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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


  • Labour and Employment
    • Employment
    • In-job Training
    • Retirement
    • Unemployment
    • Working Conditions
  • Education
    • Basic Skills Education
    • Vocational Education
  • Health
    • General Health
  • Housing and Land Use Planning
    • Housing
  • Social Stratification and Groupings
    • Children
    • Family Life and Marriage
  • Demography and Population
    • Migration


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, 2021 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. Those variables which do not have to be collected on a quarterly but only on a yearly basis are referred to as structural variables. To comply with the new structure, LFS data are basically divided into 2 databases:

  • Quarterly datasets containing only the quarterly variables
  • Yearly datasets containing all variables of the core LFS survey, the quarterly and the structural ones



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

As a rule the data are collected by interviewing the sampled individuals directly, but proxy interviews (through a responsible person in the household) are also possible. Moreover part of the data can also be supplied by equivalent information from alternative sources, such as e.g. administrative registers (mainly social insurance records and population registers). Survey participation is compulsory in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Austria, Portugal and Norway.

“The EU-LFS data collection is carried out through mainly four modes: personal visits, telephone interviews, web interviews and self-administered questionnaires.
Most countries conduct the interview only with computerised questionnaires. Seven (Czechia, Germany, Greece, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) use both computerised and paper questionnaires and three countries (Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro) rely solely 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 and the United Kingdom) 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. Germany collects data mainly with face-to-face interviews (using CAPI); persons not available for the interview or refusing oral interviews are in a few cases interviewed by telephone or more frequently fill in self-administered questionnaires. Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands use computer assisted web interviews (CAWI) in combination with other methods. Five countries (Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) rely solely on telephone interviews. Five countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Montenegro and Turkey) collect data using only face-to-face interviews.“ (Eurostat: Quality report of the European Union Labour Force Survey 2017 . 2019 edition: p. 9-10).


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.

Eurostat: EU Labour Force Survey Database User Guide.

Legal Basis

"The EU-LFS is based on European legislation since 1973. The principal legal act is the Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98. The regulations are an important element assuring the quality of the EU-LFS. They stipulate rules and guidelines to assure the comparability of the results by regulating the survey designs, the survey characteristics and the methodology of the EU-LFS. A detailed overview on the EU-LFS regulations is published in Statistics Explained: “EU-LFS – main features and legal basis” .
In addition to European regulations, many participating countries have their own national legislation for the conduct of a labour force survey."

(Eurostat: Quality report of the European Union Labour Force Survey 2017 . 2019 edition: p.6-7)

Data Access

Access Conditions

The current legal framework enables access to anonymised microdata available at Eurostat only for scientific purposes (Commission Regulations (EU) 557/2013), 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: Klaus Pforr (


Comparability over Time

"Every year, a certain number of changes are 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 the conceptual level (i.e. concepts and definitions used by the LFS, the survey coverage and the geographical boundaries, the target population, the legislation, the classifications used) or the measurement level (i.e. the sampling strategy, the data collection, and the weighting scheme)." (Eurostat: Quality report of the European Union Labour Force Survey 2017 . 2019 edition: p.6-7)

For further information see Quality Reports of the European Union Labour Force Survey.

Transition to a quarterly continuous survey: From 1983 to 1997, the EU Labour Force Survey was conducted only in spring (quarter 1 or 2 depending on the country). Data for the remaining quarters started to become progressively available from 1998 onwards. Since 1998, the transition to a quarterly continuous survey (with reference weeks spread uniformly throughout the year) has been gradually conducted by Member States. Some countries first introduced a continuous annual survey (meaning the reference weeks were uniformly distributed throughout the spring quarter) and then switched to a quarterly collection, whereas others moved directly to a quarterly continuous survey.

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. Anyway, the national questionnaires still largely differ even in the collection of key variables such as WSTATOR or INDECIL (Eurostat: Quality Report of the European Labour Force Survey 2012 - 2014 edition: p. 23). Work is on-going to reduce these disparities and improve the comparability of the variables.