News 5 Nov 2020

How and why is the Labour Force Survey renewed?

The entire Labour Force Survey will be reviewed from the beginning of 2021 to comply with the new EU legislation and significant national renewals will be implemented at the same time. The renewals may have an effect on the key figures of the Labour Force Survey, such as unemployment and employment rates.

The Labour Force Survey is an important tool for ministries and other political actors, labour market organisations, research institutes and economists, for example. The aim of the renewals is to make it easier to respond to the survey and improve the quality and international comparability of the results.

"The Labour Force Survey is Statistics Finland's largest inquiry from which much followed figures are produced about employment and unemployment. It is a fairly complicated whole that has been renewed with care – renewals of this scale are made at most once every ten years,” says Statistics Finland's Director General Marjo Bruun. 

Responding online brings cost savings 

The Labour Force Survey is a sample survey for which data are collected by asking respondents about them. At the moment, the data are collected with telephone interviews and partly with face-to-face interviews, but starting from 2021, Labour Force Survey respondents will also be able to respond online. 

“The renewal improves the respondents' possibilities to take part in the survey. This is an important renewal because more and more people fail to respond to voluntary inquiries. Web inquiries can also be used to achieve cost savings,” says Senior Researcher Anna Pärnänen. 

Content redesign improves comparisons between EU countries

The content of the Labour Force Survey questionnaire in Finland is redesigned to comply with the new EU legislation. The most important changes concern questions about working hours and when a person is defined as employed. In future, those on parental leave will be counted more often as employed than before and those on study leave less often. The statistical method also changes for seasonal workers, sick leaves and other absences. 

“Different changes affect employment figures differently. The redesign concerning parental leave has the biggest impact. According to the new definition, persons on parental leave will in future be classified as employed,” says Senior Statistician Pertti Taskinen.

The contents of the Labour Force Survey are extended when questions are added to the inquiry concerning the flexibility of working hours, the number of self-employed persons' customers and the working hours of secondary jobs. In addition, persons aged 75 to 89 are included in the survey as a new age group.

Calculation method of results will be reviewed

The new EU legislation will have an effect on the formation of the sample and the calculation method of the results, i.e. the estimation methods, because the survey will in future cover persons aged 15 to 89. In addition, the quality criteria set for the reliability of the results must be taken into account in the estimation methods. As a result of the review, additional information obtained from the Register of Completed Education and Degrees and the Incomes Register is utilised in the estimation methods.

“The revised method for calculating the results of the Labour Force Survey will take into consideration the new EU legislation, changes to the data collection method and the general fall in survey response rates,” says Senior Statistician Riku Salonen.

Effects of the renewals were tested with a pilot study

Statistics Finland has been preparing the renewals to be implemented in 2021 for several years, and the effects of the changes have been assessed based on the results of a pilot study carried out in autumn 2019. Overall, the response rate of the pilot study was clearly lower than usual, and 39 per cent of the responses were received via the web. The pilot study also showed that the respondents on the web and on the telephone clearly represent different population groups. The age distribution of those responding online was older and they were more often highly educated. 
The first preliminary results of the new Labour Force Survey will be published at the beginning of 2021. Because of the time comparison of the results, the figures for earlier years, or time series, will also be produced corrected starting from 2000.

Labour Force Survey renewal in a nutshell: 

•    The Labour Force Survey is an inquiry for which data are asked from the respondents on a questionnaire. The content of the questionnaire is harmonised in more detail than before between different EU countries, thus improving the comparability of figures between different countries. The inquired data will be altered, for example, concerning working hours.
•    The data collection method will be reviewed so that from the beginning of 2021 Statistics Finland will also offer the opportunity to respond to the survey online. Web-based responding improves the respondents' possibilities to take part in the survey.
•    The new EU legislation, increased non-response and changes to the data collection method are taken into account in the reviewed sample of the Labour Force Survey and the calculation method of the results.


Further information: 
Renewal of data collection: Anna Pärnänen, Senior Researcher, +358 29 551 3795
Content redesign: Pertti Taskinen, Senior Statistician, +358 29 551 2690
Renewal of estimation methods: Riku Salonen, Senior Statistician, +358 29 551 3295