Outward foreign affiliates statistics
Data extracted in March 2022.
Planned article update: March 2023.
In 2019, the sales made by EU affiliates located outside the EU were greater than those made by EU affiliates located in other EU Member States.
Almost two out of every three persons employed by an EU affiliate in 2019 were working outside the EU.
In 2019, manufacturing and distributive trades were the most significant areas of activity for EU affiliates abroad.
This article looks at outward foreign affiliate statistics providing information on the economic impact of investments in EU affiliates abroad: for example, how many persons were employed by German affiliates in China, or what was the value of sales made by French affiliates in the United States. Another article looks at inward FATS. Note that the information presented in this article covers the business economy defined as NACE Sections B-N and P-S.
Statistics on foreign affiliates
For statistical purposes, foreign affiliates are considered to be enterprises resident in one country and controlled by a unit resident in another. There are two distinct sources of information: so-called inward FATS, which cover the activities of enterprises within the EU that are under foreign control, and outward FATS, which cover the activities of EU affiliates abroad.
The globalised economy is increasingly characterised by intricate business networks. As a result, it can be difficult to untangle these complicated and often blurred chains of control. To do so, statistics on foreign affiliates are compiled according to the ultimate controlling institutional unit (UCI) — determined by proceeding up a foreign affiliate’s chain of control until there is no further controlling interest; by doing so, potential double-counting of the same affiliates (by several countries) can be avoided. In this context, control refers to the ownership of a controlling share of the shareholders' voting power and the ability to determine the general policy of an enterprise, for example by choosing appropriate directors. In this way, an enterprise is said to be controlled by an institutional unit when the latter (a single investor or a group of investors acting together) owns — directly or indirectly — more than half of the voting shares in the enterprise.
Sales and employment by EU affiliates abroad
In 2019, the sales made by EU affiliates located outside the EU were greater than those made by EU affiliates located in other EU Member States
In 2019, a majority (60.6 %) of the sales made by EU affiliates abroad were generated outside the EU (in non-member countries). The remaining 39.4 % reflected sales made by EU affiliates in other EU Member States. Note that these figures are based on an aggregate for 22 Member States (excluding Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, the Netherlands and Sweden; including 2018 data for Italy) and cover the business economy (as defined by NACE Sections B-N and P-S).
Irish (76.9 %), Spanish (73.7 %) and Cypriot (66.1 %) affiliates recorded the highest shares of their total turnover generated outside the EU. By contrast, more than three quarters of the turnover that was generated by Slovakian, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian and Hungarian affiliates was generated in other EU Member States (see Figure 1).
Almost two out of every three persons employed by an EU affiliate in 2019 were working outside the EU
A similar analysis is presented in Figure 2 with a focus on those people who were working for EU affiliates abroad. In 2019, almost two thirds (63.4 %) of the total number of persons employed by EU affiliates abroad were working outside the EU; note that these figures are based on information available for 23 Member States (excluding Bulgaria, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden; including 2018 data for Italy) across the business economy. In 12 of these 23, a majority of the foreign affiliate workforce was found to be working outside the EU, with the highest proportions recorded among Irish (81.3 %), Spanish (77.3 %), Cypriot (71.1 %) and French (67.3 %) affiliates. In all the other Member States, at least a fifth of the workforce in their foreign affiliates abroad was employed in non-member countries (see Figure 2).
EU affiliates abroad in manufacturing and distributive trades
Manufacturing and distributive trades the most significant areas of activity for EU affiliates abroad
In 2019, the United States was the most significant partner country in terms of both sales and employment generated by EU affiliates abroad, followed by China. Manufacturing and distributive trades were the two largest areas of economic activity for EU affiliates abroad.
The top five partner countries in terms of sales by EU affiliates are: the United States, China, Switzerland, Brazil and Singapore. The share of sales in manufacturing and distributive trades in relation to the total sales of EU affiliates in each of these countries is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 4 shows a similar analysis for employment by EU affiliates abroad. The top five partner countries in terms of employment in EU affiliates are: the United States, China, India, Brazil and Mexico. The share of employment in manufacturing and distributive trades in relation to the total workforce of EU affiliates in each of these countries is shown in Figure 4. For example, in the United States employment in manufacturing represents 37.5 % of total employment in the business economy generated by EU affiliates in the United States.
Source data for tables and graphs
Direct access to
- Structural business statistics (sbs), see:
- Foreign controlled EU enterprises - outward FATS (fats_out)
- Foreign affiliates of EU enterprises - outward FATS (fats_out) (ESMS metadata file — fats_out_esms)
Further methodological information