European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS)

Information on data details relevant for research project proposals

  • Age is provided in 2 variables:
    • AGE_GRP: age anonymised by 5-year bands for all countries and all respondents, with top coding in some countries
    • AGE: in single years for the majority of countries, either for all ages or main age bands. Partial perturbation for certain countries. If provision of single age is not supported by a country, the variable is not filled for the respective respondents.
  • Citizenship/country of birth: up to 16 predefined groups
  • NACE: at 1-digit level
  • ISCO: at 3-digit level
  • Income: only provided as (national) deciles and from 2009, no detailed levels available
  • Region: NUTS level 2 with further aggregation in some countries
  • HHNUM: household numbers are generated at random  per quarter, making it unable to track respondents over time

Description of the data collection

Available countries

The EU labour force survey (EU-LFS) is conducted in all EU countries, 4 candidate countries, and 3 European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. EU-LFS microdata for scientific purposes currently contain data for all EU countries, as well as data for Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (up to third quarter of 2020).

Scope of the survey

The EU-LFS is a large household sample survey providing quarterly results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over and on people outside the labour force. The survey covers persons aged 15 years and over who live in private households. Those doing military or community service and those living in institutional or collective households are not included.

Available time series

The data collection provides data from 1983 to the present. The lenght of the time series for countries depends on when they joined the EU. 

Data collection

The national statistical institutes across Europe conduct the surveys and are responsible for selecting the sample, preparing the questionnaires, conducting the direct interviews among households, and forwarding the results to Eurostat. At European level, data are made comparable across countries and over time by:

  • using the same concepts and definitions
  • following the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation 
  • using common classifications, such as NACE, ISCO, ISCED, NUTS
  • recording the same set of characteristics in each country.

In 2021, the quarterly EU-LFS sample size was around 1.1 million people. EU-LFS covers all industries and occupations.

Available microdata

EU-LFS microdata for scientific purposes for the years 1983-2021 became available in December 2022.

From 2021, the coding of the variables follows the standard of the legal basis for the EU-LFS. Data up to 2020 have been recoded accordingly as far as possible. The  EU-LFS user guide provides detailed information on the changes introduced in 2021 and on the recoding, in particular chapter 7 on anonymisation criteria.

Please also consult the  information note.

Available data for the public

A large amount of data from the EU-LFS survey is available in Eurostat's online database in the 'Employment and unemployment' folder. It includes datasets on population, employment, working time, job permanency, professional status etc. The data are available broken down by age, sex, education level, economic activity, and occupation, where applicable. The database is regularly updated and available free of charge

Several elements of indicator sets for policy monitoring are also derived from the EU-LFS and freely available in the online database. EU-LFS data contribute to the UN's sustainable development goals, European and national indicators, principal European economic indicators, the macroeconomic imbalance procedure, the social scoreboard of the European Pillar of Social Rights and other policy-related indicators.

Microdata releases with digital object identifier (DOI) 

  • 2022:
    • version 1 released in November 2022 and containing all data up to 2021
    •  Description of release, including DOI: 10.2907/LFS1983-2021
  • 2021: 
    • version 1 released in November 2021 and containing all data up to 2020
    •  Description of release, including DOI 10.2907/LFS1983-2020V.1
  • 2020: 
    • version 1 released in September 2020 and containing all data up to 2019
    •  Description of release, including DOI 10.2907/LFS1983-2019
  • 2019:
    • version 1 released in July 2019 and containing all data up to 2018, except for ad hoc module (data up to 2017 available)
       Description of the release, including DOI 10.2907/LFS1983-2018V.1
    • version 2 released in November 2019 and containing all data up to 2018
       Description of the release, including DOI 0.2907/LFS1983-2018V.2