Statistics Explained

Archive:Postal service statistics - universal service providers

Data extracted in November 2014, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Database.

This Statistics Explained article is outdated and has been archived - for recent articles on Digital economy and society see here. This article takes a look at European postal statistics from 2004 to 2011 covering universal service providers, the companies operating under the universal service obligation. The main priorities for EU policies on postal services include:

  • Completing the internal market; and
  • Ensuring efficient, reliable and good-quality service at affordable prices for citizens and enterprises.

Key elements of the EU policy in this area are:

  • Gradually opening the market to competition;
  • Guaranteeing access to the universal postal service;
  • Increasing cost transparency;
  • Reducing postal reserved areas;
  • Setting common quality standards for services;
  • Harmonising technical standards; and
  • Creating conditions for rapid technological progress.
Table 1: Domestic turnover and employment of the European postal market, 2004 and 2011
Source: Eurostat (post_ps_tur) (nama_gdp_c) (post_ps_empn) (nama_aux_pem)
Table 2: Selected indicators of the European postal market (2004, 2011)
Source: Eurostat (post_ps_ac) (post_ps_tra) (demo_gind)
Figure 1: Turnover from the domestic postal sector relative to GDP, 2004 and 2011 (% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (nama_gdp_c) (post_ps_tur)
Figure 2: Number of persons employed in the domestic postal sector as share of total employment, 2004 and 2011 (%).br>Source: Eurostat (post_ps_empn) (nama_aux_pem)
Figure 3: Average number of inhabitants served by each post office, 2004 and 2011 (number)
Source: Eurostat (post_ps_ac) (demo_gind)
Figure 4: Average number of letter-post items per inhabitant, 2004 and 2011 (number)
Source: Eurostat (post_ps_tra) (demo_gind)
Figure 5: Percentage of priority letters delivered on-time according to national performance indicators (domestic services), 2004 and 2011
Source: Eurostat (post_ps_qs)

Main statistical findings


Domestic postal turnover

In 2011, Belgium, Austria and Sweden had the highest turnover from the domestic postal sector in relation to GDP (0.6 %), closely followed by Denmark, Germany and Slovenia (each with 0.5%). As in previous years, Bulgaria remains the country with the lowest domestic postal sector turnover to GDP ratio, at 0.5 %. Compared with 2004, the turnover from the domestic postal sector as a proportion of GDP fell for most countries. However, in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, turnover from domestic postal services has grown in absolute terms (expressed in current prices) compared with 2004.

Postal employment

In 2011, Hungary had the highest postal services sector proportion of total employment (0.8 %), followed by Finland and Belgium (both 0.7 %). The lowest proportions were observed in Bulgaria and Greece (both 0.2 %) and Portugal (0.3 %). Compared with 2004, postal employment in absolute terms and as a proportion of total employment decreased in the majority of countries. This proportion decreased the most, compared with 2004, in Denmark, Sweden and Estonia. However, postal sector employment grew both in absolute terms and as a proportion of total employment in Ireland, and in absolute terms in Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia. Average productivity in the postal sector (measured in terms of turnover per person employed) varies significantly among countries, ranging from EUR 5 843 in Lithuania to EUR 104 597 in Sweden in 2011.

Network access

Postal items may be deposited by customers for processing in postal services in different physical facilities. These access points include post offices, agencies and outlets, mobile post offices, letter boxes, post office boxes and places at which only stamps can be bought. One measure of access to the network is the number of people served by one post office. This is calculated by dividing the population by the number of post offices.

In 2011, each post office served on average a little over 4 000 inhabitants in the EU-28. The number of people served by one post office was the highest in Belgium and the Netherlands, with one post office serving 8 012 and 7 529 inhabitants, respectively. The countries with the lowest number of inhabitants served by one post office in 2011 were Cyprus (773 inhabitants per post office) and the Czech Republic (812 inhabitants per post office). Compared with 2004, the number of post offices fell in most countries with the most significant falls in Germany (-41 %), Latvia (-35 %) and Estonia (-33 %).

Number of letter-post items

In 2011, Germany handled the highest number of letters (14 800 000). However, compared with 2004, the number of letters sent in this country fell by 7 %. In virtually all countries that report the number of letters sent, postal traffic declined, with the biggest decreases observed in Bulgaria (-40 %) and Denmark (-39 %).

The analysis of postal traffic in relation to population data shows that the highest number of letter-post items sent per capita in 2011 was recorded in Finland (358) and Luxembourg (352), followed by Austria and the Netherlands, each with more than 250 items letters sent per capita. In 2011, Bulgaria (7), Romania (18) and Lithuania (25) recorded the lowest number of letters sent per capita.

In all Member States except Cyprus, Latvia and Romania, the number of letter-post items handled per capita in 2011 declined compared with 2004.

On-time delivery of priority letters

On-time delivery of priority letters is an indicator of the quality of the postal service, showing the proportion of letters delivered within the time limits set by national performance indicators, out of all letters sent. Due to variations in national performance standards (ranging from one to three working days between the date of posting and the date of delivery to the addressee), and variations in the size of the country, population density, etc., data on the quality of service is not directly comparable across all countries. In 2011, the proportion of priority letters delivered on time (in line with national performance indicators) was above 90 % for the majority of countries. More than 60 % of all priority letters were delivered on time in all countries except Romania, where only 40 % of priority letters were delivered on time.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat collected data on postal services between 2005 and 2012 (last reference year is 2011). In 2013 Eurostat discontinued the collection on postal statistics and transferred its data collection and processing functions together with the historical postal data to DG GROWTH.

Eurostat worked with National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in collecting this data. The definitions of variables were discussed and agreed with European postal regulators as part of a project group (Assistance and development of EU statistics") run by the European Committee for Postal Regulation (CERP).

The data presented here cover the companies operating under the universal service obligation (universal service providers). ‘Universal service’ means the set of general requirements to which services such as the mail should be subject throughout the EU. The aim is to ensure that all users have access to high-quality services at an affordable price.

All variables used in this article were collected as part of Eurostat’s EU Postal Survey, based on annual questionnaires covering the universal service providers in the participating countries. These countries are the 28 EU Member States, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland and Norway. Data was provided by the National Regulatory Agency in each country.


The purpose of EU policy in the postal sector is to complete the single market for postal services and to ensure, through an appropriate regulatory framework, that efficient, reliable and high-quality postal services are available throughout the EU at affordable prices. The importance of postal services for the economic prosperity, social well-being and cohesion of the EU make this a priority area for EU action.

The EU legal framework governing postal services is set out in Postal Directive 97/67, as amended by Postal Directive 2002/39 and as amended by Postal Directive 2008/06 (3rd Postal Directive). Improving the quality of service, in particular in terms of delivery and convenient access to the postal system, is a fundamental aspect of EU postal policy. The Commission monitors implementation of the regulatory framework, ensuring that this is done correctly, and, where appropriate, it proposes changes to this framework to achieve the EU’s postal policy objectives. The directives listed above provide the European legal framework within which national regulatory authorities must accelerate and promote the opening of markets.

The process of liberalising the postal services market in the EU was initially set in motion by the Green Paper on the development of the single market for postal services in 1992, as part of the goal of creating a European single market. The aim was to get national monopolies to open up to competition in order to make postal services cheaper, faster, more efficient and more innovative, harmonise performance across EU Member States and improve the quality of cross border-services.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Postal services (post)
Universal Service Providers (post_ps)
Employment (post_ps_empn)
Turnover (post_ps_tur)
Access points (post_ps_ac)
Breakdown of postal and related services (post_ps_tra)
Breakdown of letter post services (post_ps_let)
Prices (post_ps_pri)
Quality of service (post_ps_qs)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Postal Directive 97/67 of 15 December 1997 on common rules for the development of the internal market of Community postal services and the improvement of quality of service.
  • Postal Directive 2002/39 of 10 June 2002 amending Directive 97/67 with regard to the further opening to competition of Community postal services.
  • Postal Directive 2008/06 of 20 February 2008 amending Directive 97/67 with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services.

External links