Statistics duties cost one hour of time each month

The average time spent by companies on preparing documents for official statistical reasons amounts to 64 minutes per month. At least this is the finding of the “How much a burden are official statistics requirements to the economy” study carried out by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). The study which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economy and Technology and based on data by the Federal and regional statistical offices reveals the burdens encountered by about 75.000 companies due to official statistical duties.

The findings show that in the year 2004 85 percent of almost 3.5 German companies were not called upon at all by the statistical offices to submit statistical documents. 529.000 companies (15 percent) which were called upon once or more times on average had to spent 64 minutes per month on answering the official questions.

The results of the survey also show marked differences in the burdens put on those obliged to provide data. Thus, smaller companies with less than 9 staff on average had to spend only half an hour per month, whereas for major enterprises (more than 500 employees) this time amounted to on average ten hours each month. The time needed does also differ strongly depending on which economic sector a company is working in. For companies in the processing industry this time was on average three hours which is two hours more as compared to the national average of 64 minutes. Most time is needed to meet the so-called Intrastat statistical requirements. They consumed more than 40 percent of the total time needed.

“Good policies require good statistics. Valuable statistics correspond to a great deal of energy on the part of those providing the data. Improving the cost-benefit ratio is a continuous task”, says Walter Radermacher, vice president of the Federal Statistical Office. The “Mittelstandsentlastungsgesetz” law which was past at the beginning of July and is to ease burdens on small and medium-sized entities is one example for words being followed by actions: Among other things its provisions say that statistical documents have to be submitted only once a year instead of each month by construction companies, and certain other data do not have to be collected at all in the year 2007. As to companies in the goods-producing industry with less than 50 employees, they are relieved of their duty to provide a monthly report and monthly data on production.

Even with regard to the Intrastat requirements easings have in the meantime been implemented, which are not yet reflected in the recent study. From the 1st of January 2005 the limit for the burden of reporting was raised from 200.000 to 300.000 Euros per year and destination of trade thereby relieving about 15.800 companies of their obligation to report on the trade in goods in the EU.

In spite of the progress mentioned there are also limits to the facilitations given to companies: Official statistics as a whole represents a system of individual basic statistics matching each other. Cancellation at certain points may endanger the statistical system as a whole. Furthermore, EU regulations and guidelines must not be ignored either. Given that approx. two thirds of all statistical requirements are based on European legislation, national efforts of cutting back on bureaucracy by reducing statistical duties cannot have but a limited effect.

The “How much a burden are official statistics requirements to the economy” study is available free of charge on the DIW website. GERMAN