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Series: EU-LFS


Title European Union Labour Force Survey


The European Union Labour Force Survey is a rotating random sample survey covering the population in private households in currently 34 European countries. The main aim of the LFS is to provide comparable information on employed, unemployed and inactive persons of working age (15 years and above) in European countries. The definitions of employment and unemployment used in the LFS closely follow the International Labour Organisations guidelines. Common classifications used are: NACE , ISCO, ISCED, NUTS.

Core topics of the LFS are demographic background; labour status; employment characteristics of the main job; hours worked; second job; previous work experience of person not in employment; search for employment; methods used during previous four weeks to find work; main labour status; education and training; situation one year before survey; income; atypical work.

Since 1999 the LFS also includes so called 'ad hoc modules' on a yearly but rotating basis.

Data Version

Data Publisher

  • Eurostat


  • Demographic Background
  • Nationality and Migration
  • Labour and Employment
  • Education and Training
  • Income
  • Health
  • Household Structure
  • Technical Items
  • Ad-hoc Modules
    • Reconciliation between work and family life
    • Young people on the labour market
    • Pensions and labour market participation
    • Job Skills
    • Labour market situation of migrants and their immediate descendants
    • Accidents at work and work related health problems
    • Work organisation and working time arrangements
    • Self-employment
    • Employment of disabled people


Geographical Coverage

The EU-LFS currently covers thirty-four countries (participating countries) providing Eurostat with data from national labour force surveys: the Member States of the European Union, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), and four candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) (

Please note: Data for the United Kingdom are currently only available up to the 3rd quarter in 2020 (EU-LFS user data base, 2022 Release).


The EU LFS is conducted by the National Statistical Institutes across Europe and is centrally processed by Eurostat. The national statistical institutes are responsible for selecting the sample, preparing the questionnaires, conducting the direct interviews among households, and forwarding the results to Eurostat in accordance with the common coding scheme.

The data collection covers the years from 1983 onwards. Until 1997, EU-LFS data was mainly collected on a yearly basis, usually in spring of a reference year. From 1998, the EU LFS has step by step become a continuous quarterly survey. In 2006, the structure of the LFS changed significantly to reduce the burden on respondents; since then, all variables have to be collected on a yearly basis, but only a selection of them on a quarterly basis.

The LFS under the new legal framework since 2021 (“IESS”) distinguishes two major blocks of variables, quarterly and yearly ones. Quarterly data covers main LFS variables like the employment status, hours worked, educational attainment level etc. and serves needs for short-term analysis. Yearly data covers both quarterly and yearly variables. Yearly data also include the biennial variables and the regular module / ad-hoc-subject variables for a given reference year. This split into quarterly and yearly information is similar to the one already applied in the LFS from 2006 to 2020. Differences to the pre-IESS situation concern individual variables, their codes, their target groups, their frequencies, but also improvements to the methodology, e.g. for measuring the employment status according to the ILO definition.

Details can be found in the respective regulations and in the “Statistics Explained” article on EU-LFS methodology:


The EU-LFS is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. It covers residents in private households.


The sampling units are dwellings, household or individuals depending on the country-specific sampling frames.

Data Collection

“The EU-LFS data collection is carried out mainly through four modes: personal visits via CAPI or PAPI, telephone interviews, web interviews and self-administered questionnaires.

Most countries conduct the interview only with computerised questionnaires. Seven countries (Czechia, Germany, Greece, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) use both computerised and paper questionnaires. Only Montenegro solely relies on paper questionnaires (PAPI).

As described above, all countries interview responding units several times: about half of the countries (Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) conduct the first interview always or mainly via CAPI while in subsequent waves the interviews are performed by CATI, if a telephone contact is available. Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands use computer assisted web interviews (CAWI) in combination with other methods. Four countries (Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) rely solely on telephone interviews. Three countries (Greece, Romania and Montenegro) collect data using only face-to-face interviews. Germany collects data using a combination of all techniques (CAPI, CATI, PAPI and CAWI).

As a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, the LFS data collections in 2020 have been severely hampered in most countries. During the containment, face-to-face (CAPI and PAPI) data collection methods have been stopped and replaced as much as possible by remote collection methods (CATI or CAWI).”

(Eurostat (2022): Quality report of the European Union Labour Force Survey 2020 2022 edition, p.11)


National Statistical Institutes transmit LFS microdata to Eurostat, but they remain owners of their data. LFS microdata are confidential data which contain information about individual statistical units. In order to minimize the risk of disclosure of the statistical units to which the records relate, anonymisation criteria are applied to both core and ad-hoc module datasets. This consists of deleting certain variables and aggregating others. The anonymisation and aggregation criteria are defined and agreed on a regular basis between Eurostat and the National Statistical Institutes in the Working Group Labour Market Statistics, enabling Eurostat to make EU-LFS microdata available to researchers.

CRITERIA FOR THE ANONYMISATION OF LFS MICRODATA see Eurostat: EU Labour Force Survey Database User Guide

Legal Basis

“The EU-LFS is based on European legislation since 1973. The principal legal acts, currently in force, are the Regulation (EU) 2019/1700 establishing a common framework for European social statistics, the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/256 establishing a multiannual rolling planning, the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2181 regarding items common to several datasets, and the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2240 which specifies the implementation rules, technical items and contents of the EU-LFS.”

(EU labour force survey – main features and legal basis - Statistics Explained (

Data Access

Access Conditions

The current legal framework enables access to anonymised microdata available at Eurostat only for scientific purposes, however the access is restricted to universities, research institutes, national statistical institutes, central banks inside the EU, as well as to the European Central Bank. Individuals cannot be granted direct data access.

Available Data & Application

Datasets availability table and release calendar

How to apply for microdata

Access Contact

Data Service

German Microdata Lab (GML), GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Person to contact: Andrea Lengerer (


Comparability over Time

“Every year, a certain number of changes is introduced in some national LFSs, to take into account changes introduced at European level, to better align the national surveys to the already existing EU regulations or methodological guidelines, or to take into consideration national needs. These changes can concern conceptual aspects (i.e. concepts and definitions used by the EU-LFS, the survey coverage and the geographical boundaries, the target population, the legislation, the used classifications) or measurement aspects (i.e. the sampling strategy, the data collection and the weighting scheme). […] Such changes may cause some limitations regarding the comparability of the data in the time series.” (Eurostat (2022): Quality report of the European Union Labour Force Survey 2020 2022 edition, p. 30)

Comparability between Countries

To ensure the comparability of the statistical results across countries and along time the EU-LFS

  • uses the same concepts and definitions
  • follows International Labour Organization guidelines
  • uses common classifications (NACE, ISCO, ISCED, NUTS)
  • records the same set of characteristics in each country

Comparability of the statistics between the participating countries is mainly true for the main characteristics, employment and unemployment where particular definitions and sequence of questions are part of the EU legislation. For other variables, each country has the responsibility to ensure that the national survey provides data that are compatible with the EU definitions and of the same quality.