EU labour force survey - documentation
This article provides useful documentation on the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), and especially in relation to its methodology. It gives detailed information on the classifications used in the EU-LFS. It also refers to the explanatory notes and user guide describing the variables, and to the national questionnaires used to collect the data. Access to the material relevant for each EU-LFS data collection year is included.
This article is part of a set of online articles on the EU-LFS.
The EU-LFS uses international classifications and nomenclatures for the country, region, degree of urbanisation, education, occupation, economic activity, professional status and the European Socio-economic Group (ESeG).
Actual coding in the EU-LFS may deviate to some extent from those general standards. For more details on the deviations, see the section hereafter related to the explanatory notes and user guide.
Country codes are based on the ISO 3166 (International Organisation of Standardisation – alpha-2 format), with the main exception of Greece which is coded as EL. For more details on the countries classification, please consult the country codes, and for more information on the codification of EU-LFS variables over time, please consult the section coding lists and classifications used over time. Below, country codes and their validity are reported:
- Codification of countries 2004:2004-2005;
- Codification of countries 2006:2006;
- Codification of countries 2007:2007-2008;
- Codification of countries 2009:2009;
- Codification of countries 2010:2010;
- Codification of countries 2011:2011;
- Codification of countries 2012:2012-2019;
- Codification of countries 2020:2020;
- Codification of countries 2021:2021 onwards.
The EU-LFS uses the Eurostat Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) to code regions. For more details on the classification of regions, please consult the page Eurostat-Metadata (NUTS), and for more information on the codification of EU-LFS variables over time, please consult the section coding lists and classifications used over time. Below classifications of regions over time and their validity are reported:
- NUTS 2003:2004;
- NUTS 2003:2005-2006;
- NUTS 2006:2007-2011;
- NUTS 2010:2012-2014;
- NUTS 2013:2015-2017;
- NUTS 2016:2018-2020;
- NUTS 2021: 2021 onwards.
Please note that due to back data revisions and adaptations to NUTS updates, available codes in the data can differ from the original coding (currently used NUTS codes by country - Excel file).
Degree of urbanisation
The EU-LFS also uses a classification of degree of urbanisation. This classification maps geographical areas into three categories low, medium or high degree of urbanisation. This is done using a criterion of geographical contiguity in combination with a minimum population threshold based on population grid square cells of 1 km². The classification has been revised several times, most recently in 2012.
The International standard classification of education (ISCED) developed by UNESCO is used to measure the level and the field of completed and current education. The classification was last revised in 2011.
For the educational level attained, the EU-LFS uses the revised classification ISCED 2011 since 2014. The ISCED 1997 was used from 1998 until 2013. For more details on the ISCED classification, please consult: UNESCO (ISCED), and for an explanation of the changes, please consult: Comparability between ISCED 2011 and ISCED 1997.
For the fields of education and training, the classification according to ISCED 1997 was used up to 2015; detailed field descriptions are available in the 1999 manual on fields of education and training. The ISCED-F 2013 classification of fields of education and training is in use since 2016, replacing the former ISCED 1997 codes.
For more detailed information on the codification of EU-LFS variables using ISCED 2011 and ISCED 1997 over time, the comparability with the codification before 1998, and the ISCED-F 2013 codes, please consult the sections explanatory notes and user guide and coding lists and classifications used over time. For a complete overview see the ISCED glossary page.
The Classification of learning activities (CLA, 2016 edition) is used for measuring participation in formal and non-formal education and training in the EU-LFS. The CLA (2016 edition) is aligned with ISCED 2011. The CLA provides a set of definitions and criteria to ensure international comparability of statistics on learning activities. According to the CLA, learning activities can be classified in three broad categories:
- Formal education
- Non-formal education and training
- Informal learning.
The International standard classification of occupations (ISCO) developed by the International Labour Organisation is used to measure the occupational status of employed persons. The classification was last revised in 2008 (ISCO-08). The EU-LFS uses the revised classification (ISCO-08) since 2011; ISCO-88 (COM) was used until 2010. For more details on the classification of occupations, please consult: Eurostat-Metadata (ISCO) and for an explanation of the changes: Comparability between ISCO-08 and ISCO-88.
The EU-LFS uses ISCO at 4 digit level for the current main job and at 3 digit level for the last job. For more information on the codification of the EU-LFS variables using ISCO, please consult the sections explanatory notes and user guide and coding lists and classifications used over time.
The EU-LFS uses the Eurostat Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE) to code the economic activity. Over time, the EU-LFS used NACE 1970 until 1992, NACE Rev. 1 from 1993 to 2004, NACE Rev. 1.1 from 2005 to 2007, NACE Rev. 2 from 2008. For more details on the classification of economic activities, please consult: Eurostat-Metadata (NACE).
The EU-LFS uses NACE at 3 digit level for the current main job and on 2 digit level for both the second job and the last job. For more information on the codification of the EU-LFS variables using NACE, please consult the sections explanatory notes and user guide and coding lists and classifications used over time.
The International Classification of Status in Employment (ICSE) developed by the International Labour Organisation is used to measure the professional status of employed persons. For more details, please consult: ILO Guidelines on ICSE.
European Socio-economic Groups (ESeG)
ESeG is a derived classification which allows the grouping of individuals with similar economic, social and cultural characteristics throughout the European Union, based only on core social variables to ensure comfortable use in all social surveys providing comparable results. The main core social variables used are "ILO working status", “Status in employment”, “Occupation in employment” (according to ISCO-08) and “Self-declared labour status”. For the detailed classification and explanatory notes, please consult the EseG page on the Eurostat classification server RAMON.
Explanatory notes and user guide for the core variables
Reference material on the EU-LFS mainly consists of two parts: the 'EU-LFS explanatory notes' and the 'EU-LFS user guide'. The first one is mainly addressed to data producers and the second one to data users.
EU-LFS explanatory notes
The explanatory notes provide detailed information on the surveyed variables of the EU-LFS. For each variable, it informs the readers about its periodicity, purpose and definition. Short description and implementation rules are also presented by variable:
- The version of the explanatory notes in line with the regulations in force from 1 January 2021 can be found here.
- The latest version of the explanatory notes in line with the previous regulations (in force until 31 December 2020) can be found here.
In addition, transcoding tables allowing to recode the EU-LFS variables defined in the previous regulations into the EU-LFS variables defined within the regulations in force from 1 January 2021, have been developed are are available here.
EU-LFS user guide
The user guide aims to assist users of EU-LFS data in defining their requests and analysing the received data. This manual is addressed to users of tailor-made extractions and/or anonymised microdata. It presents the structure of the EU-LFS, the available variables (directly surveyed or derived), and the rules for dissemination. The document provides an overview of the variables available in the EU-LFS data sets and presents details on their codification. It gives information on coding principles for core variables, on derivation of further variables for standard labour market analyses, and also on variables from modules. Moreover, it describes the classifications, addresses the general structure of the EU-LFS database, and deals with the anonymisation criteria used for anonymised microdata:
Coding lists, explanatory notes and classifications used over time
An overview of present and past coding lists, explanatory notes and classifications is given in the following table.
|Years||General||Coding List||Explanatory notes||Country coding||NACE||ISCO||NUTS*||ISCED|
|2021||-||from 2021||from 2021||from 2021||previous||previous||from 2021||previous|
|from 2014||previous||previous||previous||previous||Measurement guidelines and annex
Eurobase implement. ISCED97_11
|2012||-||previous||from 2012||from 2012||previous||previous||from 2012||previous|
|2011||-||previous||from 2011||from 2011||previous||from 2011
|2009||-||from 2009||previous||from 2009||previous||previous||previous||previous|
|2008||-||from 2008||from 2008||previous||from 2008||previous||previous||previous|
|2007||-||previous||previous||from 2007||previous||previous||from 2007||previous|
|2006||-||from 2006||from 2006||from 2006||previous||previous||previous||previous|
|2005||-||previous||previous||previous||from 2005||from 2005
|2004||previous||previous||previous||from 2004||-||-||from 2004||previous|
|2003||previous||from 2003||from 2003||-||-||-||-||previous|
|2001||Methods and Definitions||-||-||-||-||-||-||EU-LFS ISCED 1997 |
LFS education codification
An entry "previous" means that the information in the document for the previous year is also valid for the year in question.
* The years in the column "NUTS" indicate the initial first year of reporting according to a new version of the classification. For instance, "from 2015" refers to NUTS 2013, according to which data were first reported in 2015. However, the countries affected by changes have afterwards reported data also on previous years according to NUTS 2013, in this case covering 2010 to 2014. In addition, a new NUTS version usually affects only a few countries at NUTS 2 level. This means in practice that it is valid for an even longer time series in the unaffected countries. As a result, the latest NUTS version always covers time series of different length by country. The detail on the validity of the NUTS versions is documented in an Excel file.
The document "Methods and Definitions 2001" contains the relevant information for all individual topics in 2001 and 2002; from 2003 onwards the information was updated in separate documents, so that since 2005 individual documents for all six coding topics exist.
For methods and definitions prior to 2001 please see the list below. The table gives an overview of publications in the past, including a description for Candidate countries in 2002.
|Methods and Definitions||Comments|
|Methods and Definitions (Candidate countries) - 2002||Description of the national survey in the 13 Candidate countries 2002|
|Methods and Definitions - 1998||Description of the continuous survey 1998-2000|
|Methods and Definitions - 1996||Description of the continuous survey 1992-1997 (similar as 1992 publication, but including AT, FI and SE)|
|Methods and Definitions - 1992||Description of the continuous survey 1992-1997|
|Methods and Definitions - 1988||Description of the annual survey 1983-1991 (similar as 1985 publication, but including ES and PT)|
|Methods and Definitions - 1985||Description of the annual survey 1983-1991|
|Methods and Definitions - 1977||Description of the annual survey 1973-1981|
No electronic documentation is available for 1977 and 1985.
The national questionnaires used by the countries to collect the EU-LFS data, as well as specific instructions and other documents for the data collection, are available for each year from 2005 onwards.
- National questionnaires 2020
- National questionnaires 2019
- National questionnaires 2018
- National questionnaires 2017
- National questionnaires 2016
- National questionnaires 2015
- National questionnaires 2014
- National questionnaires 2013
- National questionnaires 2012
- National questionnaires 2011
- National questionnaires 2010
- National questionnaires 2009
- National questionnaires 2008
- National questionnaires 2007
- National questionnaires 2006
- National questionnaires 2005
The information can be downloaded as a ZIP file by clicking on the year. The ZIP files contain the country questionnaires in the national language(s) and English (if available), with the instructions (if available), for the participating countries.
Direct access to