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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Labour force survey

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Labour force survey

European Union (EU) policymaking in the field of employment is highly dependent on the availability of comparable, reliable and timely statistics. The EU’s labour force survey (EU-LFS) provides information about the situation and trends in the EU’s labour market.


Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 of 9 March 1998 on the organisation of a labour force sample survey in the Community.



It sets up a harmonised methodology for collecting national statistics on labour participation of people aged 15 and over, as well as on persons outside the labour force. It lays down rules and guidelines on various aspects, such as the survey’s design, characteristics, methods and decision-making, so as to ensure comparable results.



The EU-LFS covers 33 countries: 28 EU countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, and two candidate countries (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey). It is the largest European household sample survey (i.e. a sample of households that are surveyed on a range of topics, such as working life, housing situation, income situation, health, etc.).

It covers all citizens living in private households (i.e. it excludes hospitals, halls of residence, etc.).

Conduct of the EU-LFS

EU countries’ national statistical institutes are responsible for:

  • designing national questionnaires;
  • drawing up the sample;
  • conducting interviews; and
  • sending results to the European Commission’s statistical office, Eurostat, where they are centrally processed.

This is done in accordance with a common coding scheme laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 377/2008.

Eurostat provides support to the statistical institutes, promoting harmonised concepts and methods and disseminating comparable national and European labour market statistics.

Data collection

The EU-LFS data collection covers aspects, such as:

  • demographic background (gender, age, etc.);
  • labour status;
  • employment characteristics of the main job;
  • hours worked;
  • employment characteristics of the second job;
  • time-related underemployment (i.e. when the hours of work of an employed person are insufficient in relation to an alternative employment situation in which he/she is willing and available to engage);
  • search for employment;
  • education and training;
  • previous work experience of persons not in employment;
  • situation 1 year before the survey;
  • main labour status; and
  • income.

Depending on the status (i.e. employed, unemployed or outside the labour force, such as young people in education or women with family responsibilities) of the person surveyed, different types of information are collected.

The data are gathered on a quarterly basis and involve some 1.8 million interviews across Europe. The sampling rates in the participating countries range from 0.2 % to 3.3 %.


From 15 March 1998.

For more information, see Eurostat’s website.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98



L 77 of 14.3.1998, pp. 3-7

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1991/2002



OJ L 308 of 9.11.2002, pp. 1-2

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2104/2002



OJ L 324 of 29.11.2002, pp. 14-19

Regulation (EC) No 2257/2003



OJ L 336 of 23.12.2003, pp. 6-7

Regulation (EC) No 1372/2007



OJ L 315 of 3.12.2007, pp. 42-43

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009



OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009, pp. 14-92

Regulation (EU) No 545/2014



OJ L 163 of 29.5.2014, pp. 10-14

The successive amendments and corrections to Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 377/2008 of 25 April 2008 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 on the organisation of a labour force sample survey in the Community as regards the codification to be used for data transmission from 2009 onwards, the use of a sub-sample for the collection of data on structural variables and the definition of the reference quarters (OJ L 114 of 26.4.2008, pp. 57-84).

Commission Regulation (EU) No 318/2013 of 8 April 2013 adopting the programme of ad-hoc modules, covering the years 2016 to 2018, for the labour force sample survey provided for by Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 (OJ L 99 of 9.4.2013, pp. 11-12).

last update 03.04.2015