Business services

This article presents business services in the European Union (EU), here defined as NACE Rev. 1.1 Divisions 72 and 74. Business services are a driver of a knowledge-based economy and their labour-intensive nature suggests their potential importance as providers of new jobs in the future.

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Contributing to the recent increase in the demand for business services, the growing trend in outsourcing has seen many enterprises use service providers for non-core professional activities.

Technological progress and the internet are also important factors which have provided new production possibilities and new modes of supply.

Beyond the establishment of the framework of the General agreement on trade in services (GATS) and greater openness of international markets, the European Services Directive 123/2006 should further strengthen the business services sector on the international stage. It seeks to:

  • promote an internal market in services through the removal of legal and administrative barriers that have prevented enterprises from one Member State providing similar services in another Member State;
  • make it easier for businesses to provide and use cross-border services within the EU, increasing cross-border competition.

Given the flexibility and dynamics of the business services sector, it is important for analysts to have a detailed knowledge of both clients and products (which are becoming increasingly non-standard and customised according to client needs) in order to further their understanding of market forces in this domain.

Data collection

In order to improve statistical coverage and respond to user needs, Eurostat has developed statistics on these dynamic areas of the economy since early 2000 with participating countries providing statistics on a voluntary basis.

From the reference year 2008 onwards, the business services data collection has become part of the regular annual data collection of SBS. Business services statistics are now based on Annex VIII of the recast SBS Regulation 295/2008.

Main findings

  • In 2006, 4.4 million enterprises in the EU-27 had as their main activity the provision of business services. They employed 22.2 million persons and generated total gross turnover of EUR 1 763 billion, equivalent to 17.1 % of the non-financial business economy workforce and to 7.9 % of total turnover.
  • Legal, accounting, auditing and business management services accounted for 29.8 % of business services turnover in the EU-27, computer and related activities for 21.0 %, architecture, engineering and consultancy (15.3 %), advertising (8.2 %), and labour recruitment and provision of personnel (7.3 %).
  • An analysis based on the location of clients gives information on the exports of business services to residents in other Member States or outside of the EU. In 2005, domestic clients accounted for upwards of 90 % of the turnover that was generated in the business services sectors of Germany, Spain, Greece and Portugal; at the other end of the range, Latvia was the only country where more than 20 % of sales were accounted for by exports.
  • The activities with the highest proportion of their sales coming from exports in 2005 were technical testing and analysis (21.0 %), business and management consulting (16.5 %) and market research and public opinion polling (16.3 %).

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

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SBS - services (t_serv)
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SBS-services (serv)
Business services statistics (bs)
Business Services: from 2008 onwards (bs2008)
Business Services: reference year 2007 (bs2007)
Business Services: reference year 2006 (bs2006)
Business Services: reference year 2005 (bs2005)
Business services: reference year 2004 (bs2004)
Business services: reference year 2003 (bs2003)
Business services: reference year 2001 (bs2001)
Business services: reference year 2000 (bs2000)