Structural business statistics (sbs)

National Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency:  Statistics Belgium (part of FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy) 

Time Dimension: 2015-A0

Data Provider: BE1

Data Flow: SBS_ESMS_A

Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)

For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT


1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

 Statistics Belgium (part of FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy) 

1.2. Contact organisation unit

Thematic directorate economy

1.5. Contact mail address

Boulevard Albert 2, 16, Bruxelles

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 27/04/2018
2.2. Metadata last posted 27/04/2018
2.3. Metadata last update 29/04/2019

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

Structural business statistics (SBS) describes the structure, conduct and performance of economic activities, down to the most detailed activity level (several hundred economic sectors).

SBS covers all activities of the non-financial business economy with the exception of agricultural activities and personal services. Limited information is available on banking, insurance and pension funds.

 Main characteristics (variables) of the SBS data category:

  • Business demographic variables (e.g. Number of enterprises)
  • "Output related" variables (e.g. Turnover, Value added)
  • "Input related" variables: labour input (e.g. Employment, Hours worked); goods and services input (e.g. Total of purchases); capital input (e.g. Material investments)
3.2. Classification system

Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE): NACE Rev.1 was used until 2001, NACE Rev. 1.1 since 2002, and NACE Rev 2 is used from 2008 onwards. Key data were double reported in NACE Rev.1.1 and NACE Rev.2 for 2008. From 2009 onwards, only NACE Rev.2 data are available.

The regional breakdown of the EU Member States is based on the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). Detailed information about the consecutive NUTS Regulations can be found at Eurostat's website

The product breakdown is based on the Classification of Products by Activity (CPA) as stated in the Regulation establishing CPA 2008 and its amending  Commission Regulation (EU) No 1209/2014  (from reference year 2015 onwards)

3.3. Coverage - sector

The SBS coverage was limited to Sections C to K of NACE Rev.1.1 until 2007. Starting from the reference year 2008 data is available for Sections B to N and Division S95 of NACE Rev.2. With 2013 as the first reference year information is published on NACE codes K6411, K6419 and K65 and its breakdown.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

The statistical characteristics are defined in Annex I of Commission Regulation (EC) No 250/2009

3.5. Statistical unit

Untill now, we use legal units as a proxy for the statistical unit 'enterprise'

3.6. Statistical population

Enterprises active in Belgium defines the statistical population. Foreign enterprises with a sign of activity in Belgium (employment, VAT turnover, annual accounts, ...) are included in the sample and report only for activities in Belgium. 

3.7. Reference area

The reference area is the whole territory of Belgium

3.8. Coverage - Time

1996-2007 (nace rev 1) and 2008-2015 (nace rev 2)

3.9. Base period

Not applicable.

4. Unit of measure Top
  • Number of enterprises and number of local units are expressed in units.
  • Monetary data are expressed in millions of €.
  • Employment variables are expressed in units.
  • Per head values are expressed in thousands of € per head.

Ratios are expressed in percentages.

5. Reference Period Top


6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

Year 1995 was the first year for the implementation of the Council Regulation No 58/97 (SBS Regulation).

The Council Regulation No 58/97 has been amended three times: by Council Regulation No 410/98, Commission Regulation No 1614/2002 and European Parliament and Council Regulation No 2056/2002. As a new amendment of the basic Regulation it was decided to recast the Regulation No 58/97 in order to obtain a new "clean" legal text. The European Parliament and Council Regulation No 295/2008 was adopted on 14/02/2008 and the provisions of this Regulation are applicable from the reference year 2008. Regulation No 295/2008 has been amended by Commission Regulation (EU) No 446/2014.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 11 March 2009, on the transmission of data subject to statistical confidentiality to the Statistical Office of the European Communities

Belgian Law on public statistics of 22 March 2006.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

Primary confidentiality rules

- Minimum frequency rule: if the number of enterprises in the cell is smaller than 3  --> flag A

- Dominance rule: if one enterprise represents more than 85% of the weighted turnover (variable 12110) in the cell --> flag B

--> primary confidentiality calculated with SAS

Secondary confidentiality

-->  secondary confidentiality calculated with Tau-argus (linked tables approach when needed, modular approach for non-linked tables) (flag D)

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

The structural business survey is listed in the global publication calendar of Statistics Belgium.

8.2. Release calendar access

8.3. Release policy - user access

Aggregated results which are not confidential are published on the website. Full aggregated results (including confidential cells) are transmitted to some public authorities (--> Institute of National Accounts, Belgian National bank) and a limited set of registered main users on basis of confidentiality agreements.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top


10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

No press release concerning the results of SBS data is issued.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

pdf publications in french and dutch -> mid-september 2017

statistical yearbook -> end 2017

online database

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

SBS results are published in the Belgian Statistical DataWareHouse (BeStat) and can be accessed from

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Microdata of the structural business survey can be obtained through a confidentiality agreement with Statistics Belgium provided that the applicant fulfills the provison of the Belgian Law on public statistics of 22 March 2006.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

The data series sent to Eurostat where also released on the website of Statistics Belgium (see

10.6. Documentation on methodology

Not available publicly

10.7. Quality management - documentation

Not available publicly.

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

Several quality checks are implemented in each phase of the statistical production process (population analysis, sample design, sampling, surveys, imputations, grossing up, ..).

11.2. Quality management - assessment

Several quality checks are implemented in each phase of the statistical production process (population analysis, sample design, sampling, surveys, imputations, grossing up, ..). These checks and their outcomes are documented in several files.

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

Institute of National Accounts   (

National Bank of Belgium (

  • survey values from the structural business survey
  • yearly
  • input for national and regional accounts (I.N.R.)

Federal Planning Bureau (

  • survey values from the structural business survey
  • each 5 years
  • for input-output tables

Price observatory (

  • survey values from the structural business survey
  • yearly

National Bank of Belgium and Free University of Brussels (DULBEA - Department of Applied Economics,

  • ratio’s from sbs variables
  • each 2 year
  • for research project concerning wages structure in Belgium
  • with confidentiality agreement 
12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

A general satisfaction survey is organised by Statistics Belgium (see There is no specific survey for the structural businness survey.

12.3. Completeness
Restricted from publication

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall
  • sampling and modelling errors can occur because of the rotating model used to draw the sample (see 13.3 and 16). This model is partly based on VAT data which are estimates of some of the variables
  • some errors on the NACE codes in the business register can also lead to misclassification in the sampling procedure
  • for provisonal data, annual accounts, VAT data and data of the previous years are used to compute the results, which can lead to some bias. However, provisional data are not disseminated by Statistics Belgium.
13.2. Sampling error

Coefficients of variation are calculated and transferred in different files.  The sampling error is estimated to be small, in 92%, the coefficient of variations are smaller than 10%.

13.3. Non-sampling error

The following methods are applied to take into account unit non-response:

  • imputation: ratio imputation or hot deck imputation
  • reweighting 

Furthermore, the dollowing measures are taken to minimize non-response:

  • The survey is compulsory (Belgian Royal Decree of 18 July 2008)
  • Three reminder letters are sent
  • Telephone calls and visit are made to large enterprises

In order to calculate the non-response we took only the active and eligible enterprises into account (out-of-scope enterprises have been excluded). We weighted the unit non response rate with the number of persons employed. The overall weighted non-response rate is 4,8 %. Compared to the unweighted non-response rate of 18,1% this means that larger enterprises (in terms of employment) report better. In the overall contest, we evalute this non -esponse rate as low.


For reference year 2015 the smaller entities from the trade and service sectors have been estimated using data on the same units from other sources. The use of past survey data and recent administrative data from several sources can introduce some bias but this is minimized through plausibility controls and checks.
Morever, the estimation method concerns smaller enterprises. Therefore we assume that the overall effect on the accuracy of the estimates is limited.

The survey unit non-response may be not random. The potential bias is minimized by using imputations (if possible) for the non-responding enterprises. Moreover, the survey unit non-response is low, especially for the larger units. So we believe there is only a small potential bias resulting from survey non-response.

Errors in the business register can have an effect on sampling and on sampling weights. The exact impact on SBS results is unknown. Errors in adresses of statistical units in the business register also causes a coherence problem betwenn national and regional results. The sum of the regional results is not identical to the national value, but the difference is small in most cases.

Around 1% of the units initially included in the sample are deemed to be out of scope. These units are identified on basis of administrative data or after contact during the survey.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

 The data collection ended in april 2017. The post-collection phase ended in september 2017 and the results where published in october 2017.

14.2. Punctuality
Restricted from publication

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

The same statistical concepts are applied across entire national territory 

15.2. Comparability - over time

Data are comparable between 1996 and 2007 and between 2008 and 2015. Until 2007, NACE Rev.1 is used. From 2008 onwards, results are computed according to NACE Rev.2 

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

We compared the characteristics 11910 and 16910 of Annex IX with the characteristics 11110 and 16110 of Annex I-IV. Some rather small inconsistencies due to differences in method (sample selection and grossing up versus full coverage using administrative records, activity criteria, delineation of non-market enterprises, ..)

Comparison of variable 12110 with turnover statistics based on VAT declarations. Some inconsistencies due to difference in definitions and in methods.

15.4. Coherence - internal

Regional results do not add up to national results because some local units have no address in our business register and can therefore not be allocated to a NUTS-group. 

16. Cost and Burden Top
Restricted from publication

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Revision if major errors in the data are detected. See also for the general revision policy applied by Statistics Belgium.

In recent years we did not revise the data.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Since we prefill the annual account data in the survey forms, we only send out the survey forms when annual account data are largely available (T + 9). Since only a fraction of the survey forms are returned at T + 10 we rely mostly on administrative sources (annual account data, VAT data) for producing preliminary data. For enterprises with no administrative data available, we use values from the preceding years or ratio imputation based on prior survey data and fresh administrative data. 

At t+10 administrative data are already of good quality (especially social security data and VAT data; annual accounts data are almost complete).

For employment variable 16110 administrative data from National Social Security Database is our main source for both definitive and preliminary data. (At T + 10 we have almost no detailed information on the number of unpaid workers, but we use a proxy for the variable 16120 at this stage).

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

a) Survey

The sample is divided into two parts with a different methodology

  • Surveyed enterprises --> PART 1
  • Model based estimations for non surveyed enterprises --> PART 2

For both parts, the sample is stratified according to employment size class and turnover size class.

The sampling rates are the following: the total sample (parts 1 and 2) include 8% of the enterprises in the population, 75% of employment and 85% of turnover. Enterprises with more than 50 employees are exhaustively selected.

A minimum value of annual turnover is used as treshold and is set to 5,600 euro (according to VAT records).

The effective sample sizes for part 1 and 2 are respectively equal to 30000 and 20000 enterprises.

b) Administrative source

The following administrative sources are used for surveyed enterprises:

  • Annual Financial Statement of enterprises (full or abbreviated model): balance sheet, profit and loss account, social balance sheet
  • Statistical business register
  • Social Security database

For non surveyed enterprises for whoch model based estimations are used, the following sources are used:

  • Annual Financial Statement of enterprises (full or abbreviated model): balance sheet, profit and loss account, social balance sheet
  • Statistical business register
  • Social Security database
  • VAT Administration Records: yearly data on turnover , purchases, investments and exportations

The variables directly available or with a good proxy in the administrative source are the following for surveyed enterprises:

  • Financial Statement - complete model: 12110 12120 12130 12150 12170 13110 13131 13210 13213 13310 13320 13330 15110 15150 16130 16140 16150
  • Financial Statement - abbreviated model: 12150 13310 13320 13330 15110 16130 16140 16150
  • Statistical business register: 11110 11210 NACE rev. 2 code
  • Social Security Records: 13310 13320 13330 16130 16140 16150

The variables directly available or with a good proxy in the administrative source are the following for non-surveyed enterprises:

  • Financial Statement - complete model: 12110 12120 12130 12150 12170 13110 13131 13210 13213 13310 13320 13330 15110 15150 16130 16140 16150
  • Financial Statement - abbreviated model: 13310 13320 13330 15110 16130 16140 16150
  • Statistical business register: 11110 11210 NACE rev. 2 code
  • Social Security Records: 13310 13320 13330 16130 16140 16150 
  • VAT data on turnover, purchases and investments: 12110, 13110, 15110


 The administrative data described above are used for the following purposes for surveyed enterprises:

  • data source, basic data for some characteristics (prefill in the websurvey)
  • data source for imputation in case of non-response. 

For non surveyed enterprises, the administrative data are used for the same purposes. In addition, these data are also used for imputation or for strata not covered by the survey

We access micro data for the entire population. The frequency to which the used administrative data sources are updated is considered to be good and subject to several revisions with (increasing) degree of completeness.

The relation between reporting units and the legal units / enterprise (statistical unit) are the following: the reporting unit for the survey and the financial statement data is the legal unit. The reporting unit for the Social Security dministrative data is the employing unit. The legal unit and the employing unit serve as a proxy for the statistical unit ‘enterprise’.

c) frame

The variable used for identifying principal and secondary activities are:

  • Turnover from the SBS survey
  • Employment (nace from social security records)
  • Value added (nace from VAT records) 

The top down method is used to identitify principal activities. The unit's principal activity is reviewed annually. The business register is updated weekly.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Annual data collection

18.3. Data collection

Data collection is annual

18.4. Data validation

The following procedures are used to check the data:

  • completeness checks (data integrity rules)
  • validity checks (internal consistency)
  • plausibility checks  

Controls of values from the SBS survey: 

  • At data entry in the websurvey: data type (numerical or character field), compulsory fields, business checks (checking the logical consistency between survey items).
  • After data entry: controls of microdata: identifying potential problems (errors, discrepancies, outliers, item non-response, miscoding, …). Applying automatic edits and manual inspection and correction of the data.

Controls of the imputations: ratio checking (negative ratios or excessively high ratios), consistency checks, comparison with source data,.. 

Controls of the employment variables: comparison of social security data with data from the social balance sheet, internal consistency checks on social security data.

Macro controls of aggregated data: year-to-year variation, ratio checking, consistency checks

18.5. Data compilation

The following methods have been applied to take into account non-response:

  • imputation based on administrative sources (if possible)
  • data from previous reference period
  • hot deck imputation
  • if imputation is not possible, a corrector factor is used in the weighting procedure

The following methods have been applied for grossing-up the figures covered by the SBS Regulation in order to cover the entire population of enterprises :

The estimation based on a stratified sample. The initial sample weights are set for the different strata: number of enterprises in population/number of enterprises in the sample. The non responding enterprises are assigned to different status categories depending on the reason and components of the non-response (e.g. non contact of the selected units, refusal to participate, not eligible, cessation of activities during the reference year, cessation of activities after the reference year, …). The original sampling weights are adapted (with corrector factor) using these status categories.

18.6. Adjustment

There is no correction to bring the data it in accordance with the reference period if the reference period differs from the calendar year.

19. Comment Top

Changes in availabitity of annual account data starting from reference year 2016, a new scheme is introduced and tresholds for abbreviated or full scheme are updated. The impact on SBS is small.

Related metadata Top

Annexes Top