What is the Integration of European Social Statistics framework regulation (IESS FR)?
A new framework regulation governing the production of European Statistics on persons and households (Integration European Social Statistics framework regulation – IESS FR) came into force on 01 January 2021. The IESS FR covers various domains of social statistics including labour market statistics. It aims to ensure that social statistics based on sample surveys, e.g. the Labour Force Survey (LFS), are produced in a more harmonised and coordinated manner across Europe.
It also establishes guidance on:
What Labour Market outputs from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) are governed by the IESS regulation?
The IESS FR and associated Delegated and Implementation Acts govern the production of the LFS and Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE) by the CSO.
What about other Labour Market outputs from the CSO?
Other Labour Market outputs such as the Live Register and the Industrial Disputes releases are not impacted by the IESS regulation. This is because they are based on administrative data rather than survey data and they are disseminated to meet national requirements rather than to meet EU regulatory requirements.
Why are changes being made to the LFS again? Wasn’t it changed in 2017?
In Q3 2017, the CSO replaced the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) with the LFS. This was part of a large-scale Household Survey Development Project (HSDP) run by the CSO to completely modernise the approach to household surveys.
As part of the HSDP, the CSO introduced mixed modes of data collection to the LFS in Ireland. The QNHS consisted of households being interviewed for five consecutive quarters with one fifth of the sample (one wave) being rotated out of the survey each quarter and being replaced by a new sample wave. The QNHS was completed using only face-to-face interviewing (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing or CAPI) across all five waves. The LFS introduced mixed modes where the first interview is still conducted via CAPI but, where possible, follow up waves are conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI).
While finalising plans for the transition from the QNHS to the LFS, the CSO were already aware of the IESS regulation on the horizon and took the opportunity at the time to introduce as many of the changes that were already foreseen under the IESS FR as were possible under the existing regulation. Thus, the changes to the LFS in Ireland because of the IESS regulation are less than those envisaged for some other member states who had more significant changes to implement for their version of the LFS. Because so many changes to the LFS required due to the IESS FR were already implemented as part of the HSDP in Ireland in 2017, the impacts of the IESS regulation on the LFS within Ireland in 2021 were expected to be very minor.
What changes have been made to the LFS in Ireland because of the IESS FR?
The CSO had to introduce changes to the LFS questionnaire in Ireland from Quarter 1 (Q1) 2021 because of the IESS regulation. These include changes to LFS variables collected by the LFS questionnaire with some new questions added, while some questions have been removed, and others have changed in terms of response options or frequency. There have also been some changes to the order of the questions as the flow of the LFS questionnaire across Europe is now more prescribed and harmonised under the IESS regulation. The LFS questionnaire for Ireland for Q1 2021 is available here: Labour Force Survey
Will the IESS regulation cause any breaks in series for the LFS or the MUE in Ireland?
The changes to the LFS due to the IESS regulation in Ireland were expected to be minor and not cause any significant break in series. This is because many of the changes required have already been implemented by the CSO during the transition from the QNHS to the LFS in 2017.
While the impact of the changes envisaged under the IESS regulation were expected to be minimal for Ireland, the CSO still implemented a pilot survey to evaluate what impact the IESS FR has on results from the LFS and to allow the CSO to deal with breaks in series that might be caused due to IESS regulation by creating a consistent, coherent and break free LFS series. This pilot survey was initially planned to be conducted early in 2020 but had to be postponed due to COVID-19 and the inability of CSO interviewers to carry out face-to-face interviews from March 2020 to April 2021. The plans for the IESS pilot survey had to be amended due to the impact of Government restrictions in place during 2020 in Ireland, and the revised IESS pilot survey was rescheduled and carried out via telephone interviewing in Q4 2020.
Why has the publication of the LFS results for Q1 2021 been delayed?
While no significant breaks in series for the LFS were expected due to the IESS regulation, the LFS results for Q1 2021, which would normally have been published before the end of May 2021, have been postponed. The additional time is being used to allow the CSO to analyse the results of the pilot survey and to fully evaluate the impacts of the IESS regulation on the LFS. The Labour Market Analysis team in the CSO are continuing to work with their colleagues from the Social Data Collection division and the Methodology division in the CSO and with Eurostat to finalise the LFS estimates for Q1 2021 and ensure that a consistent and coherent historic LFS series is available for users.
How does the CSO plan to address any breaks in series for the LFS that might arise due to the IESS regulation?
Separate to the pilot survey, the CSO have been working with Eurostat to re-engineer the already published LFS series in Ireland to reflect what the results would look like if they were collected under the IESS regulation. As outlined above, the expectation was that the changes due to the IESS FR would be minimal for the LFS in Ireland and, in general, based on current analysis of the pilot survey data and the re-engineering of the historic series, that still seems to be the case.
One of the main changes for the LFS due to the IESS FR in Ireland is the way in which the labour market status of those who are Away from work in the reference period is classified. The rules regarding attachment to the employment for those Away from work in the reference week have changed. Up to Q4 2020, the attachment (absence duration of at most three months and/or continued receipt of at least half of their salary from their employer) was only being tested for those who indicated that they were Away from work because of Temporary lay-off. All other reasons for absence from work in the reference week were being automatically classified as Employed. From Q1 2021, the attachment to employment is also being tested for additional reasons for being Away from work in the reference week (parental leave, off-season and other reasons).
The CSO applied this change under the IESS regulation retrospectively to the LFS series up to Q4 2020. This was done by including additional reasons for absences when testing the attachment to a job for those who were Away from work in the reference week to determine their labour market status. This has allowed the CSO to evaluate the impact of this change under the IESS FR and re-engineer the historic series to account for the change. Other changes such as recoding of existing variables to reflect the changes under the IESS regulation were also included as part of this re-engineering process on the full historic LFS series.
The changes applied to date have had a minimal effect for most of the historic LFS series from 1998 through to 2019. This is largely because the numbers Away from work in the reference week tended to be relatively low in most quarters up to 2019. However, in 2020, because of the impact of COVID-19 and Government restrictions, the numbers who reported being Away from work in the reference week, increased substantially and, thus, the attachment to employment is being tested for more persons rather than being assumed for them. The net effect is that, under the IESS FR, there are fewer persons Away from work in the reference week being classified as Employed, which reduces the total number of employed persons during 2020 but has a minimal impact on results prior to 2020. The CSO expect this to be the largest impact on the LFS series following the implementation of the IESS regulation.
What is next for the LFS?
The CSO is working towards finalising the LFS estimates for Q1 2021 and the retrospective application of the impacts of the IESS regulation on the historic LFS series to create a comparable IESS FR compliant back series for the LFS. This is being done to provide a coherent and break free series to users when the LFS results for Q1 2021 are published. The analysis of the results of the pilot survey will continue but no significant revisions to the existing LFS series up to Q4 2020 other than the re-engineering of the data for 2020 described above is currently anticipated or envisaged.
Will any further updates be made to the historic LFS series after the publication of the LFS results for Q1 2021?
The CSO will continue to evaluate the entire LFS series to determine whether any further work is required to remove any breaks in the series caused by the IESS regulation. This will involve the Labour Market Analysis team working with colleagues from Social Data Collection and Methodology to fully investigate how the new IESS FR compliant results for 2021 align with the re-engineered IESS FR compliant LFS series up to Q4 2020. The CSO are also fully engaging with Eurostat to ensure that, at all stages, the plans for the implementation of IESS regulation for the LFS in Ireland is in line with what Eurostat expect and what is required under the regulation.
What is the link between the LFS and the Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE) release?
The methodology for the MUE release combines results from the LFS and the Live Register. The LFS provides benchmark estimates of employment and unemployment for each quarter since the beginning of 1998. These quarterly benchmark estimates are used to compile monthly data using the Proportional Denton method. The main characteristic of this method is that the monthly Live Register series is used as an indicator to disaggregate the quarterly LFS unemployment series into a monthly series in such a way as to minimise the differences between two consecutive months. It also ensures that the average of three months in a calendar quarter is equal to the corresponding LFS quarterly estimate.
For months where the quarterly LFS unemployment data is not yet available, the ratio of the LFS monthly estimate to the Live Register monthly estimate (i.e. the benchmark to indicator ratio) is forecast forward to extrapolate a monthly unemployment estimate. This approach adheres to agreed international practice and is one of the methods approved by Eurostat for compiling official estimates of monthly unemployment.
When are the latest LFS benchmarks added to the MUE process?
In an effort to reduce the frequency and scale of revisions to the MUE series, from reference month October 2019 and on a quarterly basis since (January, April, July and October), the CSO have been using the latest available quarterly LFS benchmarks when compiling the MUE release, ahead of the LFS publication date.
Prior to that methodology change, there were significant revisions to the MUE series for some quarters when the latest LFS benchmarks were added into the compilation of the MUE series. The CSO made this change to reduce the frequency and the scale of such revisions to the MUE series.
This change was designed to reduce the frequency of revisions to the MUE series as there are now only 12 versions of the MUE series released by the CSO each year instead of 16 which was previously the case (12 MUE releases and four MUE revisions published as part of the LFS release each quarter).
The change was also made to reduce the scale of revisions to the MUE series by reducing the maximum number of months of the MUE series which are being forecast. Under the new methodology, estimates of monthly unemployment were only being forecasted for a maximum of three months instead of up to four months.
Why have the MUE results for May 2021 been delayed?
The MUE results for April 2021 would normally have been compiled using the LFS benchmarks from Q1 2021. Because the introduction of the IESS FR for the LFS in 2021 has caused a delay to the compilation and publication of LFS results for Q1 2021, it has also caused a delay in the availability of the LFS benchmarks for Q1 2021 used in the MUE process. Thus, the MUE for April 2021 only incorporated LFS benchmarks up to Q4 2020 for the monthly estimates up to December 2020 while the estimates for January 2021 through to April 2021 were forecasted. Rather than publishing the MUE estimates now for May 2021, and have five months forecasted, the CSO have decided to postpone the publication of the MUE results for May 2021 and publish them alongside the LFS results for Q1 2021.
When will the LFS results for Q1 2021 and the MUE results for May 2021 be published?
The Labour Market team in the CSO are finalising the LFS results for Q1 2021 and will provide a coherent historic series of LFS data alongside the Q1 2021 LFS estimates. Benchmark estimates of employment and unemployment from this new historic series will be used along with the Q1 2021 benchmarks in the process to create the MUE estimates for May 2021. The CSO plan to finalise both the May 2021 MUE and the Q1 2021 LFS and publish both together on 23 June 2021.
Will there be a delay for further iterations of the LFS?
As was the case for the LFS during 2020, there may be some slight delays to the publication of the LFS results for future quarters due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the collection of data for the LFS and the dissemination of the results. Delays for the publication of the LFS in other quarters of 2021 may also be caused by additional work to further align the historic back series of the LFS with the new IESS FR compliant LFS series. However, the CSO will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum and will continue to communicate with users around the impacts of COVID-19 and the IESS FR on the LFS throughout 2021.
Will there be a delay for further iterations of the MUE?
As things currently stand, the CSO fully expect to be able to publish the MUE for June 2021 without a delay on the date it is currently scheduled for, i.e. Wednesday 30 June 2021 having already published the MUE for May 2021 on 23 June 2021.
How can I ensure that I am kept informed about further updates to the MUE and the LFS?
Users should continue to monitor the CSO release calendar for up to date information.
The Labour Market and Earnings area within the CSO is compiling a list of users who have registered to be kept informed of relevant announcements including the scheduling of outputs from the area. If you haven't already done so you can register your email address by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org asking to be included on this user list.
How can I get more information if this FAQ document has not answered my questions about the LFS or the MUE?
If you have questions relating to the scheduling and the publication of the LFS and/or the MUE that have not been addressed by this note, please contact us via email at email@example.com outlining what information you are looking for.
Published on 03 June 2021
Labour Force Survey (LFS): Jim Dalton - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (+353) 87 6780316
Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE): Catalina Gonzalez - Email: email@example.com (+353) 87 6467535