Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation statistics - NACE Rev. 2

Data extracted in May 2019.

Planned article update: February 2020.

Highlights


The water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector accounted for 80 300 enterprises in the EU in 2016.

The water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector employed almost 1.6 million people in the EU in 2016.

Sectoral analysis of water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
(% share of sectoral total)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

This article presents information relating to the European Union’s (EU) water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities, as covered by NACE Rev. 2 Section E. It belongs to a set of statistical articles on 'Business economy by sector'.


Full article

Structural profile

There were 80 300 enterprises classified within the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector (Section E) in 2016; together they employed almost 1.6 million persons and generated EUR 108.0 billion of value added.

Enterprises in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector were, on average, relatively large, as they contributed only 0.3 % of the total number of enterprises in the EU-28’s non-financial business economy (Sections B to J and L to N and Division 95) in 2016, but accounted for 1.1 % of its workforce and 1.5 % of its added value. Compared with the other NACE sections within the non-financial business economy, the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was the second smallest in terms of its number of enterprises (0.3 %), the third smallest in terms of its value added (1.5 %) and the fourth smallest in terms of its persons employed (1.1 %) in 2016.

Table 1: Key indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

Average personnel costs within the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector were EUR 34 700 per employee in 2016, slightly above the EUR 33 800 per employee average in the non-financial business economy. Apparent labour productivity in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was EUR 70 000 per person employed, some 40 % above the non-financial business economy average (EUR 50 500 per person employed). The wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio gives an idea of the extent to which apparent labour productivity relates to average personnel costs. For the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in 2016 this ratio was 200.0 % showing that the average value of output generated by each person employed was twice as high as the average cost of personnel input per employee; this was well above the non-financial business economy average (149.4 %).

Sectoral analysis

In employment terms, waste collection, treatment and disposal activities and materials recovery (Division 38, hereafter referred to as waste and materials recovery) was the largest subsector in the EU-28, occupying three fifths (61.1 %) of the employment within the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in 2016 —  see Figure 1. Water collection, treatment and supply (Division 36, hereafter referred to as water supply) contributed to more than one quarter (26.2 %) of the employment, followed by sewerage activities (Division 37) with 10.3 %. This ranking was repeated in value added terms with 47.8 % for waste and materials recovery, the water supply (Division 36) generated one third (33.0 %) of the value added, followed by sewerage activities (Division 37) with 17.0 %.

Figure 1: Sectoral analysis of water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
(% share of sectoral total)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

The apparent labour productivity of the four subsectors available varied considerably, from EUR 55 000 per person employed for remediation activities and other waste management services to double this level (EUR 115 000 per person employed) for the sewerage subsector.

By contrast, there was far less variability in terms of EU-28 average personnel costs recorded for the subsector available in 2016; which reported average personnel costs that were close to the non-financial business economy average of EUR 33 800 per employee.

As a result of the relatively narrow range of average personnel costs per employee, the wage-adjusted labour productivity ratios of each subsector available broadly reflected their respective levels of apparent labour productivity. The gross operating rate displayed the greatest variety among the four indicators, ranging from 41.7 % for sewerage to 10.4 % remediation activities and other waste management services; the latter was the only subsector where the gross operating rate was below the non-financial business economy average (11.0 %).


Table 2a: Sectoral analysis of key indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)


Table 2b: Sectoral analysis of key indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

Based on what was mentioned before, it is visible that indicators shown in Table 2b were all above the non-financial business economy averages in 2016 for all subsectors except for subsector remediation activities and other waste management services. In this subsector, gross operating rate and, as a result of slightly above average personnel costs, wage adjusted labour productivity were below the non-financial business economy average.

Country overview

As was the case for electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector contributed a relatively large share of the non-financial business economy workforce in a number of EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe.

The water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector provided employment to 1.5 % or more of the non-financial business economy workforce in 2016 in Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland and Czechia. In Luxembourg this sector contributed 0.5 % of the non-financial business economy workforce. The water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector accounted for a greater share of non-financial business economy value added than employment in the majority of the Member States in 2016 (see Figure 2), with some exceptions being Bulgaria, Czechia, Ireland, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia, while the respective shares were almost equal in France, Luxembourg and Slovakia.

Figure 2: Relative importance of water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
(% share of value added and employment in the non-financial business economy total)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)
Figure 3: Concentration of employment, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
(cumulative share of the five principal Member States as a % of the EU-28 total)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

Germany had the largest value added for the total of the water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities and also for two of the subsectors, namely sewerage; and waste collection, treatment and disposal activities; materials recovery. The United Kingdom had the largest value added for water supply activities (9.0 % of the EU-28 total), way ahead of Italy that ranked second with 4.5 %. For remediation activities and other waste management services, the United Kingdom had the largest value added (0.5 % of the EU-28 total), slightly ahead of France (0.4 %).

Table 3 shows that there were a number of country-specific cases of specialisation within the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector. In Croatia this sector contributed 2.5 % or more of non-financial business economy value added in 2016. In Poland and Spain this share was 2.1 %. Greece was most specialised in the water supply subsector which represented 1.2 % of the country’s non-financial business economy value added. The sewerage subsector was dominated by Cyprus with 1.0 % of non-financial business economy value added. Italy's 1.2 % of non-financial business economy value added from waste management and materials recovery was higher than in any other EU Member State. Croatia generated 0.17 % of its non-financial business economy value added in the small remediation activities and other waste management services subsector, far ahead of any of the EU Member States, followed by Slovenia which had the second highest specialisation (0.06 %

Table 3: Largest and most specialised Member States in water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

In absolute terms, Germany and Italy had the largest workforces in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in 2016, each with more than 190 000 persons employed, followed by the United Kingdom, France and Spain with 170 600, 167 000 and 166 500 persons employed respectively (see Table 4a). In terms of value added, Germany and the United Kingdom had by far the largest water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector, generating EUR 24.3 billion and EUR 21.6 billion, respectively in 2016, or 42.6 % of overall value added in sector. The third highest level was recorded in France, some 50 % below the leading countries. These very different levels were reflected in the apparent labour productivity figures, with the United Kingdom averaging value added of EUR 126 600 per person employed and Germany 102 800, far ahead of the EU-28 average of EUR 70 000 per person employed - see Table 4b). However, there were Member States with even higher apparent labour productivity, e.g. Denmark (EUR 195 000 per person employed) and Belgium (EUR 152 700 per person employed). Highest wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio with values above 300 % in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was recorded in Denmark (370.0 %), before Cyprus (345.4 %) and the United Kingdom (319.9 %).

Table 4a: Key indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)


Table 4b: Key indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_na_ind_r2)

Size class analysis

The enterprise size structure of the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was less dominated by large enterprises (with 250 or more persons employed) than in some other sectors. Large enterprises in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector still provided a greater share of value added (51.9 % in 2016), employed 46.5 % of the EU-28 workforce and had an above average apparent labour productivity (EUR 77 900 per person employed) compared with EUR 66 000 per person employed in large enterprises for non-financial business economy.

Table 5: Key size class indicators, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_sca_r2)


Figure 4: Relative importance of enterprise size classes, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
(% share of sectoral total)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_sca_r2)

The share of large enterprises was greatest in the water supply subsector, where they employed 63.9 % of the EU-28 workforce, while the share of the workforce in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs, with less than 250 persons employed) was more than 50 % in the other subsectors for which data was available. In terms of value added, an analysis by subsector shows that a similar situation occurred, with a majority of value added stemming from large enterprises in the water supply subsector.

Figure 5: Sectoral analysis of employment by enterprise size class, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
(% share of sectoral employment)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_ind_r2)


Figure 6: Sectoral analysis of value added by enterprise size class, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
(% share of sectoral value added)
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_ind_r2)

The highest shares of employment in large enterprises were recorded in Bulgaria, Spain and the United Kingdom, all three around 60.0 %. By contrast, medium-sized enterprises (employing 50 to 249 persons) employed more than half the workforce in Slovenia, while small enterprises (employing 10 to 49 persons) provided over two fifths (43.7 %) of the workforce in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in Cyprus.

Table 6a: Number of persons employed by enterprise size class, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_ind_r2)


Table 6b: Value added by enterprise size class, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_sc_ind_r2)

Regions

The French capital city region of Île de France recorded the highest number of persons employed, across NUTS level 2 regions within the EU-28, for the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in 2016. With 62 600 persons, the Île de France accounted for 4.0 % of those employed in the EU-28 workforce for this sector. The second highest number of persons employed was recorded for Cataluña in Spain, where 32 000 persons worked in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector. The Italian region of Lombardia was the third largest (in employment terms) with 30 000 persons employed in this sector. Overall, the top 20 list of regions in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was dominated by Italian regions, of which there were nine, followed by four regions from Spain, three from France, two from Romania as well as one each from Poland and Croatia.

Figure 7: Ten largest NUTS 2 regions in terms of employment, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities (NACE Section E), EU-28, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sbs_r_nuts06_r2)

The ranking of the largest regions (in employment terms) suggests that the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was particularly developed in and around capital city regions and in regions that contained other large cities. Aside from Paris and Milan, there was a high level of employment within the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in the capital city regions of Spain (Comunidad de Madrid), Italy (Lazio), the United Kingdom (Inner London-West), Romania (Bucuresti — Ilfov), and Croatia (Kontinentalna Hrvatska). Other large cities in the top 20 regions included Barcelona (Cataluña), Seville (Andalucía), Valencia (Comunidad Valenciana), Naples (Campania), Palermo (Sicilia), Turin (Piemonte), Venice (Veneto). The top 20 regions together accounted for 26.7 % of the EU-28’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities workforce.

The relative importance of the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector can be analysed by comparing the employment of this sector with the non-financial business economy workforce. Among the 210 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available in 2016, the median share of the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector in the non-financial business economy workforce was 1.1 %. As a whole, the share of water supply, sewerage, and waste management and remediation activities in non-financial business economy employment was concentrated within a narrow range, comparable with that for the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply sector: in other words, this activity was widespread and there were very few regions with a particularly low or high degree of specialisation.

Only in the regions Sud-Est (Romania) and Jadranska Hrvatska (Croatia) did the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector account for more than 3.0 % of the non-financial business economy workforce in 2016. In a further 21 NUTS level 2 regions, the share of the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector was 2.0 % or higher. Most of these regions were in Hungary and Italy (four regions each), Romania (three regions), Bulgaria, France and Poland (two regions) and one region each in Czechia, Spain, Croatia and Slovakia. At the other end of the scale, of the regions with the lowest share (0.5 % or less) of the non-financial business economy workforce in this sector, three were in the United Kingdom and Belgium and two in the Netherlands while Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden had one region each. The lowest share within the EU-28 Nuts 2 regions (0.07 %), was recorded in the United Kingdom in London West.

Data sources

Coverage

This article presents an overview of statistics for the EU’s water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities sector, as covered by NACE Rev. 2 Section E. This NACE section is composed of four NACE divisions, namely:

  • water supply (Division 36) which concerns the collection, purification, desalinisation and distribution of water. Some water, particularly when used in production processes, does not come from the public water supply system, but rather is extracted directly from its source. The (typically long distance) transport of water via pipelines is excluded.
  • sewerage activities (Division 37) which concern the operation of sewer systems or sewage treatment facilities that collect, treat, and dispose of sewage. Activities of water supply are often carried out in connection with, or by units also engaged in, the treatment of sewerage.
  • the management (including collection, treatment and disposal) of other forms of waste (Division 38), whether solid or non-solid waste, industrial or household waste, including the dismantling of wrecks and the operation of materials recovery facilities. Materials recovery includes the processing of metal and non-metal waste and scrap and other articles into secondary raw materials: the processing may involve a number of stages such as separating, sorting, crushing, shredding, cutting, melting, grinding, pressing, stripping, cleaning and composting. The output of the waste or sewage treatment process can either be disposed of or become an input into other production processes. Materials recovery does not extend to the production of new final products, nor does it include wholesaling of recoverable materials. Materials recovery does not cover reprocessing of nuclear fuels. Note also that substantial materials recovery may be carried out by enterprises as ancillary activities, without the involvement of enterprises in the waste management subsector.
  • remediation activities (Division 39) such as decontamination.

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 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 analysed 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

The organisation of water supply within the EU varies between Member States, with state-owned, private and mutual enterprises, as well as municipalities involved in terms of the ownership or operation of infrastructure. Among the key issues that affect this sector are the quality of drinking water, and the efficient use of water resources, the latter concerning issues such as pricing, repair of leakages, metering of water use, and water-efficient practices. Furthermore, the cost of related services (such as wastewater collection and treatment) is an important factor, as is the impact of changes in consumption patterns, for example, the increased use of water related to growth in tourism particularly in areas with scarce water resources.

Adopted in 2000, the Water framework Directive provides the basis for water policy within the EU. This framework directive is built on four main pillars:

  • coordinated action to achieve ‘good status’ for all EU waters, including surface and groundwater, by 2015;
  • setting-up a water-management system based on natural river basin districts, crossing regional and national boundaries — at the time of writing most but not all river basin management plans had been adopted;
  • integrated water management, bringing different water management issues into one framework;
  • active involvement of interested parties and consultation of the public.

In 2006 and early 2007 the European Commission carried out an assessment of water scarcity and droughts in the EU. Based on this, in July 2007 it proposed an initial set of policy options to increase water efficiency and water savings in the form of a Communication addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union. Seven policy options were identified for tackling water scarcity and drought issues:

  • putting the right price tag on water;
  • allocating water and water-related funding more efficiently;
  • improving drought risk management;
  • considering additional water supply infrastructures;
  • fostering water efficient technologies and practices;
  • fostering the emergence of a water-saving culture;
  • improving knowledge and data collection.

In efforts to reduce pollutants discharged into the environment with wastewater, the EU has implemented legislation on ‘urban wastewater treatment’ (Directive 1991/271/EC). The pollution of rivers, lakes and groundwater and water quality is affected by human activities such as industrial production, household discharges, or arable farming; a report (COM(2007) 120 final) on ‘the protection of waters against pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources’ was issued in March 2007.

The European Commission adopted in November 2012 its ‘Blueprint to safeguard European waters’, a new strategy to reinforce water management in the EU. This blueprint integrates the results of a policy review concerning: water scarcity and droughts; an analysis of the implementation of river basin management under the water framework Directive; a review of the vulnerability of environmental resources (such as water, biodiversity and soil) to climate change impacts and man-made pressures; and a review of the whole of the EU’s water policy framework in the light of the European Commission’s ‘better regulation’ approach. The blueprint aims to ensure that good quality water is available across Europe in sufficient quantities for all legitimate uses.

Waste

The EU’s sixth environment action programme (EAP) runs from 2002 to 2012 and identifies waste prevention and management as one of four top priorities. Its primary objective is to decouple waste generation from economic activity. Work on defining the next programme is underway, with the European Commission adopting a proposal in November 2012 for a ‘General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 — Living well within the limits of our planet’ (COM(2012) 710 final). The proposal identifies nine priority objectives:

  • to protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital;
  • to turn the EU into a resource-efficient, green and competitive low-carbon economy;
  • to safeguard the EU’s citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing;
  • to maximise the benefits of the EU’s environment legislation;
  • to improve the evidence base for environment policy;
  • to secure investment for environment and climate policy and get the prices right;
  • to improve environmental integration and policy coherence;
  • to enhance the sustainability of the EU’s cities;
  • to increase the EU’s effectiveness in confronting regional and global environmental challenges.


In November 2008, a Waste framework Directive was adopted which introduces a binding five-step waste hierarchy, whereby prevention is the preferred option, followed by re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery, with disposal such as landfill used only as a last resort. Unless properly regulated, the disposal of waste may have a serious environmental impact: landfills, for example, can take up land space and may cause air, water and soil pollution, while incineration can result in emissions of dangerous air pollutants.

EU policy aims to move waste management up the waste hierarchy taking into account environmental impacts over the entire life cycle. Waste prevention can be achieved through cleaner technologies, better design, or more efficient production and consumption patterns; as well as reducing waste these preventative actions may lead to reductions in resource consumption throughout production and distribution chains.

EU legislation sets binding targets for Member States on the recovery and recycling/re-use of municipal waste, batteries, electrical and electronic waste, construction and demolition waste, end-of-life vehicles and packaging.

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SBS — industry and construction (sbs_ind_co)
Annual detailed enterprise statistics — industry and construction (sbs_na_ind)
Annual detailed enterprise statistics for industry (NACE Rev.2 B-E) (sbs_na_ind_r2)
Preliminary results on industry and construction, main indicators (NACE Rev.2) (sbs_na_r2preli)
SMEs — Annual enterprise statistics broken down by size classes — industry and construction (sbs_sc_ind)
Industry broken down by employment size classes (NACE Rev.2 B-E) (sbs_sc_ind_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)