Why does Statistics Estonia ask my enterprise to provide data?

Posted on 12 June 2024, 9:58

Statistics Estonia collects data about economic and social indicators to give a detailed overview of economic trends and life in Estonia. This year, Statistics Estonia will carry out over one hundred surveys involving more than 26,000 enterprises in total. Is there no other way to get these data?

Understandably, it is a burden for enterprises when they are included in a sample and required to participate in one or more surveys. Over time, printed questionnaires have been replaced with digital questionnaires; and, each year, there is a greater range of data that can be obtained from registers and databases. But respondents might still ask why, in year 2024, they are asked to submit questionnaires, and whether the submitted data are even used for anything later. Soon, we will begin data collection with the annual EKOMAR questionnaire. EKOMAR is the most important questionnaire about enterprises – thus, now is a good time to explain why and how Statistics Estonia collects data.

Why does Statistics Estonia collect data?

Statistics Estonia is a producer of official statistics. Each year, we collect information from enterprises to produce various indicators that are required nationally or by the European Union (EU). These data serve as valuable input for analysing economic trends in Estonia, developing tax policies, making salary decisions, or granting business subsidies. A large share of the surveys are carried out in all EU Member States using the same methodology, which allows us to see how the Estonian economy is doing compared to other countries. The statistics that we produce using the collected data are available to everyone on Statistics Estonia’s website.

Why are the necessary data not taken from existing sources?

In data collection, Statistics Estonia first relies on existing sources (such as state registers). Enterprises are asked to provide information only when the necessary data are not available in registers, or if the available data are not detailed enough or are otherwise unsuitable for statistics purposes. For example, Statistics Estonia makes heavy use of the employment register of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, but the register does not have data about working hours which are required for statistics on the EU level. This means that Statistics Estonia has to ask enterprises to provide this information separately. Also, registers sometimes receive the necessary information too late, or the periodicity of data collection may differ from what is required by Statistics Estonia. 

Annual reports are a vital source of data in the production of business statistics. Statistics Estonia uses the information in annual reports to partially pre-fill certain questionnaires (e.g. EKOMAR, financial service activities questionnaire, non-profit institutions questionnaire). In the case of pre-filled questionnaires, respondents only have to add the data not available in annual reports. We can use annual report data for pre-filling after the user has generated the final PDF of the annual report in the e-Business Register (i.e. the data have been verified and are without errors, but the report does not have to be signed or audited).

Why do different state agencies ask for the same data from my enterprise?

As said, Statistics Estonia tries to re-use data already collected by others as much as possible. However, the information requested by different state agencies may be similar but not always exactly the same. This may create the impression that the same question is asked again and again. Statistics Estonia asks for additional information, for example, when there are differences in the reference period, the level of detail (e.g. the value of goods dispatched to the EU cannot be used to deduce the commodity group or quantity), or the definitions (for example, monthly gross wages are not the same as income from employment). When some fields in Statistics Estonia’s questionnaire are pre-filled with previously provided data, this is not considered duplicate collection. 

What determines the due dates for data submission? 

The due dates for Statistics Estonia’s questionnaires are connected with the specific release dates when the statistics must be published, and with the deadlines for data submission to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, who needs the data about Estonia for statistical comparisons within the EU. 

How do you select the enterprises that must submit data? Why is my enterprise so often in the sample?

Data are collected from enterprises using complete enumeration or sample surveys. Complete enumeration means that we survey all enterprises engaged in a given economic activity. With a sample survey, we collect data only from enterprises included in the sample. A cut-off threshold may be used, which means that data must be submitted by all enterprises that are above the threshold – for example, Intrastat reporting obligation is determined by the value of intra-EU trade. Sampling is sometimes based on the number of employees. It means that we survey all large enterprises and a random sample of small enterprises. The specific threshold (number of employees) depends on the questionnaire. For example, in the financial statistics of enterprises survey, data must be submitted by all enterprises with 20 or more employees, and a random sample is drawn from enterprises with fewer than 20 employees. In the ICT survey, the threshold for the fully enumerated population is 50 employees. 

Statistics Estonia has a random sampling coordination system which ensures that a small enterprise is not required to fill in all applicable questionnaires at the same time. Each year, a share of enterprises are removed from the sample and are replaced by new enterprises. Still, it may happen that while the enterprise is removed from one sample, it is simultaneously included in the sample of another survey. The periodicity also varies from survey to survey: some are monthly, some are quarterly or annual surveys.

To ensure reliable statistics, the sample must always be of a certain size, but we try to minimise the response burden for enterprises. The graph below shows that the number of enterprises required to complete the EKOMAR questionnaire has decreased over time, even though the population of enterprises has steadily increased.

Changes in the population and sample size of EKOMAR, 2012–2023

The sampling principles are described in more detail on our website.

What are the main changes in 2024 in terms of data submission?

This year, Statistics Estonia began the transition to SIMSTAT (SIngle Market STATistics), which means changes in Intrastat reporting. Only the questionnaire on the dispatches of goods will be used to collect data for producing statistics on EU Member States. The data on arrivals are obtained from the dispatches data collected by other Member States. With this change, about 1,400 economic entities will be released from reporting obligations. Next, we will focus on developing the automatic submission of wages and salaries and labour force data.

Does Statistics Estonia consider the feedback from enterprises?

Where possible, we have tried to simplify data submission based on feedback from enterprises. At the moment, we are making preparations for introducing new software to replace the current eSTAT data submission environment and provide a better user experience. Additionally, we have added helpful features to some questionnaires. For example, at respondents’ request, we added tooltips to the “Financial statistics of enterprises (quarterly)” questionnaire, displayed when the cursor hovers over a variable. We also halved the amount of so-called zero-value fields that users have to complete, such as fields designating absence of inventories, for example. 

Is it possible to submit data automatically?

At the moment, enterprises who have implemented automatic reporting (the Reporting 3.0 project) can submit data about wages and employees directly from their accounting software. We are also working on the possibility to submit EKOMAR data automatically, for example. 

What does an enterprise gain by submitting data?

The majority of statistics produced by Statistics Estonia are publicly available on our website where everyone can access the data, whether for information or research purposes. We have a range of easy-to-use applications that give an overview of wages or the labour market, for example; there are also calculators for the consumer price index and purchasing power. 

The dashboards provide constantly updated visualised data about different business sectors, regions, and government strategies and targets. The dashboards were developed in close cooperation with local municipalities and trade associations. They present the key indicators of each sector or area, which considerably reduces the time it would otherwise take to find the data. Enterprises can use the dashboards for information about the number of competitors in a particular region or for developing pricing strategies. The visualised data can be easily downloaded and shared. Users who log in can create their own dashboard with hand-picked indicators.

Statistics by theme can be browsed here

Statistics Estonia regularly publishes the short-term statistics of enterprises, based on monthly VAT returns and quarterly financial indicators. These data illustrate the trends by economic activity or municipality, for example.

For further information:

Heidi Kukk
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372,625 9181
press [at] stat.ee (press[at]stat[dot]ee)