Many people have strong opinions about young adults – for example, where they want to live, what work they want to do and which things they care about. As we take young people seriously, we have asked them what they think.
Our survey includes questions on a range of topics. It covers ties to the region, the environment and sustainability, where people choose to live, the labour market and education, health and quality of life, and discrimination. As well as presenting data from the survey, we have put the figures into a broader context using various sources: statistics from other surveys and public registers, newspaper articles and reports.
Young people have embraced their Northern Norwegian identity and are proud of the region’s history, natural environment and culture. Northern Norway is a good place to live, but one-third of respondents consider moving away from the region over the coming five years. Many are unsure about the educational and career opportunities in the north. Half of the respondents are unhappy with how their county and municipality involve local people in decision-making processes. Willingness to participate in voluntary activities has fallen slightly since last year, whereas interest in sustainable loans, shares and investment funds has risen. Local food is also moving up the agenda; half of the respondents want to use green travel options.
The pandemic has affected young people’s health, quality of life and levels of loneliness, but their health had already been deteriorating slightly for some time before the pandemic.
Rising prices and interest rates mean that the proportion who are unsure whether they would cope with an unexpected expense and are concerned about their finances has risen. Just as many women as men use investment funds, men are more likely to own shares.
Having a secure and stable job has become less critical, probably due to record-low unemployment. The most important criterion when choosing a job is a good social environment followed by being given interesting work to do. Half of the respondents partly or fully agree that Northern Norway offers good career prospects, and 77 percent of the students in the survey expect to get a relevant job in the region. Many people are planning to gain new skills over the coming decade, and a higher proportion than last year have digital learning as their preferred option.
Young adults want a wide range of services available locally, with good health services particularly important. Many respondents are dissatisfied with transport services, the time it takes to travel out of the region and measures to promote population growth in their municipality.
Two-thirds have experienced or observed discrimination over the past half year. Discrimination is most often due to ethnic background/immigrant status, followed by gender and sexual orientation. Sex discrimination is more common in rural areas, whereas racial discrimination is more common in towns.
The survey results suggest that the reasons for the region’s falling birth rate are complex and that the combined pressures of finances, time, norms, housing, worries about the future and inadequate public services mean fewer people choose to have children.
Trust and participation in Northern Norway
The Northern Norwegian identity
Young adults feel strong ties to Northern Norway and that identity is more important than the county or municipality where they live. One explanation may be that many of the respondents have moved away from their home municipality to study or find a job, which means they aren’t as firmly attached to the municipality where they currently live. Their Northern Norwegian identity is roughly as important as their national one. 50 percent say they have very strong ties to the region, and 33 percent have strong ties. In the case of Norway, 41 percent have very strong ties, and 43 percent have strong ties.
These ties significantly influence where people choose to live and the extent to which they return to their home municipality or region after studying or starting a family (Sørlie et al., 2012; Angell et al., 2012). 71 percent of respondents with strong or very strong ties to the region believe they will still live there in five years. Only 42 percent of those with few or no ties say the same.
Trust in politicians
Young adults have divided opinions about the work of their municipal and county politicians. The survey results suggest the authorities are particularly bad at involving service users. 52 percent of respondents fully or partly disagree with the assertion that their county and municipality listen to suggestions from residents when making important decisions, and 54 percent disagree that they are working to improve in this area. Respondents are slightly more positive about the work of their politicians per se.
36 percent disagree with the statement that their county and municipality act in the best interests of the residents, while 45 percent fully or partly agree with it.
Despite the mixed opinions about politicians and their work, by European standards, Norway and Northern Norway have very high levels of trust in politicians, the police and the legal system. This can be seen from the results of the European Social Survey. That isn’t a new phenomenon: Norway and the other Nordic countries have a long history of being amongst the European countries with the highest levels of trust in their institutions (Kleven, 2016).
Trust in politicians does not vary much between the northernmost counties. Differences in educational level have a more significant impact, and those with a comprehensive university education have the highest levels of trust.
Participation in the local community
Most of the young people surveyed wish to participate in their local community in one way or another. For many of them, that means voting in elections. 89 percent state that they do this or are considering doing it. Since turnout among young people in municipal and county elections is around 50 percent, it would be a significant improvement if that many were to help shape local democracy. Both people with high and low trust in politicians express an intention to vote.
Beyond voting, the primary way people want to get involved is through NGOs and volunteering at cultural events. Slightly fewer want to do these things than last year. 37 percent have volunteered, or are considering volunteering, for NGOs, and 37 percent at cultural events. The equivalent figures for last year were 43 and 40 percent, respectively.
Women are more likely than men to volunteer in cultural events and NGOs.
Norway has a voluntary sector that generates a large amount of added value. Figures for 2021 from the Association of NGOs in Norway (Frivillighet Norge/Kantar, 2022) show that 58 percent of people had taken part in voluntary work over the past year. Before the pandemic, the figure was even higher: in 2020, 66 percent of people had done so. According to the report, many people have been prevented from participating because of the pandemic and want to contribute when the opportunity arises.
The respondents have a higher threshold for participating in activities requiring greater commitment or that could be controversial. Very few say they want to write letters to the editor, express their opinions on social media, participate in demonstrations, or take on political office. People who participate in public debate often end up on the receiving end of hate speech. A 2018 report (Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud) shows that 9 percent of all comments investigated on the Facebook pages of the TV channels NRK and TV2 contained hate speech. This prevents many people from participating in the debate (Øistad & Veledar, 2021).
Which aspects of Northern Norway are young people proud of?
Few respondents disagree with the assertion that Northern Norway is a good place to live: only 15 percent partly or fully disagree. Unsurprisingly, a majority of the latter group, 73 percent, believe that they will have moved away from the region within five years. 40 percent fully agree that Northern Norway is a good place to live, and 39 percent partly agree.
This indomitable land of wild mountains, boundless mountain plateaus, desolate beaches and the great ocean.
Nordnorsk kulturhistorie bind 1. Det gjenstridige landet.
With countryside like that, it is not surprising that young people in Northern Norway, just like last year, are almost unanimous in considering the region’s natural environment something to be proud of.
There are many highlights in the region’s history, from rich fisheries and reindeer herding on vast plateaus to stories of heroics during World War Two. 45 percent of respondents believe that Northern Norway’s history is something to be very proud of, and a further 40 percent say they are somewhat proud.
Many are proud of the region's music and entertainment, with world-famous stars and local heroes to choose from. 28 percent say they are very proud of Northern Norwegian music and entertainment, while 42 percent are somewhat proud.
Some young people also highlight sporting achievements, but there is more disagreement. People from Nordland are most proud of the region's sporting achievements, which may relate to the recent success of the local football team Bodø.
Strikingly few people are proud of Northern Norway’s political influence and influence on the public debate.
That was also the case in last year’s survey. Northern Norway is far away from the Norwegian parliament, and there are barely any northerners on lists of Norway’s most powerful people. Only 2 percent of respondents say they are very proud of Northern Norway’s political influence, while 3 percent are very proud of its influence on the public debate. 18 percent are somewhat proud of these aspects of the region.
People’s interest in and concern about climate change and the environment has varied over time, peaking when the consequences of pollution become visible. In the 1980s, the global community managed to stop the use of CFCs. This not only saved the ozone layer but also helped to slow the rising global temperature rate (Young et al., 2021).
In recent years, growing numbers of extreme weather events causing severe damage have put the spotlight on global warming. Young people have gone on climate strikes, and countries have set ambitious goals for reducing CO2 emissions. Many people want to do their bit, and there is a lot of interest in environmentally friendly options. Almost half of the young people in our survey would like to use eco-friendly travel options. This is in line with last year’s survey.
Interest in green loans, mainly green investment funds and sustainable shares, has risen. 42 percent of respondents think that green loans are somewhat or very important, while 45 percent say the same about sustainable shares and 50 percent about green investment funds. Last year, the equivalent figures were 33, 40 and 47 percent, respectively.
Interest in local food is high and rising, with our figures showing that 72 percent of people consider it important.
After two years of sometimes strict measures to limit the number of people infected by Covid and hospitalised, many things appear to be normal—as well as the impact of the virus, lockdowns and isolation have affected both people’s health and quality of life. Statistics Norway’s quality of life survey shows that Norwegians have become less satisfied with their lives during the pandemic.
In this year’s survey, the number of people who were very satisfied with their lives fell to 8 percent, from 15 percent last year.
However, the total number of people who are either satisfied or very satisfied rose, while the number who are dissatisfied fell.
Two-thirds of respondents are either satisfied or very satisfied with their physical health, and just as many are satisfied with their mental health. That is roughly the same as last year, but slightly more people are satisfied with their mental health this year. Men, people with higher education and the oldest respondents are most satisfied with their health. Young people’s self-assessed health has been gradually worsening according to Statistics Norway’s quality of life survey, and Northern Norwegians report slightly worse health than people in the rest of the country. Poorer health may be related to the gradual rise in adult BMI and Northern Norway having Norway’s highest obesity rate and more smokers and users of snus than the national average.
In our survey, 64 percent (slightly fewer than last year) responded that they could cope with that expense without taking out a loan, while 24 percent probably wouldn’t be able to. As many as 68 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned about their finances, with 12 percent very concerned. Last year, the equivalent figures were 63 percent and 8 percent. Unsurprisingly, people have become more concerned about their finances due to rising prices and higher loan servicing costs.
Saving and investment
Investment funds are more popular than ever before: 48 percent of the population now has money in equity funds. Among young people in our survey, 56 percent say they already have invested in funds, and a further 20 percent plan to start investing in them over the coming five years. 38 percent own shares.
Just as many women as men have money in investment funds, men are over-represented in the case of shares.
Amongst the youngest people in the survey, more women than men have invested in funds. Those who are a bit older are more likely to have money in investment funds and shares. Of respondents in the 30-34 age bracket, 71 percent have money in investment funds and 49 percent in shares.
Most people in our survey, 72 percent, are either employed or self-employed. 18 percent are studying, and 2 percent are apprentices. The rest are outside the labour market for various reasons or prefer not to answer.
Of those employed, 45 percent believe they will change employer over the next two years.
Of the ones who are studying, 77 percent expect to find a relevant job in the region after finishing their studies. Last year, only 62 percent of respondents said that, while in 2020, the figure was 76 percent.
Female students in the survey are more likely than their male counterparts to believe they will find a relevant job in Northern Norway. This may be related to more women than men working in the public sector, which is more prominent in Northern Norway than in the rest of Norway. Many jobs where women are over-represented are available all over the country.
When asked whether working in Northern Norway provides good career opportunities, however, more men than women agree. 57 percent of men and 48 percent of women agree, despite more female than male students who expect to find a relevant job in the region. The explanation is that women without a higher education see very few career opportunities in Northern Norway compared with men without a higher education.
Only 38 percent of women without a higher education consider there to be good career opportunities in the north, compared with 61 percent of men. Amongst people with a long higher education, 60 percent of men and 66 percent of women believe the region offers career opportunities.
A good social environment is the top priority when choosing a job
When asked to choose a maximum of 3 out of 14 criteria when choosing a job, last year, a stable and secure job was the second most important criterion after a good social environment. This year it is the fourth most important criterion, after a good social environment, being able to do work that interests you and the highest possible salary. That may suggest many young people take it for granted that they will find a job, so they don’t consider job security an important criterion.
Norway has historically had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe and is now at its lowest since the 1980s. Low unemployment and the economic recovery after the pandemic may help to explain why fewer people are worried about job security than last year. In total, 58 percent chose a good social environment, 51 percent could do work that interests them, 29 percent had the highest possible salary, and 29 percent had a secure and stable job.
Men are more likely to include the highest possible salary and good career opportunities in their choices, while women give more weight to professional development and stable, secure job. Job security is a very low priority for people with the highest educational levels, whereas they place greater importance on career opportunities.
Diversity, sustainability and status were not considered high priorities. That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant to the respondents but secondary to other factors. In 2021, one-third of respondents to a survey by Opinion said that the employer’s climate and environmental profile affected their job choice. Employers may lose out in the battle for staff in a labor market with low unemployment if their competitors have a more robust sustainability profile.
78 percent of the people in the survey say they want to develop their skills over the coming ten years. That is more than last year’s survey, which was more than in 2020. Around half are willing to move to learn new skills, while 71 percent are willing to change jobs for professional development. For many respondents, however, it is a prerequisite for receiving financial support while training so that their finances are not affected. 27 percent prefer face-to-face education, while 44 percent prefer digital solutions.
In recent years, digital tools have developed quickly, and more people see that tasks can be performed remotely. Meanwhile, universities want to get students back onto their campuses. Although digital solutions provide flexibility and work well in many contexts, student surveys indicate that being physically present benefits many people. In last year’s SHOT survey, just 47 percent of students responded that they were happy with the town where they were studying, compared with 75 percent in 2022 and 76 percent in 2018. They reported a worse social life and higher loneliness levels than before the pandemic and in 2022. Statistics Norway’s student survey from 2021 also found that many students were dissatisfied and lonely.
Where young people live
Plans to move
Young people in Northern Norway are proud of their region. Of its culture, natural environment and rich history. Northern Norway is a stronger part of their identity than their county or municipality, and many want to stay in the region. 66 percent of respondents to our survey say they will probably be living in Northern Norway in five years. That is the same percentage as last year but lower than in 2020, when 77 percent planned to stay in the north. Statistics Norway shows that more than 8 out of 10 young adults in 2016 lived in the region five years later. Population projections indicate that the number of people in this age group living in Northern Norway will see a net decline of almost 1 percent per year over the coming decade.
Of those planning to move, many are unsure about their career opportunities in the region and are unhappy with the educational opportunities and health services where they live. Work and education have always been important reasons for moving, particularly among people who move far away (Sørlie et al., 2012). Two-thirds of the people who say they want to live outside Northern Norway think they will live in a more populous municipality than the one where they currently live. Only 8 percent believe they will live in a smaller municipality.
This coincides closely with where this group of people has chosen to relocate in the past. Of the people who moved to other regions between 2016 and 2021, 25 percent settled in Oslo. Including the surrounding municipalities, the proportion is even higher. A further 15 percent decided to move to Trondheim, while 6 percent chose Bergen. Men are most likely to want to move to a bigger town. 63 percent of the women planning to move away from the region expect to live in a bigger town, as opposed to 70 percent of men.
Within Northern Norway, Bodø and Tromsø are not the places with the most significant net immigration of young adults over the past five years.
If we follow the group of young adults resident in the region from 2016 to 2021, there was higher net migration to the so-called level 4 municipalities: Harstad, Alta, Hammerfest, Narvik, Vefsn, Rana, Fauske and Sortland. Nevertheless, the least populous and most remote municipalities experienced the highest emigration.
People with higher education are less likely to stay in Northern Norway than people without one. This is in line with past surveys (Angell et al., 2012). The oldest respondents are least likely to move. This group is more likely to have finished their studies and have a job, family and home.
What is it important to have where you live?
Most things are important to most people. The young adults in our survey want many services and activities available to have a good quality of life. Perhaps the tendency to move to bigger municipalities should be viewed in this context. Health services are the most important of all, just like last year. 81 percent consider this very important, and 14 percent say it is quite important. There have been several acrimonious battles over the location of health services, and in 2021 the Patient Focus party, whose main policy is that Alta needs a new hospital with an emergency department, won a seat in the Norwegian parliament.
Beyond that, priorities include social and cultural activities, various types of infrastructure, business and local development, educational opportunities and the time it takes to travel out of the region. Comparing what is important to people with what they are satisfied with, public transport, travel times to other parts of Norway/the world, measures to promote population growth, and health services are considered highly important. Still, there is dissatisfaction with how these matters are handled where they live.
Housing and home ownership
Compared with many other European countries, a high proportion of Norwegians are homeowners. In 2021, 82 percent of people were owner-occupiers. In Nordland, the proportion is slightly higher, at 84 percent, whereas in Troms and Finnmark, it is 80 percent. The proportion of people who rent has been rising slightly. That may be because high house prices and greater inequality (Aaberge et al., 2021) make it more challenging to get on the housing ladder. In some areas, high labour immigration may have pushed up the proportion of people renting since this group often rents accommodation.
Young adults are the least likely to live in a home they own. Many students have recently moved somewhere new or haven’t saved up enough equity to buy their own homes. In our survey, 44 percent of respondents say they are owner-occupiers, and 10 percent still live with their parents.
Half of the homeowners live in a detached house, and 13 percent live in a terraced house. Unsurprisingly, this varies significantly between rural and urban areas. In Bodø and Tromsø, 63 percent responded that they live in a flat, compared with 15 percent in the most remote municipalities (levels 5 and 6). KBNN’s housing report for 2022 shows that the proportion of people living in blocks of flats in Tromsø and Bodø has risen by 60 percent since 2015. Young adults are more likely to live in a block of flats than the rest of the population.
62 percent of homeowners own their property jointly with their partner, and 27 percent own it alone—no one in the survey reports owning their home with friends. There have been examples of co-ownership with friends in recent years, but it does not appear to be a widespread phenomenon.
65 percent of the young adults in our survey have either experienced or observed discrimination over the past half year.
That is fewer than last year’s survey when the equivalent figure was 77 percent. The most widespread form of discrimination is due to ethnicity, which 40 percent have observed or experienced. That is followed by gender, at 35 percent, and sexual orientation, at 37 percent. Around one in five people have seen or observed discrimination based on religion/faith, age or disability.
Women are more likely than men to report witnessing or being the victims of discrimination. The most significant difference is for sex discrimination, but the women in our survey also report more discrimination due to sexual orientation and ethnic background/immigration status. Towns are over-represented for discrimination based on ethnic background and immigration, presumably due to the greater diversity of these municipalities. In rural areas, sex discrimination is more common, according to the survey.
Discrimination is a widespread and severe problem. It can affect people’s careers and social opportunities, but it also affects their quality of life. The Statistics Norway survey on quality of life (Støren & Rønning, 2021) shows that people who have experienced discrimination are less satisfied with their lives. That finding is replicated in our survey. When asked how satisfied they are with their lives on a scale of 1 to 7, people who have not experienced or observed discrimination score 4.1, whereas those who have experienced or observed discrimination score 3.6.
People who have experienced or witnessed discrimination are also more likely to want to move than those who haven’t. 37 percent expect to live outside the region in 5 years, as opposed to 17 percent who haven’t experienced or observed discrimination. Creating more inclusive local communities may help increase the number of people choosing to stay in, or move back to, the region.
Why are fewer children being born?
The fact that we have fewer children is not new. In the 19th century, women in Norway had an average of 4.5 children. When the war broke out in 1940, the average had fallen below two. After a few large cohorts in the post-war period, the birth rate has generally declined. In the past, we had more children in Northern Norway than in other parts of the country, but that difference has disappeared over the past 20 years.
The reasons for the decline, which has happened in almost all countries, are complex. Fortunately, child mortality has also fallen, even in recent decades. Women have more rights and are in a stronger position to make their own decisions. People are waiting longer to have children, and the average age at which women have their first child is now over 30. We wanted to know more about what young people in Northern Norway think are the most important reasons why fewer children are being born in the region.
The results confirm that there is no single reason, but rather many, why more people don’t have children or choose not to have another child. Three-quarters of respondents say that the cost of having children is a significant consideration. When combined with inadequate financial support mechanisms, people must put their finances in order before having children.
Recent years have been turbulent, both in Norway and the wider world. The Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine have dominated media coverage, along with their knock-on effects such as higher prices, shortages of some products and, in the worst instance, significant destruction if the war escalates. 6 out of 10 respondents say that concerns about the future are having a significant impact on birth rates. Meanwhile, only 13 percent say that a desire not to impact the climate and environment is important. Perhaps this is because people are more worried that other future problems will directly affect them and their children, at least here in Northern Norway.
Nevertheless, the number of children born in Norway rose slightly during the pandemic, despite significant concerns about the pandemic and its economic consequences. A closer look at the figures shows that the birth rate fell in families with precarious jobs, severely affected by the lockdown. The overall increase was due to families with safe jobs in the public sector having second or third children (Lappegård et al., 2022). The people in this group already had an established family and were generally able to continue working from home. With safe jobs and less everyday stress, they had more time to think about having children.
57 percent say it is difficult to find a big enough house to have more children.
In towns, house prices have been rising faster than the consumer price index for a long time, and housing is cited particularly frequently as a problem in the biggest towns. In rural areas, it can be challenging to find homes for sale (Nygaard, Lie & Karlstad, 2010; Bjøru et al., 2022). In addition, it isn't easy to get a loan to build a new house.
In many places, the quality and availability of kindergartens, schools and after-school clubs are inadequate, particularly in rural municipalities. This is mentioned as an important reason for the declining fertility rate. In the most remote municipalities (levels 5 and 6), 58 percent of people cite this as important, as opposed to only 38 percent of those living in towns. Even if the number of kindergarten places is now much higher than a few decades ago, distances to both kindergartens and schools may have increased. In 1995 there were 865 kindergartens in Northern Norway, as opposed to just 615 in 2021. Thirty percent of the region's schools providing compulsory education have disappeared since 2002.
In our survey, more women than men mention excessive costs, insufficient parental leave and concerns about the future as factors. The duration of parental leave and the paternal quota have been the subject of much debate, and several changes have been made to the paternal quota since it was introduced in 1993. Since 2018, fathers (or co-mothers) have had a quota of 15 weeks, which has particularly led to disagreements over issues related to breastfeeding.
In addition to the options given in the question, the level of health care provision for pregnant and childbearing women in rural areas is cited as a reason for the decline in fertility in open-ended answers. This reason is consistent with the shrinking difference between fertility in towns and rural areas. Health care services and local maternity wards generate strong feelings, and traveling a long way to a maternity ward, particularly for first-time mothers, increases the risk of complications.
Our results show that there is no single reason why the birth rate is falling. The combined impact of financial pressures, leisure activities, public services, prospects and housing lead many people to choose not to have children or not to have a second or third child. The complexity of this topic is supported by earlier research (Hart & Kravdal, 2020; Dommermuth et al., 2015), which highlights financial considerations, flexibility at work, norms and expectations in society, and the cost and quality of public services.
Methods and definitions
The survey was carried out by NORCE Norwegian Research Center AS in 2022, having been commissioned by Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge. The survey was opened for responses on 1 August, and the last response was submitted on 3 September.
A link to the survey was shared throughout the Bank’s network of contacts and on social media during that period. In total, 641 people clicked on the link to the survey. Of those, 295 went through all the pages and clicked “Complete” on the final page. Respondents were able to skip questions they didn’t want to answer. After reviewing the responses, the final selection consisted of 288 respondents.
The target group was residents in Northern Norway aged 18-34. The first question asked whether or not they were in this target group. Those who failed to answer this question, or responded that they were under 18 or over 34, were not included in the final selection.
The final selection was weighted by gender, age group (18-24, 25-29, 30-34) and municipality levels 3-6 (Statistics Norway’s definition). The participants were compared with the most recent population data for the region. For municipality levels, Statistics Norway’s actual municipality of residence for 2021 was used but projected to 2022 by using changes in the official (registered) population from 2021-2022 by the municipality. Respondents under-represented in the survey were weighted up, meaning their answers counted slightly more than those of over-represented groups. The weightings vary between 0.45 and 2.27.
Since participants were self-selecting, they may represent a somewhat biased selection. Even if the criteria have been weighted, we can control them. It may be that our participants are more engaged with issues than other people. In response to the question about whether or not they have involved themselves in their local community or are considering doing so (near the beginning of the survey), those who did not finish the survey were more likely to say that they don’t want to get involved in the local community than those who did. That suggests the participants may be people with an above-average level of engagement who wish to make their voices heard.