so called partial non-response.

In the data material there may be answers missing, inaccurate or contradictory information. This may also be the case after the final revision. Duplicates observations are removed. But due to the fact that not all of the recipients have a national identity number, the same client may occur on several occasions.

Figures concerning man-years are based on information from the municipality or the urban district. A possible major fault arises in connection with differentiating between social assistance and other services. This could be tasks relating to disabled people, refugees, abusers and young unemployed people. Registration errors may explain smaller changes from one year to another.

Partial defection may occur, see section 5.1.


Not relevant