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A.  Data sources and data collection: an overview

4.2.  Part II describes the main data sources used for compiling statistics of the international supply of services. While the international transaction reporting system was, in the past, the most prevailing source of data for resident/non-resident trade in services statistics, it is being increasingly supplemented by other sources, as demand for more detailed information on services categories and trading partners increases. Nevertheless, for balance of payments (BOP) services statistics, the international transaction reporting system (ITRS) remains an important data source in many countries and it should be used.  Increasingly, statistical business registers, which serve both as a source of information and the basis for the organization of various surveys, are being recognized for their central role in the implementation of an integrated statistics approach and are necessary for building a forward-looking programme of data collection in statistics of the international supply of services. The use of administrative and other sources is another essential part of such a programme, as those sources can complement statistical surveys and/or provide information when, for example, surveys are not cost effective or are difficult to organize.

4.3.  Possible data sources for the compilation of statistics, according to the recommendations of MSITS 2010, and their definitions are listed below (each data source is covered in more depth in each of the corresponding chapters):

(a) Statistical business register (chapter 5) The statistical business register (SBR) is commonly understood as a register of economic entities active in the national economy. If various types of those entities and their characteristics are taken into consideration, then the definition can be further elaborated;[1]

(b) Survey (sampling) frame (chapter 5) The survey frame (also called the sampling frame) is the statistical tool used to gain access to the target population, that is, to all economic entities to be surveyed. There are two types of frames: list frames and area frames. The frame is the backbone of the statistical system,[2] representing what must be regularly measured by the statistical system. Its coverage must be as complete as possible and reflect the organizational structure of all statistical units of the economy;

(c) Enterprise and establishment surveys (chapter 6) These surveys can be one of the following types:

i.  Census: Includes all members of the population;

ii.  Partial coverage collection survey: Includes all enterprises above a certain threshold measured in terms of their dimensions, such as nominal capital, or other variables, such as  significant cross-border activity;

iii.  Random sample survey: Includes enterprises that are preferentially selected according to rigorous sampling procedures, with the results grossed up to reflect the entire population;

iv.  Stratified random sample: Groups population components according to the size of the selected activity so that enterprises within different strata have different probabilities of selection. Usually, that is a combination of the partial coverage and random sample options, but is more sophisticated and might produce a high level of coverage, while remaining relatively cost-effective;

(d) Surveys of persons and households (chapter 7) Surveys of individuals or households, with household defined as a group of persons who share the same living accommodations, who pool some or all of their income and wealth and who consume certain types of goods and services collectively, mainly housing and food;[3]

(e) International transactions reporting system (chapter 8) A system of collecting data of individual international settlements and/or transactions from banks, enterprises and individuals. In most countries that maintain ITRS, the reporting is mandatory and settlement data have been collected;

(f) Administrative records (chapter 9)  Compiled for regulatory purposes or to support and document the administration of various government programmes, such as immigration regulations, social security benefits, education and health care;

(g) Other data sources (chapter 10)  Such sources include credit card records, mobile phone records, records of business associations, financial statements of companies, reports of chambers of commerce, records of investment promotion agencies, private databases and data compiled by trading partners. Some of these sources are part of the body of information referred to as “big data”.

4.4. Chapters 5 through10 describe the roles and characteristics, such as the design and maintenance, of the above-mentioned data sources, how they can be used in the context of data collection of resident/non-resident trade in services, FATS and modes of supply and their advantages and limitations, when relevant, and presents country experiences in using such sources in statistical compilation.

4.5.  In the case of enterprise surveys, chapter 6 describes in detail specific types of surveys used for the compilation of certain service categories, including surveys of transportation, manufacturing services, insurance and financial corporations, research and development, tourism activities and construction. It also covers structural business surveys for FATS collection, foreign direct investment surveys that incorporate key FATS variables and separate foreign affiliates surveys. Chapter 6 also presents country experiences in the use of enterprise surveys to collect data for modes of supply, manufacturing services, construction, education, computer software and information technology services and FATS, among others.

4.6.  Chapter 7 highlights specific types of surveys dealing with persons and households and how they can be used to collect data on the international supply of services. In particular, population censuses can be used to gather benchmark information, specifically for compiling outgoing mode 4 data, or for household sampling; household and border surveys can be used to collect data related to international travel, consumption of other services, such as  Internet purchases/consumption of services, mode 4, and the international provision of services of members of households, in particular for self-employed persons (modes 1 or 4); and labour force surveys can be used to collect information on the mode 4 variable “number of persons or trips” and on outbound business travel. 

4.7.  Chapter 8 highlights the advantages and limitations associated with using an ITRS to compile trade in services statistics. It also presents issues to consider regarding ITRS reporting thresholds (different approaches for dealing with missing values due to ITRS thresholds are discussed in part III, chapter 17).

4.8.  Chapter 9 covers administrative records, including tax records; customs records for estimating the value of trade-related transport and insurance services; immigration records and entry and departure cards; work permits collected by immigration authorities; and population records. Administrative records or commercial databases on foreign affiliates are also useful for FATS, but their forms and questionnaires cannot easily be designed to provide data useful for statistical and analytical purposes. Rather, they could be used as supplements to the survey on foreign affiliates. Chapter 9 also covers in detail how such sources can be used to collect data under modes 2 and 4.

4.9.  Chapter 10 focuses on other data sources and discusses the potential uses of big data, payment card data, mobile phone data, external party sources, and linked microdata. The chapter also presents country experiences to explore the potential uses of such data sources to compile trade in services statistics.

4.10.  For compiling statistics by partner country, the compiler will have access to a number of external sources of information which can be useful for  improving the quality of compiled statistics. Such sources include bilateral data, compiled in other economies, that represent the counterparts to the transactions of residents of the compiling economy.[4] A similar approach can be adopted for other sets of data covered in the present Guide, such as FATS.

4.11.   When such sources are used, the compiler should make every effort to ensure that partner country information is classified correctly. The compiler must also decide on the principle of classification and the list of countries or country groupings to be shown. The country classification should be based on the countries of residence of the provider and the recipient of the services.[5] The same country classification should be used across all sources of data collection. If it is not possible to obtain correctly classified data from the source, the compiler should, at least in significant cases, investigate alternative sources to obtain supplementary information.[6] If countries provide and/or receive services from international organizations, these should be used as a separate partner group, as such organizations are resident in an economic territory of their own, and not the economy in which they are physically located (see MSITS 2010, para. 3.28).


Next: B. Sources for modes of supply data


[1] See Eurostat publication Business Registers: Recommendations Manual, Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers (Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010). Available from

[2] See Guidelines on Integrated Economic Statistics, para. 5.69.

[3] See 2008 SNA, para. 24.12.

[4] Ibid., A5.21.

[5] Ibid., A5.3.

[6] Ibid., A5.23.