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Guidelines on Statistical Business Registers

Many of us might not be familiar with the term statistical business register (SBR), however, a large amount of the economic information we digest daily relies on it. This includes statistics about establishments and enterprises and their activities, business demography and entrepreneurship statistics etc. as well as economic statistics more generally.

The statistical business register is a database maintained by the national statistical office in each country. The SBR contains detailed information about establishments and enterprises and other economic units on what and how much is produced and in what industry or branch the activities take place. Most business registers also include information about ownership, business turnover and number of employees.

Since the information in the SBR is used as a key source for compiling statistics, the quality of the SBR has a direct impact on the quality of economic statistics, up to the gross domestic product.

The growing demand for better and more detailed economic statistics has put a spotlight on SBRs and their role in the production of economic statistics. SBRs also facilitate streamlining the production of statistics and allow the use of administrative data sources, for example tax registers, which means that traditional enterprise surveys can be dropped or reduced.  

While the utility of SBRs is undeniable, the content and usability of SBRs vary greatly across countries and regions. For this reason, the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians established a Task Force to produce a set of international guidelines on statistical business registers. After three years of work the Guidelines on Statistical Business Registers were endorse by the Conference of European Statisticians in June 2015 and released in August. The Guidelines provide practical recommendations to countries on how to maintain and improve their SBRs with the overall aim to improve the quality and international comparability of SBRs and economic statistics.

The Guidelines covers all aspects related to the role of SBRs, and topics for further work and research. It includes detailed methodological explanations, illustrative country examples of SBR practices, as well as an extensive glossary.

The Guidelines was developed by experts from 15 countries with the support of the African Development Bank, Eurostat, OECD, UN Statistics Division and UNECE. Following-up on the work of the UNECE Task Force, the United Nations Statistics Division intends to initiate the process of seeking global endorsement of the Guidelines by the United Nations Statistical Commission.

UNECE will promote the Guidelines and follow-up on their implementation through the international expert group on business register, which meets every second year, and through technical cooperation and capacity building in the region.

The Guidelines are available at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=40574