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«Edited by Ad Willeboordse October 1997 PREFACE In the last decade a strong drive took place in the European Union to come to the creation of ...»

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Edited by

Ad Willeboordse

October 1997


In the last decade a strong drive took place in the European Union to

come to the creation of harmonized business statistics. With the

adoption in December 1996 of the Council regulation concerning

structural business statistics a last building block was added to a comprehensive statistical infrastructure comprising concepts, classifications, methods and tools.

With a new legislative groundwork in the process of being implemented Eurostat felt the need to provide to European statisticians a training document on the subject. The objective of such a book would not be to provide definitions, fixed methods or rules. Rather the created “Handbook on the design and implementation of business surveys” gives in a step by step approach guidelines. A set of pragmatic ideas for making good statistics.

We think the book will support statisticians in Member States when making changes in the data collection and processing process. We hope it will assist statisticians of pre-accession countries when implementing changes in the national statistical data collection structure in order to prepare for membership of the European Union.

And we are confident that it will contribute to the creation of high quality statistics for the European Union, not in the least through supporting the TES -Training for European Statisticians- program.

This manual has been created by Ad Willeboordse of the CBS Statistics Netherlands on the request of and in close cooperation with Eurostat D2 under the responsibility of Mr. Marco Lancetti. The views in this publication do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission.

Luxembourg, October 1997


Eurostat and Mr. Willeboordse gratefully acknowledge the following

co-authors for their valuable input:

• Hans Akkerboom Statistics Netherlands

• Peter Bøegh-Nielsen Statistics Denmark

• Cor Citteur Statistics Netherlands

• René Huigen Statistics Netherlands

• Karin Hilbink Statistics Netherlands

• Elly Koeijers Statistics Netherlands

• George van Leeuwen Statistics Netherlands

• Fra

–  –  –


I. AIM OF THE HANDBOOK---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3 II. THE MISSION OF NATIONAL STATISTICAL INSTITUTES ------------------------------------------------- 5 III. REFERENCE TO THE EUROPEAN SYSTEM ----------------------------------------------------------------- 9 IV. STRUCTURE AND CONTENTS OF THE HANDBOOK ------------------------------------------------------11 V. ORGANIZING AND MANAGING A SURVEY PROJECT-----------------------------------------------------13 VI. QUALITY--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------15 PART A SETTING THE SURVEY OBJECTIVES ------------------------------------------21 I. THE EXPLORATORY STAGE-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------25 II. THE FRAMEWORK OF BUSINESS STATISTICS-------------------------------------------------------------31 III. SPECIFYING THE INTENDED STATISTICAL OUTPUT: THE TARGET POPULATION ---------------51 IV. SPECIFYING THE INTENDED OUTPUT: THE VARIABLES -------------------------------------------59 V. DESIGN OF THE TABLE OUTLINE ---------------------------------------------------------------------------65 PART B PREPARING THE SURVEY OPERATIONS ------------------------------------69 I. USE OF ADMINISTRATIVE REGISTERS ----------------------------------------------------------------------73 II. THE STATISTICAL BUSINESS REGISTER -------------------------------------------------------------------77 III. DEFINING THE SAMPLING FRAME-------------------------------------------------------------------------85 IV. CHOOSING SAMPLING DESIGN AND ESTIMATION METHOD------------------------------------------87 V. QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGN -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------97 PART C SAMPLING, DATA COLLECTION AND DATA ENTRY -------------------- 107 I. MINIMIZING RESPONSE BURDEN -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 111 II. MINIMIZING NON-RESPONSE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 119 III. EDI AS A TOOL FOR DATA COLLECTION -------------------------------------------------------------- 121 IV. DRAWING THE SAMPLE------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 127 V. DATA COLLECTION------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 131 VI. DATA ENTRY------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 135 PART D PROCESSING AND ANALYSIS ------------------------------------------------- 139 I. DATA EDITING------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 143 II. IMPUTATION -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 151 III. WEIGHTING AND REWEIGHTING ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 157 IV. STATISTICAL INTEGRATION ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 165 V. ANALYSIS: SEASONAL ADJUSTMENT OF TIME SERIES ----------------------------------------------- 171 PART E PUBLICATION AND DISSEMINATION ---------------------------------------- 177 I. THE TASK OF NATIONAL STATISTICAL INSTITUTES --------------------------------------------------- 181 II. PUBLICATION AND DISSEMINATION STRATEGY ------------------------------------------------------- 183 III. DISCLOSURE CONTROL OF TABULAR DATA ---------------------------------------------------------- 187 IV. PROFILE OF A STANDARD PUBLICATION --------------------------------------------------------------- 197

–  –  –

Statistical information is the final product of a more or less complex range of operations. In this respect statistics do not differ from more tangible products, like motor cars or dinners in a restaurant.

This handbook provides general guidelines on how to make statistics. It does not contain a comprehensive description of the contents of business statistics, nor is it a cookery book, providing an enumeration of recipes. Rather, it deals with cooking principles and methods, thus supporting survey statisticians in preparing their own recipes for making statistics, each from his own specific objective and infra structure.

The handbook applies for the setting up of new surveys as well as for the redesign of existing surveys. It is meant to serve several parties of interest. It supports survey managers of EU member states as well as transition countries that are moving towards the EU statistical system.

And it provides training material for statistical courses, both at the EU and at the national level.

Finally, it offers the professional users of business statistics a look behind the scenes, so as to enhance their understanding of what they read.




1. Recent developments This Handbook is a guide for design and redesign of business surveys. While the first will in particular apply for transition countries, the latter is most relevant in countries with a tradition in statistics for a market economy. Presently, National Statistical Institutes (NSI) from all over the world encounter similar problems and opportunities, urging them to drastically reconsider their

surveying strategies. Notably four developments appear to occur on a global scale:

• respondents become ever more reluctant to cooperate, while at the same time national governments announce programs to reduce paper burden on the business world;

• governments freeze or even cut budgets for NSI’s;

• users become increasingly demanding, in particular with respect to timeliness, coherence and detail of information;

• there is a tendency towards growing competition on the information supply market; NSI’s are no longer monopolists.

It is obvious that these four developments interfere closely, in the sense that the first two seem to hamper NSI’s in adequately responding to the latter two.

2. NSI’s tasks The production of business statistics can be conceived as the bridging of the gap between information demand by users and information sources held by respondents. Ideally, an NSI should account for the whole bridging of the gap. In practice, it will never fully succeed. The

traditional situation can be pictured as follows:

–  –  –

The figure shows that:

A. part of the bridging job is left to respondents, by asking them questions they cannot directly, i.e. without substantial effort, answer from their accounting systems. Arrow A represents the response burden, or, more positively stated, the contribution of respondents (in our case mostly businesses) to the statistical process;

B. the NSI does not fully meet user demand, as is shown by arrow B. Shortcomings in the statistical product may be of various nature: quantity, reliability, timeliness, consistency or accessibility of data may be less than required by users.

The horizontal arrow in the middle segment denotes the contribution of the NSI to the bridging of the gap between supply and demand. Arrows A and B can be said to denote (external) “tension indicators”. The area of the “NSI-body” represents the funds available. Consequently, arrow C can be seen as a (negative) measure for the cost-effectiveness of the NSI contribution.


3. Challenges In terms of the picture, strategic programs should aim at a simultaneous reduction of the length

of each of the three arrows:

A. response burden should decrease substantially, not only because governments require it, but also because this is the only way to ensure ongoing co-operation of the business world;

B. output value should increase, because users become more and more demanding and because of increasing market competition;

C. productivity should increase, because the funds with which the goals (A) and (B) have to be realised, will remain equal or even decline.

It is, therefore, the mission of the NSI to gradually change the picture towards the following


–  –  –

Notice the metamorphosis in the shape of the NSI-body: despite the loss of some weight (by ongoing budget cuts) it reaches further, both towards users and respondents. This is made possible by getting slimmer (more efficient) and consequently leaner.

Notice also that both users and respondents shift to the right; the first because of ever increasing demands, the latter because they are expected to be willing to adapt their accounting systems to a certain extent to statistical standards.

The picture accentuates the mutual dependency of the three performance indicators, which is indeed a crucial element in the whole process of transformation. Relief of the tension in one of the indicators should not lead to disproportionate increase of the tensions in any of the others. It would, e.g., be fairly easy to reduce response burden by doubling field staff and halving sample sizes. However, if the negative effects of such measures on productivity and output would exceed the positive effect on the burden indicator, such a transformation can hardly be qualified as a performance.

The question is, therefore, how to develop a strategy and to take measures which generate a positive effect on each of the three performance indicators, i.e. which both relieve response burden and NSI cost, and enhance the quality and the quantity of the output.


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