Structure of earnings survey - main indicators (earn_ses_main)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

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

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

Directorate F : Social statistics

Unit F.3 : Labour market and lifelong learning

1.5. Contact mail address

BECH - 5, rue A. Weicker

L-2721 Luxembourg


2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 25/08/2016
2.2. Metadata last posted 25/08/2016
2.3. Metadata last update 27/05/2021

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

The Structure of Earnings Survey (SES) provides EU-wide harmonised structural data on gross earnings, hours paid and annual days of paid holiday leave, which are collected every four years under Council Regulation (EC) No 530/1999 concerning structural statistics on earnings and on labour costs, and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1738/2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 1916/2000 as regards the definition and transmission of information on the structure of earnings. The objective of this legislation is to provide accurate and harmonised data on earnings in EU Member States, participating EFTA countries as well as candidate and potential candidate countries for policy-making and research purposes.

The SES provides detailed and comparable information on the relationships between the level of hourly, monthly and annual remuneration, personal characteristics of employees (sex, age, occupation, length of service, highest educational level attained, etc.) and their employer (economic activity, size and economic control of the enterprise).

Unlike the other Structure of Earnings Survey tables, this dataset presents the main indicators of the several vintages of SES (SES2002 / SES2006 / SES2010 / SES2014 and SES2018) merged into one table. 

3.2. Classification system

The "economic activity" is coded in NACE Rev. 2 (General industrial classification of economic activities within the European Communities) whereas the "occupation" is coded according to the Commission Recommendation of 29 October 2009 on the use of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08).

Information on worktime is presented for all employees (total), full-time, part-time (unadjusted), part-time employees (adjusted, i.e. converted in full-time units) as well as total employees in full-time units.

Data is also available broken down by gender (males and females) and 10-year age groups from less than 30 years to more than 60 years.

3.3. Coverage - sector

The economic activities covered in these datasets refer to NACE Rev. 2 aggregates B to S excluding O, B to F, G to N and P to S (respectively NACE Rev.1.1 C to O excluding L, C to F, G to K and M to O for reference years 2002 and 2006).

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

Employees are all persons, irrespective of their nationality or the length of their working time in the country, who have a direct employment contract with the enterprise or local unit (whether the agreement is formal or informal) and receive remuneration, irrespective of the type of work performed, the number of hours worked (full-time or part-time) and the duration of the contract (fixed or indefinite).

Low-wage earners are defined as those employees (excluding apprentices) earning two-thirds or less of the national median gross hourly earnings in that particular country.

Median earnings are defined so that half of the population earns less than this value and the other half earns more.

The main indicators presented in these merged datasets are split into 3 main subsets containing:

- Hourly gross earnings are defined as gross earnings in the reference month divided by the number of hours paid during the same period. The number of hours paid includes all normal and overtime hours worked and remunerated by the employer during the reference month. Hours not worked but nevertheless paid are counted as 'paid hours' (e.g. for annual leave, public holidays, paid sick leave, paid vocational training, paid special leave, etc.).

- Monthly gross earnings in the reference month cover remuneration in cash paid before any tax deductions and social security contributions payable by wage earners and retained by the employer, and are restricted to gross earnings which are paid in each pay period during the reference month.

- Annual gross earnings also cover 'non-standard payments', i.e. payments not occurring in each pay period, such as: 13th or 14th month payments, holiday bonuses, quarterly or annual company bonuses and annual payments in kind. In the case of employees not having worked the whole year, annual data is adjusted to 52.14 weeks in order to account for earnings on an annual basis. On the other hand, employees working less than 30 weeks in a year are not taken into account in the calculation of annual earnings.

Part-timers and their monthly and annual earnings are adjusted into full-time units (FTU) using variable B271, which represents the share of a full-timer’s normal hours (in percentage).

3.5. Statistical unit

The compilation of structural statistics on earnings is based on local units and enterprises, as defined in Council Regulation (EEC) No 696/93, and provides information on employees in enterprises with 10 or more employees classified by size and economic activity.

3.6. Statistical population

The statistics refer to enterprises with at least 10 employees operating in economic activities defined by NACE Rev. 2 sections B to S excluding O.

3.7. Reference area

The data cover EU-Member States, candidate and potential candidate countries as well as European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.

3.8. Coverage - Time

2002, 2006, 2010,2014 and 2018.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable.

4. Unit of measure Top

Euro (EUR), Purchasing Power Standard (PPS), national currency (NAC) - relevant for countries outside Euro Area (e.g. mean hourly earnings)

percentage (PC) (e.g. proportion of low-wage earners)

number (NR) (e.g. of employees, local units, monthly hours paid and annual days of holiday leave)

5. Reference Period Top

The data collected in SES refer both to the reference year and the reference month.

The latest available reference year is 2018. For most countries, the financial year corresponds to the calendar year. In some countries, however, the accounting year does not necessarily coincide with the calendar year and therefore for these countries the financial year which gives the best match with the calendar year 2018 should be used.

The reference month is October for the majority of the countries, this being the month which is assumed to be least affected by absences related to annual leave or public holidays. The choice of another month is acceptable if the month can be justified as being representative.

For further details, please consult national quality reports in respective reference year metadata.

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

Council Regulation (EC) No 530/1999 of 9 March 1999 concerning structural statistics on earnings and on labour costs;

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1738/2005 of 21 October 2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 1916/2000 as regards the definition and transmission of information on the structure of earnings;

Commission Regulation (EC) No 698/2006 of 5 May 2006 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 530/1999 as regards quality evaluation of structural statistics on labour costs and earnings.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

The SES is a microdata collection in which data on individual entities (sampled local units/ enterprises and employees) is collected. 

This microdata is protected through disclosure control so none of the individual entities could be recognised through inspection of released data.

Therefore only aggregated data are published in Eurostats' on-line database and publications (e.g. News Items, Statistics Explained articles). To limit the disclosure risk in these tables the following measures have been applied:

  • Economic activity: restricted to NACE Rev. 2 aggregates;
  • Age: restricted to 5 10-year size classes (<30 years, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and, 60+ years);
  • Occupation: published at ISCO-08, one digit level.

The anonymisation method applied consists of two primary confidentiality rules: minimum frequency rule and dominance rule.

Secondary confidentiality rules are applied as additional protection to protect data from recalculation.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

No fixed release calendar.

The first set of validated and cleared country data is usually disseminated approximately 20 months after the end of the reference year.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not applicable.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity') respecting professional independence and in an objective, the professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top


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

According to internal Eurostats' dissemination strategy News Releases for data that are not the principal European economic indicators (PEEI) are no longer disseminated (since 2020).

News Releases for non-PEEI data are now replaced by News items (available in the 'What's new?' section of Eurostat's web page).

The following News Items based on SES 2018 data were published:

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

See 10.1.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult Eurostats' free online database:

  • SES main indicators (joint tables for several consecutive data collections waves containing main indicators; e.g. mean hourly/ monthly/ annual earnings) - accessible in section 'Database by themes' => subsection 'Population and social conditions' => 'Labour market (labour)' => 'Earnings (earn)' => 'Structure of earnings survey - main indicators (earn_ses_main)'; for the detailed overview of the content please consult attached list
  • SES 2018 specific datasets - accessible in section 'Database by themes' => subsection 'Population and social conditions' => 'Labour market (labour)' => 'Earnings (earn)' => 'Structure of earnings survey 2018 (earn_ses2018)'; for the detailed overview of the content please consult attached list

complete list of datasets in Eurobase
10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

The conditions for SES microdata access are stated in the Commission Regulation (EC) No 557/2013 concerning access to confidential data for scientific purposes. For details see Access to microdata.

SES is one of the 13 data domains, where Eurostat releases microdata for scientific purposes. The legal basis is Regulation 557/2013 on access to confidential data for scientific purposes.
SES microdata are available in two forms:

  • Secure use files
  • Scientific use files.

In secure use files, the data are cleaned but no further anonymization methods are applied. Secure use files are available in Eurostat safe center.

Scientific use files are cleaned and further anonymized (see more section 2). Researchers can use them in the premises of their organisations.

When granting access to microdata Eurostat applies the following steps (same procedure applies for access to scientific use and secure use files):


  1. The organisation interested in access applies for recognition as a research entity. If the organisation fulfills the conditions, the organisation is recognised and its name is published on the list on the Eurostat website.
  2. The researcher belonging to the recognised research entity submits research proposal (RPP) to Eurostat in an online form.
  3. Eurostat assesses the research proposal. Microdata access team verifies completeness and overall validity of the project, person responsible in production unit (in this case domain manager for SES) checks in particular whether the objectives of the research project require access to microdata.
  4. In accordance with Commission Regulation 557/2013, each project is also consulted with national statistical authorities providing microdata to Eurostat. Usually, the projects are evaluated by the central microdata access team in the national statistical institutes. The names of persons receiving microdata access requests in each country are available on request.
  5. After clearing with the countries concerned, Eurostat opens access to microdata.


The publications written based on the European microdata are listed on CROS portal. This list is made up of references sent by researchers at the end of their projects. To filter publications based on the SES, choose SES in the “datasets” field.


SES scientific use files were initially released on the CD-ROMs. Since September 2018 all European scientific use files are available on the secure platform S-CIRCABC. The data stored on S-CIRCABC is encrypted. Researchers with a valid research proposal are permitted access and log in to the platform using two-factor authentication. 

10.5. Dissemination format - other

The following Statistics Explained articles based on SES 2018 data are available:


One of the most important SES by-products (Salary calculator) is also available in a separate SE article 'Salary calculator'

10.6. Documentation on methodology

For each data collection wave, Eurostat prepares Implementing arrangements - a technical document defining the implementation of the Council Regulation 530/1999, the Commission Regulations 1916/2000 and 1738/2005 for the respective reference year’s metadata. For details please consult the attached documents.


SES 2018 implementing arrangements
SES 2014 implementing arrangements
SES 2010 implementing arrangements
SES 2006 implementing arrangements
SES 2002 implementing arrangements
10.7. Quality management - documentation

For the national quality reports, refer to the respective reference year’s metadata and the CIRCABC library (for SES 2006 and 2010).

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

According to Regulation (EC) 530/1999 national authorities shall ensure that the results reflect the true situation of the total population of units with a sufficient degree of representativity. National authorities are therefore obliged to provide a Quality Report containing all relevant information to enable the quality of the statistics to be evaluated.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

A compulsory quality report from each Member State for each reference year is collected by Eurostat.

For the national quality reports, refer to the respective reference year’s metadata and the CIRCABC library (for SES 2006 and 2010).

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

Among others, the most important and frequent users of SES are mainly; research centers, universities and students, the media, social partners and trade unions, private companies, national public institutions as well as international institutions.

The large sample size of the SES makes it a unique source of information in which individual earnings can be linked with the characteristics of individual employees (sex, age, education level etc.) as well as to the characteristics of the enterprise they work for (economic sector, size of the enterprise, location etc.).

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

Not available.

12.3. Completeness

Not applicable.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

A two-stage stratified sample technique is adopted; a random sample of enterprises / local units, followed by a sample of employees within the selected enterprise / local unit.

For further details refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library (for SES 2002 and 2006).

13.2. Sampling error

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

13.3. Non-sampling error

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

14.2. Punctuality

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

Comparability of the SES data across national borders may be affected by the use of different observation units and definitions, methods or classification schemes.

For further details refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Comparability over time may be affected by new definitions and classifications used in the coding of SES data. Nonetheless, the classifications used in these joint datasets refer to aggregated data, grouping more or less the same classifications (NACE and ISCO) over time.

Data comparability may also be hampered due to methodological changes adopted at the national level from one vintage to another. This may also have an impact on EU figures, in particular when major changes are adopted in countries with a higher number of workers (due to a higher weight in EU aggregation).

In particular, SES data on the total number of employees, hours paid and earnings for part-time employees and total employees (i.e. including part-timers) for Germany are not comparable between 2010 and 2014 due to methodological improvements applied as from 2014. These include: covering employees working in local units with less than 10 employees, marginal jobs, and the change from Horvitz-Thompson to General Regression Estimation for the grossing-up procedures. 

For further details please refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

15.4. Coherence - internal

Refer to the national quality reports for the respective reference year on CIRCABC library.

16. Cost and Burden Top

Not available.

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Apart from adjustments following internal checks, the data are accepted directly as communicated by the Member States. Revisions only occur rarely.

17.2. Data revision - practice

If necessary, after running a series of data validation checks, countries are asked to revise their data until it is considered fit for publishing.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

The SES data collection varies across participating countries: the data can be obtained using 'tailor-made' questionnaires, existing surveys, administrative data or a combination of such sources, which provide the equivalent information. While accepting a degree of flexibility on the input side, the information obtained must be of acceptable quality and be comparable between European countries.

18.2. Frequency of data collection


18.3. Data collection

To provide the requested data defined in the relevant EU Regulations, data providers in participating countries (national statistical authorities) use different means of data collection: 'tailor-made' questionnaires, existing surveys, administrative data or a combination of such sources

The national surveys were generally conducted on the basis of a two-stage random sampling approach of enterprises or local units (first stage) and employees (second stage).

18.4. Data validation

Data validation consists of global checks and plausibility checks. Global checks are necessary to ensure that complete data is received for microdata records whereas plausibility checks on all variables were done to ensure that the data are reasonable and consistent with other SES variables. All of the validation rules applied are shared with countries - they are available in the Implementing arrangements for each individual data collection wave.

Possible deviations are reported by countries in their national Quality Report (for further details, refer to the countries’ metadata in the respective reference year’s link).

18.5. Data compilation

Not available.

18.6. Adjustment

Refer to Section 3 above.

19. Comment Top

Not available.

Related metadata Top

Annexes Top
Synthesis of SES2010 Quality Reports
Synthesis of SES2006 Quality Reports
SES 2014 Synthesis of national quality reports