Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Communities, and is charged with producing statistics for the European Union (EU) and promoting harmonisation of statistical methods and standards across the member states. Eurostat publishes statistical data and analyses on a wide range of topics, both in printed publications and on the internet.
The forerunner of Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Coal and Steel Community, was established in late 1952. In 1958 the statistical service of the European Communities was set up, and the year after the institution took the name of the Statistical Office of the European Communities (SOEC). This is still the official name of the institution; the better-known name of Eurostat dates only from 1973 (De Michelis and Chantraine 2003: 14, 23).
All data can be accessed through the Dissemination Database, previously called the New Cronos Database. The Dissemination Database contains data from several databases, such as the External Trade Database and the Regio Database.
Eurostat - Dissemination Database
Tab, txt, xml, tsv, dBase, On-screen tables
Data types and sources
Eurostat publishes a wide variety of statistical data. Most of the data come from official registers, administrative records, national accounts and censuses. Some statistics are also based on surveys, such as national health surveys and labour force surveys.
Eurostat's Dissemination Database contains more then 5.000 tables and datasets organised in nine broad categories. Many of the tables appear in more than one of the categories, so the number of separate tables is somewhat smaller. Nonetheless, the database contains an enormous quantity of statistical data.
The database covers the following nine topics and subtopics:
- General and regional statistics
- European and national short term indicators
- Regional statistics
- Urban audit
- Non-EU countries
- Economy and finance
- National accounts (incl. GDP)
- Government statistics
- Exchange rates
- Interest rates
- Monetary and other financial statistics
- Balance of payments - International transactions
- Population and social conditions
- Education and training
- Labour market
- Living conditions and welfare
- Crime and criminal justice
- Industry, trade and services
- Short-term business statistics
- Structural business statistics
- Information society statistics
- Statistics on the production of manufactured goods
- Postal services
- Agriculture, forestry and fisheries
- Food: from farm to fork statistics
- Agri-Environmental Indicators
- External trade
- External trade data
- External trade detailed data
- Regional transport statistics
- Transport, volume and modal split
- Railway transport
- Road transport
- Inland waterways transport
- Oil pipeline transport
- Maritime transport
- Air tranport
- Environment and energy
- Science and technology
- Research and development
- Community innovation survey
- High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services
- Patent statistics
- Human Resources in Science & Technology
The geographical coverage varies by topic and over time. The statistical collections generally cover all EU member states. In many cases longer time-series are only available for the 15 countries that were members prior to the enlargement of the union in 2004.
Many of the data collections also cover additional European countries, primarily candidate countries and EFTA member states, but also countries in the western Balkans and the former Soviet Union. In some cases non-European countries are also included, such as the United States and Japan and participants in the MedStat programme (North African and Middle Eastern countries). Data for countries in the western Balkans, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East and North Africa are usually stored in separate folders and not included in the general collections.
As the only major international statistics agency, Eurostat also publishes a wide range of data at a regional level. Eurostat’s Regio Database contains data for EU member states and some candidate countries and EFTA member states. The data are stored at the (at any time) latest version of the NUTS system (the official regional breakdown for all EU countries), mainly at level 2, though some collections also contain data at level 3. In some cases, data are available only at level 1. The coverage of Eurostat’s Regio Database varies significantly, depending on the variable. We have examined the coverage of three variables: population at 1 January by sex and age from 1990 onwards; gross domestic product (GDP) at current market prices at NUTS level 2; and unemployment rates by sex and age, at NUTS levels 1, 2 and 3. The data for non-European countries and non-member European countries are generally less detailed than the other statistical collections in the Dissemination Database.
Time coverage and updates
The time coverage varies substantially by variable and across countries. Some series are available from the early 1900s, but most variables have a much shorter time span. Time-series for many key statistics are available from the 1960s or 70s, while the majority of variables cover the period from the 1990s onwards. Some variables in the Regio Database cover the period from 1975 onwards. The database is updated continuously.
Documentation is generally fairly detailed and easily accessible. Explanatory texts to each theme or table can be accessed through links in the database and through a separate page with links to metadata for all themes. Amongst these are also RAMON, Eurostat’s metadata server (links provided below).
For the structural indicators, Eurostat provides quality profiles, which are user-oriented summaries of the main quality features of the indicators. The quality profiles are published on Eurostat’s website (link provided below).
More information about general methodology, specific indicators and availability of data can be found in a wide range of printed publications, many of which are available online. Publications that may be particularly useful are the Statistics in Focus, Mini-guide: Eurostat Publications and Databases, European Regional and Urban Statistics: Reference Guide, Europe in Figures: Eurostat Yearbook, and Regions: Statistical Yearbook.
Access conditions and cost
The Dissemination Database can be accessed online, free of charge. Provided that the source is acknowledged, it may be reproduced under the conditions specified in the general copyright notice. Commercial redistribution is permitted, subject to the conclusion of a licence agreement with the Publications Office. This licence entitles the contractor to distribute to third parties, on the conditions described in the licence. The licence specifies coverage of data (with exceptions), acknowledgements and responsibilities. The licence is free of charge. See Eurostat website for more information:
The database is fairly straightforward and easy to use. The database is organised hierarchically, and you find variables, datasets and predefined tables by browsing through the data navigation tree. It is not necessary to register to log on to the database, but by registering you get access to enhanced functionalities. A drawback is that it is only possible to find data by browsing; there is no search function.
Some datasets are only available as predefined tables, but in most cases it is possible to create subsets of the data by specifying various dimensions, e.g. geographical units, time period and indicators. The functions available depend on which tool you use. Registered users can normally choose between four different tools to view and download the data; the most advanced functions are available through EVA (Eurostat’s Visual Application).
A major drawback is that the database is inconvenient to use for those who wish to create a dataset with variables from several different tables. It is not possible to select variables from different datasets or tables and download them in a single file; instead, users must download each table separately before merging them.
Data can be downloaded in various formats: TAB (for spreadsheets), TXT, XML, TSV and dBase. Data can also be viewed as on-screen tables.
Comparability and data quality
The Eurostat Dissemination Database is one of the best available sources of comparable aggregate statistics. In addition Eurostat is the only international statistics agency that publishes detailed data on a regional level. Though Eurostat does not collect data – this is done in the member states by their statistical authorities – it processes the data in order to ensure that they are comparable. A central programme in this respect is the European Statistical System, a network in which Eurostat is coordinating the harmonisation of statistics in cooperation with the national statistical authorities. The work of this programme concentrates mainly on EU policy areas. Yet with the extension of EU policies, harmonisation has been extended to nearly all statistical fields. Even though problems of comparability remain, Eurostat should be one of the best sources when it comes to providing comparable data.
The quality of Eurostat data is generally reputed to be high, and issues that might affect the data quality are usually noted in the documentation.