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Better social statistics for a social Europe

25 August 2016
by eub2 -- last modified 25 August 2016

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Regulation on new, integrated ways to collect and use data from social surveys so as to better support policy making in general and social policy in particular.


What are the main improvements of the Proposal compared with the current situation?

The Regulation will bring significant improvements to the collection and analysis of social statistics in terms of:

  • Timeliness: The regulation proposes a reduction in transmission deadlines in a number of areas (e.g. Labour Force Survey, EU-Survey on Income and Living Conditions). Combined with acceleration of data processing, this will lead to improved timeliness in the publication of data. For example, currently the data collected through the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions is published in November of the year after its collection. Thanks to the new framework Regulation, results would be analysed and published 11 months faster.
  • Comparability and coherence: The new framework will integrate 7 existing surveys. All common elements will be regulated under one single act, avoiding duplications and differences in implementation. In addition, increased harmonisation of technical items (e.g. definitions, variables, quality reporting) and wider use of administrative data will allow data linking between surveys. This will facilitate the analysis of the data coming from the different data sources, and will increase analytical possibilities. While fully respecting the confidentiality of the information, this will allow, for instance, better analysis of the relationship between income and health, including for children, young people and the elderly.
  • Coverage: The Regulation allows for the use of innovative approaches and methods by national statistical authorities and the use of data from several sources, which means that we will have a richer and broader data set. For instance, we would be able to reuse the growing set of data on education, health, social security and social benefits that are already collected for administrative purposes.

How will this impact the quality of the statistics?

The Regulation will increase comparability and coherence of social statistics because it asks for the application of the same harmonised statistical methods and the same variables when they are common to two or more social surveys. This will also reduce errors during data treatment (editing, imputation, weighting) and increase accuracy of data. The Regulation will improve the relevance of the statistics produced, i.e. the extent to which the statistics meet current and potential needs of the users, because it facilitates the joint analysis of the surveys and enlarges the scope for research.

Will publication of the data be faster?

Yes. Thanks to the reduction in transmission deadlines, the publication of data will happen faster. For example, currently, the data collected through the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions is published in November of the year after its collection. Thanks to the new framework Regulation, results would be analysed and published 11 months faster, in December of the collection year, allowing for their use during the European semester. Concerning the Labour Force Survey, quarterly employment data will be available 2 to 4 weeks earlier.

Why does the Regulation fit with the broader policy context?

Achieving a social triple A for Europe is at the heart of this Commission. This strong commitment to the EU's social goals must be supported by a solid evidence base. Spending on social policies in a broad sense (including social protection, education and health) represents more than a quarter of GDP and more than half of public spending in most Member States, therefore there must be a strong focus on policy outcomes, value for money and efforts to achieve better results through international comparisons, benchmarking and mutual learning. The Regulation will support the development of the European Pillar of Social Rights by providing a solid evidence base in subjects such as inequalities, skills, access to employment for all and social protection expenditures.

Does the Regulation cover all social statistics?

Social statistics used at EU level are taken from a variety of sources: data on persons and households collected at individual level from samples (surveys), population censuses, aggregated administrative data and data from businesses. All these sources are being analysed in the ongoing programme for the modernisation of social statistics. The current proposal is a first step in this modernisation process that relates to surveys, as the first source of social statistical data listed above.

When will the first European social statistics be produced under the Regulation?

The Regulation is expected to enter into force in 2019. In the meantime, we will continue to improve the existing statistics that are being produced.

Further information on European statistics

Is there an estimation of cost savings?

The Regulation is expected to yield significant cost savings. Although the initial redesign of the surveys will mean an increase in costs, this would be largely offset by the reduction in costs in the data collection phase (which represents two thirds of the total cost of statistical production) through the reduction in redundancies and overlaps between the different data collections and by re-use of production systems. The baseline hypothesis leads to a net saving of €10.4 million (an increase in costs of €10.3 million in the design phase (at EU level) and a decrease of €20.8 million in data collection over the first implementation of the surveys in the next seven years). Details of the reduction in costs for data producers and providers, calculated based on model scenarios, can be found in the impact assessment (Section 7.4 Impacts on efficiency and Annex 4 Analytical models used in preparing the impact assessment).

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