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Voorburg Group on Service Statistics

Photo Attribution: "Voorburg, Martinuskerk" by ekenitr - Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Purpose and Brief History

The Voorburg Group on Service Statistics (VG) was created in 1986, in response to a request from the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), for assistance in developing service statistics. The first meeting, hosted by the Netherlands Statistical Office (CBS) was held in January of 1987 in Voorburg, from which the Group derives its name. Since its inception, the Group has consisted primarily of experts from national statistical offices (NSOs) with periodic participation from international bodies like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Eurostat, and the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD).

Enquiries relating to the Voorburg Group should be addressed to the Group's co-chairs:

Jakob Kalko
Statistics Norway
E-mail : Jakob.kalko@ssb.no
Telephone: (+47) 62-88-54-95

Mary Beth Garneau
Statistics Canada
E-mail : Marybeth.garneau@canada.ca
Telephone: (+1) 613-951-0469

Historically, the purpose of the Group has been to address issues related to the production of services statistics, including service product outputs and inputs, the estimation of the real product of service activities and price indices of service products and industries, and their implications for product and industry classification. During the first 17 years of the Group's existence, it was successful in developing product and industrial classifications and model surveys, and in discussing a wide range of topics. The prime example of VG contributions for classification systems was the successful development of the Central Product Classification (CPC), for which the VG provided recommendations to the UNSC on classification of services areas, having direct impact on the international standards themselves. Ever since then, VG members have gathered input on potential revisions to both the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC) and the CPC for sharing with the UNSD.

In 2005, the VG received a renewed mandate from the UNSC concerning its objective, focus, and scope as contained the Group's new Strategic Vision, endorsed by Group membership in 2004. The renewed mandate stated that the objective of the VG is to establish an internationally comparable methodology for measuring the constant dollar outputs of the service industries. The focus of the VG is to develop concepts, methods, and best practices in the area of services. The scope of the VG is centered on producer price indices (PPIs) for services, turnover by products, and classifications.

In early 2017, the VG published a new Strategic Plan that reflects the changing needs of the Group's members. The new Plan is designed to guide the Group's efforts for at least the next five years. It includes a Mission, Vision, Five-Year Objectives, and a detailed Work Plan. The Mission still reflects the UNSC mandate but is now more targeted:

  • The mission of the Voorburg Group on Services Statistics is to establish and maintain an internationally comparable methodology for measuring output and producer price indexes for the services industries. We focus on the development of concepts and methods, the sharing of best practices, and identification of classification needs. In so doing, we will be mindful of the diverse needs of VG members and continue to focus on the importance of expanding our knowledge base in line with rapid change in services industries and/or product areas.
  • Vision: The Voorburg Group is a premier source of guidance and best practices for the development of measures of output and producer price indexes for services industries.

The Voorburg Group has contributed over the years to building up and sharing a considerable and growing body of knowledge on Service Sector Statistics. It has promoted international cooperation in the development of standards and assisted in resolving statistical and measurement challenges in the Service Sector. The Group maintains a permanent website, currently hosted by Statistics Canada, on which all of the Group's outputs can be found.

Year organized

1986

Participants

National institutes
Australia: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Austria: Statistics Austria (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2016)
Brasil: FundaÇâo Getulio Vargas (FGV) (2014)
Canada: Statistics Canada (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Chile: Central Bank of Chile (2016)
China: National Bureau of Statistics of China (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Croatia : Central Bureau of Statistics (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Czech Republic: Statistical Office of the Czech Republic (2012)
Estonia: Statistics Estonia (2012, 2013, 2015)
Fiji: Fiji Bureau of Statistics (2015)
Finland: Statistics Finland (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
France: Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
Germany: Federal Statistical Office of Germany - Destatis (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Hungary: Central Statistical Office (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
India: Ministry of Commerce and Industry (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Indonesia: Budan Pusat Statistik – Central Bureau of Statistics (2015)
Ireland: Central Statistics Office Ireland (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Israel: Central Bureau of Statistics (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
Italy: Instituto Nazionale di Statistica (2013, 2014, 2016)
Japan: Japan Statistics Bureau (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016); Bank of Japan (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
Korea (Republic of): Bank of Korea (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Latvia: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2012, 2016)
Malaysia: Statistics Malaysia (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Mexico: National Institute of Statistics and Geography (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Netherlands: Statistics Netherlands (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
New Zealand: Statistics New Zealand (2012, 2015)
Norway: Statistics Norway (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Poland: Central Statistics Office of Poland (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Singapore: Department of Statistics (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Slovenia: Statistical Office of Republic of Slovenia (2014, 2016)
Sweden: Statistics Sweden (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Thailand: National Statistical Office (2013, 2014, 2015)
Turkey: Turkstat (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
United Kingdom: Office of National Statistics (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
United States: Bureau of the Census (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016); Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Vietnam: General Statistical Office (2015)

International organizations
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2012, 2013, 2014)
European Union: Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) (2012)
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (2015)

Participants prior to 2012 meeting (last meeting attended in parentheses)

Belgium: Statistics Belgium (2000)
Brasil: Instituto Brasiliero de Geografica e Estatistica (2003)
Bulgaria: National Statistical Institute (1995)
Chile: National Statistical Institute (2010)
Denmark: Statistics Denmark (2006)
Greece: National Statistical Service of Greece (2006)
Hong Kong - China: Census and Statistics Department (2003)
India: Central Statistical Office, Economic Statistics Division (2011)
Lithuania: Statistics Lithuania (2006)
Luxemburg: STATEC (2006)
Malta: National Statistics Office (2009)
Portugal: Instituto Nacional de Estatistica (2002)
Serbia: Republic Statistical Office (2010)
Slovakia: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic (2010)
Spain: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica - INE Spain (2010)
Switzerland: Office Federal de la Statistique (1995)
United States: Bureau of Economic Analysis (2007)
Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) (2008)
European Central Bank (ECB) (2002)
European Union: European Commission (2010)
GATT (1992)
International Monetary Fund (IMF): Statistics Department (2004)
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (1990)
United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) (2003)
United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) (2005)
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) (2004)

Previous meetings

After the first two meetings in 1987, the Group has met annually for a week. Previous meetings were held as follows:
1987 Voorburg, the Netherlands
1987 Stockholm, Sweden
1988 Wiesbaden, Germany
1989 Ottawa, Canada
1990 Paris, France
1991 Helsinki, Finland
1992 Williamsburg, United States of America
1993 Oslo, Norway
1994 Sydney, Australia
1995 Voorburg, the Netherlands
1996 Newport, Wales
1997 Copenhagen, Denmark
1998 Rome, Italy
1999 Christchurch, New Zealand
2000 Madrid, Spain
2001 Ôrebro, Sweden
2002 Nantes, France
2003 Tokyo, Japan
2004 Ottawa, Canada
2005 Helsinki, Finland
2006 Wiesbaden, Germany
2007 Seoul, South Korea
2008 Aguascalientes, Mexico
2009 Oslo, Norway
2010 Vienna, Austria
2011 Newport, Wales, U.K.
2012 Warsaw, Poland
2013 Tokyo, Japan
2014 Dublin, Ireland
2015 Sydney, Australia
2016 Zagreb, Croatia

Next meeting

The next annual meeting of the Voorburg Group will be held from 23rd October to 27th October, 2017 in New Delhi, India. Further details will be posted to the Voorburg Group's permanent website when they become available.

Topics considered

In the early years, the Group contributed to the development of the services areas of the two United Nations Classifications: International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities (ISIC), Rev 3 and the Central Product Classification (CPC). Subsequently, the topics considered were expanded to address services statistics more generally, including topics such as prices of service products; international trade in services; and employment, skills, and occupations in the service sector. Beginning in 2005, the Group re-focused its work on the development of new concepts, methods, and best practices in three areas: 1) classification issues; 2) output measures; and 3) producer price indices. With the recent approval of the new Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the VG is now building on the body of work it developed over the past decade to focus on five major objectives:

  • Updating its best practices to account for the rapidly changing economy and its impact on statistical measurement practices;
  • Producing guidance papers on cross-cutting methodological issues;
  • Providing a forum for information exchange on best practices and emerging issues through both formal meetings and active collaboration throughout the year;
  • Making VG documentation more accessible and up-to-date; and
  • Enhancing the Group's understanding of the concepts and requirements of National Accounts in measurement of real output and productivity in the services industries.

DOCUMENTATIONS

Introduction

Over the years, the Voorburg Group has developed a large body of knowledge and best practices on classification, turnover/output, and producer prices for a large number of service sectors. Until 2006, the subjects of the papers that are found on the Group's permanent website were specific to one of the three areas of responsibilities of the Group. In 2006, the Voorburg Group adopted a more structured approach in terms of its work plan and proceedings and introduced a process by which new developments would first be discussed through a series of mini-presentations on specific industries covering the issues of producer prices, turnover/output, and classification. These mini-presentations are the forum where experiences and best practices from different countries are shared and discussed. The results of these discussions are then integrated into a sector paper that brings together the best practices and recommendations for the development of producer prices, turnover/output, and classification for a particular service sector.

Given the large amount of work produced before the introduction of this new approach, the Group decided in 2008 to add an activity called "revisited sector papers", which builds upon the previously issued mini-presentations on prices (presented prior to 2006), and complete them with issues related to turnover/output and classification to the level of a "sector paper".

Further, in 2011, it was decided that in future meetings the Group would begin revisiting selected industries in areas where the existing classifications may be getting out of date and are no longer reflecting the business and marketing structures that exist in the member countries' economies. To that end, an activity called "updated sector papers" was assigned, with the first papers in this new series presented at the 2012 meeting.

At the 2016 VG meeting, membership approved use of a new Content Development Framework (CDF) for guiding the development of new Sector Papers and/or the maintenance of existing ones as well as the development of new Guidance Papers on cross-cutting methodological issues. The new CDF will be used for the first time for development of papers for consideration at the 2017 VG meeting. Materials from all Voorburg Group Meetings are available at: http://www.voorburggroup.org/

Products

Producer price indices for services

Principal papers concerning the measurement of producer price indices have been completed and/or updated for the areas of accounting services (2001), telecommunication services (2001, 2012), legal services (2001, 2010), real estate (2001), advertising services (2002, 2004, 2010), road freight transport (2002,2006,2007), engineering services (2002), prepackaged software (2003), air passenger and freight transportation (2004, 2010), Water Transport (2010), Rail Passenger and Freight Transport Services (2010), Legal activity, auditing and tax consulting services (2004), Courier Services (2005, 2010), Labour recruitment (2005), Business and Management Consultancy (2006), Architectural Services (2006), Management Consultancy (2007), Computer Services (2007), Software Consultancy Services (2007), Wired, Wireless, Satellite and other Telecommunication Services (2008), Wholesale and General and Specialized Trade (2008), Real Estate Services (2008), Accounting, Bookkeeping and Auditing Activities and Consultancy (2008), Advertising and Market Research and Public Opinion Polling (2008), Information and Communication (2009), Banking, Finance and Insurance (2009, 2010) Rental and Leasing (2010), Transportation and Storage (2009), Tourism and Travel Services (2010), Technical Testing (2012), Maintenance and Repair of Automobiles (2012), Non-Life Insurance (2012), Waste Management/Waste Treatment (2012), Distributive Trades (2011, 2012), Warehousing (2013), Support Services for Transportation (2013), Postal Activities (2013), Software Publishing (2013), Broadcasting (2013), Specialized Design Activities (2014), Leasing of Intellectual Property (2014), Travel Agency Activities (2014), Activities of Call Centres (2014), Human Health Activities (2014), Other Reservation Service and Related Activities (2015), Veterinary Activities (2015), Administrative and Support Activities (2015), Organisation of Conventions and Trade Shows (2015), Activities auxiliary to financial services, except insurance and pension funding (2016), Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording, and music publishing activities (2016).

Output / Turnover measurement

The papers in the area of output/turnover have ranged from Information and Communication (2001), General (2002), Computer Services and Related Activities (2003), Telecommunication Services (2004, 2012), Business Management and Consulting Services (2005), Transportation and Storage (2006), Computer Services and Related Activities (2007), Wholesale Trade (2008), Banking, Finance and Insurance (2009), Accommodation and Food Services (2010), Cleaning and Facilities Services (2010), Distributive Trades (2010, 2011), Wholesale Trades (2010), to Research and Development (2010), Technical Testing (2012), Maintenance and Repair of Automobiles (2012), Non-Life Insurance (2011), Waste Management/Waste Treatment (2012), Warehousing (2013), Support Services for Transportation (2013), Postal Activities (2013), Software Publishing (2013), Broadcasting (2013), Specialized Design Activities (2014), Leasing of Intellectual Property (2014), Travel Agency Activities (2014), Activities of Call Centres (2014), Human Health Activities (2014), Other Reservation Service and Related Activities (2015), Veterinary Activities (2015), Administrative and Support Activities (2015), Organisation of Conventions and Trade Shows (2015), Activities auxiliary to financial services, except insurance and pension funding (2016), Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording, and music publishing activities (2016).

Classifications

Principal papers in the area of classifications have included Information and Communication (2001), Miscellaneous Business Services (2002), Environmental, Cleaning and Landscaping Services (2003), Tourism and Travel Services (2004), General (2005), Transportation and Storage (2009).

Types of Papers available on the website

On the website the readers shall find three primary types of paper: mini-presentation papers, sector papers, and revisited papers.

The mini-presentation papers for prices, turnover, and classification present specific country's experience or practice on a given industry or part of an industry and are used to facilitate the discussion and exchange of knowledge and expertise.

The sector papers and revisited papers are the codification of the best practices in the development of prices, turnover, and classification for a given industry. Both the revisited papers and sector papers are considered as the "final" outcome of the Voorburg Group's development work for a particular sector. Note that since 2011, the Group has periodically updated previous sector papers so it is always good to consult the most recent version for a particular sector. With the approval of the new Strategic Plan for 2017-2021, it is likely that some sector papers will be updated in the course of working on one or more of the new five-year objectives.

In order to avoid repetition in the preparation of sector papers, the Voorburg Group has also developed the following general documentations which complement the sector papers:

The thesaurus for prices methodology, which includes common terminologies for prices, so that all participating countries and international organizations can speak the same language in terms of pricing methodologies. The version adopted at the 2007 meeting included concrete examples accompanying each of the seven pricing methods and improved definitions of each of the seven pricing methods. In preparation for the 2016 meeting, the thesaurus was revisited and updated and the latest version is the one that now is stored on the VG website. The eight pricing methods mentioned in the thesaurus are discussed more extensively in the second edition of the Eurostat-OECD Methodological Guide for Developing Producer Price Indices for Services , published in December 2014 and to which many Voorburg Group members contributed. As such, the VG is considering whether to discontinue use of the thesaurus as active document after the most recent 2016 update.

The SPPI general methodology paper that includes theoretical and practical issues and key points of a cross-cutting nature for the Service Sector as a whole. These key points of a general nature are provided to enable the Group to avoid rehashing the same points when discussing specific industries. It should be noted that several cross-cutting issues have been discussed since this paper was written in 2007 and appear in other sections of the VG website (usually under "mini-presentations").

The national accounts general methodology paper that presents key issues to be addressed by the Voorburg Group to better ascertain and document the specific service sector source data used by the national accounts to improve measures of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Note that VG revisited this work at the 2013 meeting in Tokyo; while it did not result in any significant changes to the original national accounts methodology paper, there are several interesting contributions from the 2013 meeting available on the VG website.

Glossary presents in a concise and alphabetical order the terms used in the Voorburg Group. The reader is able to read the glossary independently as an autonomous methodological source. It also achieves its basic purpose in establishing a common language between statisticians and business operators.

Readers who are new to the work of the Voorburg Group are encouraged to refer to these documents as they complement the sector paper on a particular service industry.

Reports to the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC)

How to search the website

All the papers from the previous meetings of the Voorburg Group, going back to 1987, can be accessed through our website at: http://www.voorburggroup.org/. One can navigate the site by clicking on different links. One can search all the papers going back to the first meeting in 1987, by clicking year, title, author, program or industry. Additionally, one can have the latest information on the upcoming meeting or previous meetings (including agenda, participants, and summary of sessions). As well, the link on General Documentation leads to the latest information on Glossary, Thesaurus, General Methodology Paper, National Account General Methodology Paper, and a Primer on Mini-presentations, Sector Papers, and Revisited Sector Papers. The year and number of papers hyperlink imparts information on the total number of papers written for an industry in a given year.

Latest news from the Voorburg Group

2012 Meeting

The 2012 meeting included the following topics:

Mini-presentations

For 2012, the following Industry/Industry Groups were selected for mini-presentation:

Commercial and Industrial Machinery Repair and Maintenance - PPI (Japan, Israel, and United States); Turnover/Output (Sweden and France)

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Services - Turnover/Output only (Japan, Poland, Czech Republic)

Consumer and Household Goods Repair and Maintenance - Turnover/Output only (Norway, Poland)

Water Treatment and Distribution Services - PPI (France, Hungary, and Sweden); Turnover/Output (France, Poland, and Sweden)

Sector Papers: The 2012 meeting included the presentation and adoption of sector papers on Technical Testing, Maintenance and Repair of Automobiles, Non-Life Insurance (Issues Paper), and Waste Management/Waste Treatment (Issues). The 2012 meeting also included presentation and adoption of updated sector papers on Air Transport, Telecommunications, and Computer Programming.

The 2012 meeting also included special sessions on Distributive Trades (Final Report), Quality Adjustment Practices in Services Producer Price Indices, Operational Efficiency Strategies, and an update on the work of the OECD-Eurostat Task Force for the Revision of the SPPI Guide.

2013 Meeting

The 2013 Session included Sector Papers for Commercial and Industrial Machinery Repair and Maintenance, Consumer and Household Goods Repair and Maintenance, and Water Distribution Services as well as an information paper on the status of turnover and prices in the area of Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation.

New Mini-presentations were presented for Broadcasting and Programming, Software Publishing, Other Publishing Activities, Warehousing and Support Activities, and Postal Activities. The 2013 Session also included cross-cutting topics addressing Quality Change and Quality Adjustment, Linking Services Turnover/Output Prices to the National Macroeconomic Framework, Voorburg Group contributions to revisions of ISIC and the CPC, and Systems and Software Advances for Statistical Agencies. There was also an update on the remaining work of the OECD-Eurostat Task Force for the Revision of the SPPI Guide.

2014 Meeting

The 2014 Session included sector papers for the mini-presentations covered in 2013 as well as new mini-presentations for Specialized Design Activities, Leasing of Intellectual Property, Travel Agency Activities, Activities of Call Centers, and Human Health Activities.

2014 also saw cross-cutting topic discussions addressing the strengths and weaknesses of using CPIs to proxy SPPIs for various services, discussions of sectoring and price differences (e.g., B to E, B to C, and B to all), productivity in services, and electronic data collection experiences from participating countries. Finally, the new version of the OECD-Eurostat SPPI Guide was unveiled at this meeting; the new Guide became available on the OECD website in January 2015: http://www.oecd.org/std/prices-ppp/eurostat-oecd-methodological-guide-for-developing-producer-price-indices-for-services-9789264220676-en.htm.

2015 Meeting

The 2015 Meeting included presentation and approval of Sector Papers for Call Centres, Travel Agency Activities, and Specialized Design Activities and an Issues Paper on Leasing of Intellectual Property. There were new mini-presentations for Other Reservation Services and Related Activities, Veterinary Activities, Office and Administrative Support Activities, and Organisation of Conventions and Trade Shows.

2015 also saw cross-cutting topic discussions on issues and best practices concerning bundling of services, on the use of an industry vs. product framework for measurement of particular services, and the treatment of reselling of services. The Group also held its first structured poster session in which eight NSOs shared their experiences with either the use of administrative data or country challenges in developing SPPIs. Finally, the Group spent time discussing options for the future of the Voorburg Group, reviewing a paper written by the Group’s leadership bureau and setting the stage for drafting of a new Strategic Plan.

2016 Meeting

The 2016 meeting included presentation and approval of Sector Papers for Organisation of Conventions and Trade Shows and for Veterinary Activities (the latter covering turnover/output only). The Group also considered a new Issues Paper for Office and Administrative Support Activities. The Group also considered two Guidance Papers on Bundling of Services and Industry vs. Product, following up on the cross-cutting topics discussed at the 2015 meeting. There were new mini-presentations for Activities Auxiliary to Financial Services, except insurance and pension funding, and for Motion Picture, Video and Television Programme Production, Sound Recording and Music Publishing.

2016 also saw cross-cutting topic session on the use of time-based methods and the challenge of productivity for SPPIs and on experiences in starting measurement of services. For the second year, the Group held another highly successful structured poster session in which four NSOs presented posters related to theme of initiating SPPIs or turnover/output statistics and five NSOs presented posters on the use of alternative data sources. Finally, a large part of this meeting was spent reviewing and approving the new VG Strategic Plan, which was formally presented to the membership at this meeting. Feedback was obtained and the Plan was revised during the meeting with the basic contents approved and the co-chairs authorized to update and finalize the Plan for posting on the VG website and sharing with the UNSC by the spring of 2017. Related to this effort was the presentation and discussion of a new Content Development Framework for use by the Group for the first time in preparation for the 2017 meeting.

Future Work Agenda (For 2017 and Onward)

Another ambitious agenda has been proposed for the 2017 meeting. The meeting will include the presentation and adoption of the Sector Papers from the 2016 meeting in Zagreb covering: Activities auxiliary to financial service activities, except insurance and pension funding; and Motion picture, video and television programme production, sound recording and music publishing services. There will be new mini-presentations for Investment Banking and Engineering Services. The sector paper on Telecommunications will be revisited at the meeting to take into account changes in wireless telecommunications.

The 2017 meeting also will include special sessions on cross-cutting topics, including quality indicators, challenges in the measurement of services outputs and price resulting from globalization, and challenges stemming from e-commerce. The Group also plans to review the website design and its plans to ensure that Voorburg Group documentation remains relevant and up-to-date.