Towards better social statistics for a #SocialEurope

SocialDevToday (24 August) the European Commission 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.

A more solid evidence base in terms of social indicators will improve the analysis of social developments and contribute to a social triple-A for Europe.

As Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, also responsible for European Statistics (EUROSTAT) said: “Today we take an important step to modernise social statistics. Yet this is not about numbers, this is about people. Good policies start with good data. We need the most accurate information in the social field. We need more up to date data and receive it faster in order to design social policies that correspond to the real needs of citizens in Europe today. Today’s proposal is another example of how this Commission puts the social dimension at the heart of its agenda.”

The proposed framework Regulation will allow data to be published faster, as it reduces the transmission deadlines in a number of areas. It will also increase the comparability and coherence of EU social statistics, by bringing together seven existing household surveys that are currently carried out in the EU and harmonizing variables that are common to two or more surveys. This will, in addition, facilitate joint analysis of social phenomena, based on new survey methods. Finally, we will a richer and broader data set at our disposal, thanks to the use of innovative approaches and methods by national statistical authorities and the combination of data from several sources.


This initiative is part of a major programme for the modernization of social statistics undertaken in close co-operation with the member states. It addresses the increased challenges in this area of statistics, which include rapid innovation in methodologies and uses of IT, the availability of new data sources, emerging needs and expectations of data users as well as continued pressure on available resources. It will also support the planned European Pillar of Social Rights which requires a solid evidence base in subjects such as inequalities, skills, access to employment for all and social protection expenditures – all of which should be better described with sound and timely statistics. This initiative is also part of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) and aims to streamline the European social statistics collected from samples and to make the data collection process more efficient and the statistical output more relevant.

Similar initiatives are being developed in other areas of statistics, such as business and agricultural statistics.

Seven household surveys are targeted with this framework Regulation: the Labour Force Survey (LFS), European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), the Adult Education Survey (AES), the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS), the Survey on Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) usage in households (ICT-HH), the Household Budget Survey (HBS) and the Harmonized European Time Use Survey (HETUS).

It should also be noted that this initiative will reduce the costs for Member States involved in carrying out sample surveys and the burden on EU residents responding to them.

The Commission aims at gradually implementing the framework Regulation starting from 2019.

The Proposal is the result of extensive consultations with all interested parties: data producers, data providers and data users. The results of the consultation are summarised in an impact assessment publicly available here.

The European Statistical System (ESS) produces the statistical data used to assess Member States’ performance in the context of the European semester, to monitor the key targets of Europe 2020, to implement many Commission evaluation frameworks on employment and social developments, and to pave the way for a future strategic vision for Europe beyond Europe 2020. Additionally, the Union’s political priorities require good analytical and monitoring tools in the fields of jobs, growth and investment, the digital single market, a deeper and fairer European Monetary Union (EMU), migration, internal market, energy union and climate.

Over the years, the ESS has set up advanced tools to provide improved and comparable statistics for better policy making at the European level and in the Member States. Nevertheless, the ESS is increasingly confronted with a growing need for statistical information for analysis, research and policy-making. Furthermore, statistical data should continue to meet the high quality standards of official statistics, including timeliness.

Social statistics are covering a wide range of domains (demography, employment, income and consumption, well-being and quality of life, education, health etc.) and they are taken from a variety of sources (data on persons and households collected at individual level from samples, population censuses, aggregated administrative data and data from businesses). All these aspects are being analysed in a consistent manner under the modernisation programme for social statistics. The current proposed framework Regulation is an important step forward in the modernisation of social statistics notably in terms of social survey data.

More information

See also MEMO/16/2868
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