Social conditions, welfare and crime;Public sector;Immigration and immigrants
The statistics show, among other things, the number of social assistance recipients according to age, sex and county, in addition to the municipalities’ expenditure on social services. The number of recipients is still growing.

Social assistance2015


About the statistics


Name and topic

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

Next release

Responsible division

Division for Health, care and social statistics

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.


Standard classifications

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

Administrative information

Regional level

The statistics is given on national-, county- and municipal level via KOSTRA. Data on district level for Oslo exist until 2016 and for Bergen until 2004.

Frequency and timeliness

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

Detailed figures on national level are released once a year.

Municipal data for shelters aggregated to shelter level are published 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:

Form 7 Man-years and activity in the municipal social services 

Form 7B Shelters and violence in close relations  

Form 12 Support rates economic social assistance

Form 11 Registration form social assistance

Form 11 C Registration form qualification benefits

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. .

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.

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 compulsory during 2003-2004. Due to this, the figures for social assistance recipients 2003 and 2004 are not fully comparable with each other or previous/ following 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. Beginning in 2015, man-years are only collected for municipal alcohol and drug services. Other sectors are covered through salary data.

Partial defection may occur, see section 5.1.


Not relevant