In 2008, the ministry with responsibility for Sami affairs (AID) decided to establish an Expert Group to edit and publish statistics on Sami issues. For a long time, there has been a need for quantitative knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to a Sami context.
Since its establishment, the Expert Group has published approximately 80 articles written by researchers with in-depth knowledge on Sami affairs and statistics.
All articles have been published in both Sami and Norwegian. However, there has been an increasing demand for information on Sami topics in English so that researchers, scholars and others around the world are able to keep abreast of developments in Sami issues.
The following chapters are a good start for increasing and sharing knowledge on these subjects.
The most frequently used information sources for articles in Samiske tall forteller have been based on data from so-called STN-areas (Sami Parliament subsidy schemes for business development areas). These geographically based statistics have proided a lot of knowledge on Sami society. In a number of social areas, however, ethnicity based statistics would have provided more relevant information than geographically based ones but there is no data source that can be used to make ethnicity-based statistics in Norway. The article recommends that Statistics Norway continue to produce Sami statistics based on data from STN-areas. Further, it recommends a report on how to best chart Sami-speakers in Norway. A number of Sami social areas lack statistics. We must assess what information can be obtained from the data.
The Expert Analysis Group for Sami Statistics has completed its second four-year appointment, and the group has published eight issues of scientific papers, Samiske tall forteller 1 – 8. Based on available statistics, authors have commented and analyzed changes in Sami society. Many of the authors in Samiske tall forteller have also commented and assessed the data they based their articles on. The summaries in this article are based on these comments and assessments.
Statistics are a useful tool when devising policies to boost minority languages. In order to ensure adequate official language planning, it is important to know how many people understand a language, how many speak it, how many read and write it, how old these people are and where they live, how many families pass on the language informally from generation to generation, how many people encounter the language in kindergartens and schools, the degree to which the language is used in the most popular media, and the extent to which the language can be used when accessing public services.
However, obtaining figures on all these factors is not enough in itself. To be able to interpret the figures we need comparable data showing changes over time. We should also seek to establish which direction things are heading in before taking action.
Most past research into Sámi languages concerns grammar and language history. This research looks at the actual language, more or less independently of social factors. In recent years, however, some research has been conducted which looks at the Sámi languages in a contemporary social perspective. Most of these studies have raised issues concerning language shifts, revitalisation and ethnic identity, and the data sources have usually been in-depth interviews. Figures and statistics are therefore rather scarce elements in Sámi language research. We will be looking more closely at the published quantitative sources and research that do exist.
The reports and articles we will be examining contain more statistics and quantitative information than we will be discussing here. The objective for the selections has been to look for figures that can tell us something about changes in the status of the Sámi languages. We will be covering five different areas: (1) sources for the total number of Sámi-speaking people, (2) quantitative research that tells us something about the handing down of Sámi language in the home, (3) statistics on the choice of language in primary and lower secondary schools after 1990, (4) commissioned research on the use of Sámi in public services after the creation of the Sámi language administrative district, and (5) figures on the status of the written Sámi languages.
We see an uneven gender distribution in STN-areas (Sami Parliament subsidy schemes for business development) in a range of fields. In these areas, there is an excess of women only in the 80 and older age category. Based on data from 2001-2005, the probability of reaching the age of 75 for 15 year olds in STN-areas is about 56% for men and 80% for women. Approximately 5% of the population received disability benefits between 2004 and 2008, slightly more men than women. In 2004, 2.1% of men and 1.2% of women received social security benefits. In reindeer herding and agricultural areas, 80% of men are either siidainnehavere (siida proprietors) or main users, and 97% have their main employment in fisheries. The register of voters has shown a small but clear majority of men in all Sami Parliament votes, and in 2009 only the constituency of ‘Sør-Norge’ had a majority of women voters. In 2009, there was a marked majority of women voters between the age of 18 and 29. In the 2010/11 school year, almost 10% more girls than boys were learning Sami as a First of Second Language at the primary and lower secondary level. At the high school level, the difference had risen to almost 12%. In STN-areas, 13% more women than men have more than three years of post-secondary education. Boys in STN-areas have a higher high school dropout rate, especially for those in vocational programs, where only about a fourth of students complete their education within five years.