Professional, scientific and technical activity statistics - NACE Rev. 2 - Statistics Explained

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Professional, scientific and technical activity statistics - NACE Rev. 2


Data from March 2020

Planned article update: May 2021

Highlights

The professional, scientific and technical activity sector accounted for 8.8 % of the total number of persons employed in the EU in 2017.

The professional, scientific and technical activity sector accounted for 18.8 % of the total number of enterprises in the EU in 2017.

This article presents an overview of statistics for the European Union’s (EU) professional, scientific and technical services sector, as covered by NACE Rev. 2 Section M. These activities often require a high degree of education and training and make specialised knowledge and skills available to clients who may be other business users or private individuals. This article belongs to a set of statistical articles on 'Business economy by sector'.

Full article

Structural profile

The EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical activity sector (NACE Section M) numbered almost 4.2 million enterprises in 2017, employing 10.9  million persons and generating EUR 561.6 billion of value added. This sector’s contribution to the non-financial business economy (Sections B to J and L to N and Division 95) was 18.8 % of the enterprise population, 8.8 % of the employment, and 9.1 % of value added.

Table 1: Key indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)

The apparent labour productivity of the EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical activity sector in 2017 was EUR 51 000 per person employed, which was slightly above the non-financial business economy average of EUR 49 500 per person employed. Alongside this high apparent labour productivity, average personnel costs within the professional, scientific and technical activity sector were EUR 46 600 per employee, which was above the average for the non-financial business economy (EUR 34 700 per employee).

The wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio shows that value added per person employed was equivalent to 110.0 % of average personnel costs per employee across the EU-27 in 2017. This ratio was under the non-financial business economy average (142.7 %) and the second lowest in the non-financial business economy (Sections B to J and L to N and Division 95). The EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical activity sector recorded a gross operating rate of 17.2 % in 2017, almost twice the 10.1 % average for the whole of the non-financial business economy.

Sectoral analysis

The professional, scientific and technical services sector can be divided into seven subsectors at the NACE division level. Among these, according to the data available for 2017, there were big differences in their contribution to value added and employment. Three subsectors, namely legal and accounting activities (Division 69), activities of head offices; management consultancy activities (Division 70) and architectural and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis (Division 71) provided in total 79.0 % of EU-27 sectorial value added and 74.8 % of its sectorial employment in 2017. The other four subsectors contributed to remaining 21.0 % of EU-27 sectorial value added and 25.2 % of its sectorial employment in 2017, with veterinary activities (Division 75) being the smallest one with a contribution (in both value added and employment terms) under 2 %.

Figure 1: Sectoral analysis of professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)

Activities of head offices; management consultancy activities recorded the highest levels of apparent labour productivity (EUR 65 000 per person employed), closely followed by scientific research and development subsector (EUR 64 000 per person employed). These two subsectors also recorded the highest levels of average personnel costs in the EU-27 across the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017, with EUR 63 000  and EUR 57 000 per employee respectively.

Within the EU-27, the lowest levels of apparent labour productivity among the subsectors that form professional, scientific and technical services were recorded for the veterinary activities and for other professional, scientific and technical services (EUR 34 000 per person employed)  — see Table 2b — these two subsectors reported apparent labour productivity which was below the non-financial business economy average (EUR 49 500 per person employed).

Table 2a: Sectoral analysis of key indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)


Table 2b: Sectoral analysis of key indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)

Veterinary activities reported the lowest average personnel costs per employee across the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017 (EUR 26 300 per employee) and also the only one below the non-financial business economy average (EUR 34 700 per employee). The EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical activities sector (at 110.0 %), and all of its subsectors recorded in 2017 a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio below average for EU-27’s non-financial business economy (142.7 %). Only two of the seven subsectors which form the professional, scientific and technical services sector reported a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio that was close to the non-financial business economy average and those were the veterinary activities (130.0 %) and the legal and accounting activities (126.0 %) subsectors. The lowest wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio (94.0 %) was registered for the other professional, scientific and technical activities, where the level of wage adjusted labour productivity was dampened by particularly low apparent labour productivity.

Four of the seven subsectors recorded a gross operating rate in 2017 that was higher than the non-financial business economy average (10.1 %) while advertising and market research recorded an equal rate. The only exception was scientific research and development (9.4 %). This was particularly the case for the EU-27’s legal and accounting services subsector (31.0 %), for veterinary activities (25.1 %) and for other professional, scientific and technical activities (21.5 %).

Country overview

The most specialised EU Member States in employment terms in the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017 were Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg, as each contributed more than 10 % of their non-financial business economy employment in these activities. Six out of these seven Member States —  along with Ireland —  also occupied the top of the ranking in relation to the most specialised Member States for value added, with double-digit shares of at least 10 %. Based on value added, specialisation peaked in the Luxembourg, where 14.2 % of non-financial business economy value added was generated by the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017.

Figure 2: Relative importance of professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)


Germany had the largest share of EU-27 within the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017 in both value added (30.8 %) and sectorial employment (25.8 % of the total). The five largest EU Member States generated 71.7 %) of the EU-27’s value added and contributed to two thirds (64.8 %) of the EU-27’s employment which is in line with shares for non-financial economy as whole.

Figure 3: Concentration of value added and employment, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)


More detailed analysis by NACE division, shows that Germany had the highest level of value added among the EU Member States in all seven subsectors shown in Table 3. There was a somewhat higher than average degree of concentration within the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017.

Table 3: Largest and most specialised Member States in professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)



The apparent labour productivity of the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017 was less than EUR 20 000 per person employed in Greece, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Hungary; while it exceeded EUR 75 000  per person employed in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and peaking at EUR 115 800 per person employed in Luxembourg. It was even higher, at EUR 145 000 per person employed in Switzerland (EFTA country). However, after adjusting for the average personnel costs the ranking of countries according to the wage-adjusted labour productivity was a bit different. Romania moved rankings to the third highest position, as their particularly low average personnel costs more than compensated for their low apparent labour productivity. A higher wage-adjusted labour productivity than Romania (159.8 %) were recorded only for the Ireland (174.8 %) and Malta (242.8 %).

Together with Cyprus (149.4 %), these three countries were the only EU Member States to record a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio for the professional, scientific and technical services sector that was above the EU-27's average for the non-financial business economy (EUR 142.7 %). At the other end, Greece and Portugal had wage-adjusted labour productivity ratios below parity, mainly due to lower apparent labour productivity.

Table 4a: Key indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)


Table 4b: Key indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)

Size class analysis

The role of micro enterprises (employing fewer than 10 persons) within the professional, scientific and technical services sector was considerable. There were 4 million micro enterprises across the EU-27 in 2017, accounting for 97.0 % of the total enterprise population. They provided work to almost 5.7 million persons, which equated to half (52.2 %) of the employment within the professional, scientific and technical services sector. While micro enterprises generated the highest level of value added (EUR 224.0 billion), their contribution to the sectorial value added total was less marked (39.9 %) than their employment contribution, therefore suggesting that they had a relatively low level of apparent labour productivity when compared with the three remaining size classes. Indeed, each person employed by a micro enterprise within the EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical services sector generated an average of EUR 39 100 of added value in 2017. Apparent labour productivity was much higher for small enterprises with EUR 59 200 per person employed and large enterprises EUR 69 300 per person employed, almost 1.8 times the ratio recorded for micro enterprises.

Table 5: Key size class indicators, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)


Figure 4: Relative importance of enterprise size classes, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017
(% share of sectoral total) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)


The relative significance of small enterprises (employing 10 to 49 persons) and large enterprises (employing 250 or more persons) to the EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical services sector was quite similar, accounting for 21.2 % and 22.5 % of the sectorial value added and for 18.6 % and 16.6 % of the sectorial employment in 2017. Medium-sized enterprises (employing 50 to 249 persons) accounted for a somewhat smaller share of total activity, in both sectorial value added and of the sectorial employment.

Figure 5: Sectoral analysis of employment by enterprise size class, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017
(% share of sectoral employment) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)


Figure 6: Sectoral analysis of value added by enterprise size class, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017
(% share of sectoral value added) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)

Among the professional, scientific and technical services subsectors of the EU-27, all except scientific research and development subsector reported that micro enterprises accounted for the largest share of the employment in 2017.

Table 6a: Number of persons employed by enterprise size class, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)


Table 6b: Value added by enterprise size class, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), 2017 - Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)

Regions

The Île de France (which includes the French capital city of Paris) recorded the highest number of persons employed, across NUTS level 2 regions within the EU-27, for the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017. With an employment of 574 200 persons, the Île de France accounted for 5.2 % of the total number of persons employed in the EU-27 in this sector. The second highest number of persons employed was recorded for the German region Oberbayern (which includes Munich) — where 323 500 persons worked in the professional, scientific and technical services sector. Lombardia (which includes the city of Milan), the Spanish regions, Comunidad de Madrid (capital city region) and Cataluña (which includes the city of Barcelona) completed the top five ranking. In all regions that were in the top 8, the reported number of persons working in the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017 was in excess of 200 000.

Figure 7: Ten largest NUTS 2 regions in terms of employment, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, 2017
(thousands) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_r_nuts06_r2)

The ranking of the largest regions suggests that employment within the EU-27’s professional, scientific and technical services sector was largely concentrated in urban regions. Aside from Paris, London and Madrid, the capital city regions containing Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Stockholm, Lisbon, Budapest and Athens, all featured among the top 20 regions for employment within the professional, scientific and technical services sector. There were a number of other large cities within the ranking: the regions containing Barcelona (in Spain); Munich, Köln, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Stuttgart (in Germany); Milano (in Italy), Rotterdam (in the Netherlands) and Lyon (in France). These top 20 regions employed more than 4 million persons in professional, scientific and technical services sector. The relative significance of the professional, scientific and technical services sector can be analysed by comparing the employment of this sector with the non-financial business economy employment. Among the 171 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available in 2017, the median share of the professional, scientific and technical services sector in non-financial business economy employment was 7.6 %. Using this measure, the capital city region of Budapest (Hungary) recorded the highest share of employment for the professional, scientific and technical services sector within its non-financial business economy employment (16.5 %). Five other regions, namely the Belgian regions Prov. Brabant wallon, Prov. Vlaams-Brabant and Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, the region from the Netherlands (Utrecht) and the Slovakian capital city region (Bratislavský kraj), all recorded proportions higher than 15.0 % of their non-financial business economy employment within the professional, scientific and technical services sector in 2017.

At the other end of the range, there were 14 NUTS level 2 regions across the EU-27 where the professional, scientific and technical services sector accounted for no more than 5.0 % of the non-financial business economy employment; seven in Romania, four in Bulgaria, two in Poland and one in Greece. In other words, all of the Bulgarian regions except for the capital city region of Yugozapaden (8.4 %) and all of the Romanian regions except for the capital city region of Bucuresti - Ilfov (10.3 %) belonged to this group.

Figure 8: NUTS 2 regions in terms of employment, professional, scientific and technical activities (NACE Section M), EU-27, Iceland and Norway, 2017
(thousands) - Source: Eurostat (sbs_r_nuts06_r2)

Data sources

Coverage

In NACE the following seven divisions are included as part of this sector:

  • legal and accounting activities (Division 69);
  • activities of head offices and management consultancy activities (Division 70);
  • architectural, engineering and technical consultancy services (Division 71);
  • scientific research and development (Division 72);
  • advertising (including direct mailing) and market research (Division 73);
  • other professional, scientific and technical services such as design, photography, translation and interpretation services (Division 74);
  • veterinary services for farm animals and pets (Division 75).

The professional, scientific and technical services sector does not include activities of holding companies that are not engaged in managing (which are classified as a financial activity), while management consultancy does not include educational consultancy activities (which are part of the education sector). Test drilling in connection with mining operations is considered part of the mining and quarrying sector (Section B) rather than technical consultancy.

Data sources

The analysis presented in this article is based on the main dataset for structural business statistics (SBS), size class data and regional data, all of which are published annually.

The main series provides information for each EU Member State as well as a number of non-member countries at a detailed level according to the activity classification NACE. Data are available for a wide range of variables.

In structural business statistics, size classes are generally defined by the number of persons employed. A limited set of the standard structural business statistics variables (for example, the number of enterprises, turnover, persons employed and value added) are analysed by size class, mostly down to the three-digit (group) level of NACE. The main size classes used in this article for presenting the results are:

  • small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): with 1 to 249 persons employed, further divided into;
    • micro enterprises: with less than 10 persons employed;
    • small enterprises: with 10 to 49 persons employed;
    • medium-sized enterprises: with 50 to 249 persons employed;
  • large enterprises: with 250 or more persons employed.

Regional SBS data are available at NUTS levels 1 and 2 for the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway, mostly down to the two-digit (division) level of NACE. The main variable analyzed in this article is the number of persons employed. The type of statistical unit used for regional SBS data is normally the local unit, which is an enterprise or part of an enterprise situated in a geographically identified place. Local units are classified into sectors (by NACE) normally according to their own main activity, but in some EU Member States the activity code is assigned on the basis of the principal activity of the enterprise to which the local unit belongs. The main SBS data series are presented at national level only, and for this national data the statistical unit is the enterprise. It is possible for the principal activity of a local unit to differ from that of the enterprise to which it belongs. Hence, national SBS data from the main series are not necessarily directly comparable with national aggregates compiled from regional SBS.

Context

Many of the services covered within this article could be performed in-house by enterprises themselves, but purchasing (outsourcing) them from service providers enables them to focus on their core activities, taking advantage of the specialization offered by service providers. As such, an efficient and successful professional, scientific and technical services sector can contribute to the overall competitiveness of an economy.

Some professional and technical services are closely regulated by national governments and professional bodies, with restrictions on the number of entrants into the profession, rates charged and billing arrangements, organisational structure of businesses providing these services, exclusive rights enjoyed by practitioners, and the ability to advertise.

The freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment are central principles to the internal market for services. They guarantee EU enterprises the freedom to establish themselves in other Member States, and the freedom to provide services on the territory of another Member State. The Directive on services in the internal market (COM(2006) 123) aims to achieve a genuine internal market in services, removing legal and administrative barriers to the development of services activities between Member States. As well as covering many professional, scientific and technical services (with the notable exception of services covered by notaries), the Directive applies to a wide variety of services including industrial and construction activities, as well as distributive trades, accommodation and food services, real estate, administrative and support service activities.

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SBS – services (sbs_serv)
Annual detailed enterprise statistics - services (sbs_na_serv)
Annual detailed enterprise statistics for services (NACE Rev. 2 H-N and S95) (sbs_na_1a_se_r2)
SMEs - Annual enterprise statistics by size class - services (sbs_sc_sc)
Services by employment size class (NACE Rev. 2 H-N and S95) (sbs_sc_1b_se_r2)
SBS - regional data - all activities (sbs_r)
SBS data by NUTS 2 regions and NACE Rev. 2 (from 2008 onwards) (sbs_r_nuts06_r2)