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E-mail: Barry Sobey (+353) 21 453 5355 Kieran O'Shea (+353) 21 453 5568
For general information on CSO statistics: (+353) 21 453 5000 On-line ISSN 2009-6720

This release has been compiled during the COVID-19 crisis. The results contained in this release reflect some of the impacts of the COVID-19 situation.

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Response Burden Barometer


Response Burden Index1144.498.090.7100.091.992.490.387.286.784.191.1
1 The Response Burden Index gauges the administrative burden measured on an actual compliance basis
2 2020 and 2010 figures reflect the decennial Census of Agriculture
3 Base Year is 2013

Administrative burden of CSO surveys on businesses increases by 8.3% in 2020.

Response Burden Index 2013=100
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There was an 8.3% increase in the response burden index between 2019 and 2020.  See Table 1 and Figure 1.

The cost of the total administrative burden to business was €4.18 million in 2020, up €323,000 from 2019. See Table 2.

For main headline figures, see Infographic

The response burden is a measure of the total administrative burden placed on Irish enterprises and agricultural holdings by Central Statistics Office (CSO) surveys when calculated on an actual compliance basis1.

Changes to the response burden include natural fluctuation with enterprises entering and leaving the survey population over the course of the year, and variation in response expected. As some surveys such as the Farm Structure Survey (every 2 to 3 years) and the Census of Agriculture (every ten years i.e. surveyed in 2020), don't take place every year, care needs to be taken when comparing the response burden from one year to that of the previous year.  Improved data and development of methodologies also contribute to variation within the response burden.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another reason why 2020 figures are not directly comparable with 2019. Excluding the excess returns of the 2020 June Agriculture Survey above the 2019 figure, the overall number of forms returned are estimated at 176,200 which is 20,000 less than the returns for 2019. This 10.2% reduction compares with reductions of 1% and 5.4% for the previous two years. Feedback from CSO survey managers indicate that the majority of the 10.2% reduction in 2020 is considered as COVID-19 pandemic related, with the number of forms returned by businesses reduced in approximately two thirds of surveys. This reduction was temporary. A sustained reduction at this level would have a serious impact on statistical quality.

The increase in the response burden level in 2020 reflects the expansion of the 2020 June Agricultural Survey into the decennial Census of Agriculture.  This expansion, with 128,400 more forms issued compared with the 2019 June Agriculture Survey more than offset an annual overall reduction (12,800) in forms issued to businesses from all the other surveys combined in 2020. See Tables 1,2 and Figure 1.

A comparison with 2010, when the previous Census of Agriculture was issued, shows the Administrative Burden - actual compliance was much greater in 2010 with a response burden index of 144.4 compared with 91.1 for 2020.  See Tables 1, 2 and Figure 1.

There are 494,700 active business enterprises (including the latest Farm Population figure) in Ireland, according to the latest estimate. The CSO issued 419,000 survey forms to these enterprises in 2020, or an average of 0.85 survey forms per enterprise. There were 273,200 forms returned as partially or wholly completed, representing an average of 0.55 forms per enterprise. See Table 2.

The total number of hours spent by businesses on responding to surveys in 2020 was 225,500 or 27.3 minutes per business, measured on the basis of forms at least partially completed and actually returned to the CSO (i.e., if burden is based on actual compliance). The administrative cost1 of actual compliance was €6.9 million, or €14.01 per enterprise, measured on 2013 prices. The administrative burden (i.e. administrative costs less business-as-usual costs), was €4.18 million, or €8.45 per enterprise. See Table 2 & Methodology.

If all survey forms issued by the CSO were partially or wholly completed and returned (i.e., if there had been full compliance), then the total number of hours spent on this task by enterprises in Ireland in 2020 would have been 299,300, or an average of 36.3 minutes per enterprise. The administrative cost of full compliance would have been €9.6 million, or €19.47 per enterprise. The corresponding administrative burden would have been €5.8 million, or €11.74 per enterprise. See Table 2 & Methodology.

The most burdensome survey, in terms of the number of survey forms issued and completed, in 2020 was the June Agricultural Survey, which expanded into the decennial Census of Agriculture with 138,900 forms issued, of which 105,900 were returned partially or wholly completed. The actual compliance administration costs of completing these Census of Agriculture forms in 2020 were €1.2 million where a full compliance administrative costs would be €1.6 million.

In terms of the largest cost for an individual survey, the Trade Intrastat Imports survey was the highest in 2020. The actual compliance administrative costs were €2.1 million whereas a full compliance administrative costs would have been €2.6 million. See PxStat Tables 

1Actual compliance basis: calculated on a time and cost basis of fully or partially completed returns to the CSO. This is the preferred method of the European Statistical System for calculating the Response Burden Barometer level.

2The hourly administrative cost figure used in the calculations for non-Trade surveys was €44.00 (based on 2013 figures). For Trade surveys, the administrative cost figure was based on their 2013 Response Burden Survey. The administrative burden of CSO Surveys was 60.3% of the administrative costs figure. Please see Methodology for further details. 

Table 1 Total Administrative Burden, actual compliance (Response Burden Index), 2013 = 100
All Surveys2010¹2011201220132014201520162017201820192020¹
Forms Issued141.093.386.8100.086.191.9103.888.383.786.2119.1
Forms Returned146.894.087.0100.087.388.8101.686.081.480.5112.1
Time, full compliance (forms issued) - hours140.699.191.1100.096.9101.696.499.198.499.6110.4
Time, actual compliance (forms returned) - hours136.898.792.0100.099.4101.4102.3104.7106.2102.5105.7
Administrative Burden, full compliance147.398.089.4100.
Administrative Burden, actual compliance (Response Burden Index)144.498.090.7100.091.992.490.387.286.784.191.1
1 2020 and 2010 figures reflect the decennial Census of Agriculture
Table 2 Forms, Time taken to complete forms, Administrative Burden, All Surveys
Total number of active business enterprises (incl. agricultural holdings)436,700446,700450,400451,700450,700450,700461,300460,800488,600485,700494,700
Number of forms Issued496,300328,400305,500351,900302,900323,400365,400310,600294,600303,400419,000
Average number of survey forms per business enterprise per year 1.140.740.680.780.670.720.790.670.600.620.85
Number of forms Returned357,700229,000212,000243,600212,600216,400247,600209,500198,200196,200273,200
Average number of survey forms per business enterprise per year 0.820.510.470.540.470.480.540.450.410.400.55
Time, full2 compliance (forms issued), hours381,300268,700247,000271,100262,800275,500261,400268,700266,700270,000299,300
Average number of minutes per business enterprise per year 52.436.132.936.035.036.734.035.032.833.436.3
Time, actual3 compliance (forms returned), hours291,700210,400196,200213,300211,900216,300218,100223,200226,400218,600225,500
Average number of minutes per business enterprise per year 40.128.326.128.328.228.828.429.127.827.027.3
Administrative Costs, full compliance (€, 2013 prices)14,610,0009,716,9008,872,5009,919,2008,938,5009,222,1008,726,9008,481,3008,226,4008,395,3009,629,600
Average administrative cost (€) per business enterprise per year 33.4621.7519.7021.9619.8320.4618.9218.4116.8417.2919.47
Administrative Burden, full compliance (€, 2013 prices)8,812,7005,861,2005,351,9005,983,3005,391,7005,562,8005,264,1005,115,9004,962,2005,064,0005,808,600
Average administrative burden (€) per business enterprise per year20.1813.1211.8813.2511.9612.3411.4111.1010.1610.4311.74
Administrative Costs, actual compliance (€, 2013 prices)10,982,9007,452,9006,899,2007,607,3006,992,7007,029,6006,873,2006,632,7006,593,6006,394,5006,929,900
Average administrative cost (€) per business enterprise per year25.1516.6815.3216.8415.5215.6014.9014.4013.5013.1714.01
Administrative Burden4, actual compliance (€, 2013 prices)6,624,9004,495,6004,161,6004,588,8004,218,0004,240,3004,145,9004,000,8003,977,3003,857,1004,180,100
Average administrative burden (€) per business enterprise per year 15.1710.069.2410.169.369.418.998.688.147.948.45
1 2020 and 2010 figures reflect the decennial Census of Agriculture
2 Full compliance is measured on the basis of forms issued by the CSO.
3 Actual compliance is measured on the basis of forms partially or fully completed and actually returned to the CSO.
4 Administrative burden for actual compliance is the Response Burden.

Background Notes

Minimising survey response burden

Notwithstanding the ever-growing international demand for statistics (from organisations such as the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, etc.), minimising the administrative burden placed on CSO business respondents is, and has been for many years, a corporate priority of the CSO. (See the Statement Of Strategy 2020-2023.pdf ) The CSO has taken, and continues to take, a number of actions towards this end. Amongst these actions are: 

  • Increased use of administrative data (especially from the Revenue Commissioners), reducing the need to collect information from enterprises;
  • Reduction of sample sizes where possible;
  • Reduction of the level of detail collected on questionnaires across a number of surveys;
  • Introduction of short annual forms for small enterprises, with the more detailed forms being sent to the larger enterprises only;
  • Re-design of questionnaires to align as far as possible with Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet accounts entries;
  • Increased use of electronic rather than paper forms;
  • Working with software companies to incorporate functionality into payroll software programs which automatically extracts and completes almost all of the requirements of the Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey and a large portion of the requirements of the National Employment Survey.

In the case of Ireland, it should be noted that most, but not all, government statistical inquiries are conducted by the CSO, and that almost all CSO surveys are driven by EU legislation with limited scope for national interpretation during implementation. The above actions have been possible within the structures of the governing EU legislation.

Survey not included in 2020 response burden calculations

The Business Impact of COVID-19  Survey is not included in the calculation of the Response Burden Barometer. This was a non-mandatory survey and the impact of the survey on the Response Burden Barometer is estimated to be minor.

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