Written Answers - Administrative Burden.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 667 No. 3

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  138.  Deputy Jack Wall  Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of small businesses, who have to complete the National Employment Survey and Annual Services Inquiry forms, that the completion of such forms is creating problems for such businesses in view of the complicated nature and time consumption of the completion of them; his plans to alter or change the procedure or to provide assistance to such businesses to ensure the correct completion of the forms with as little disruption as possible to the successful running of the business in view of the fact that in many cases such businesses have only one or two employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40744/08]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Pat Carey): Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The National Employment Survey (NES) is an annual survey of employers and employees in both the public and private sectors, covering all sectors of the economy. The NES provides valuable information on the structure and distribution of employee earnings, and on the factors influencing earnings and employment conditions, to meet national and EU needs. In total it has an annual sample of approximately 10,000 employers and 100,000 employees.

The Annual Services Inquiry (ASI) is an annual structural survey of the traded services sector. The surveys provide valuable information on the structure and distribution of enterprises, principal trading aggregates and other items such as E-Commerce etc. It is conducted by the Central Statistics Office in order to meet EU legal obligations and national statistical needs. There is a sample of approximately 20,000 enterprises in the survey every year.

The CSO recognises that surveys impose a burden, particularly on small businesses when they are included in the surveys. In its Statement of Strategy 2008-2010, the CSO has identified as a corporate priority the minimising of response burden on CSO inquiry respondents. The CSO is also committed to monitoring and reporting on progress in reducing the response bur[593]den on businesses, while continuing to meet the growing demands for statistics on business sectors and competitiveness. In June 2008 the CSO published the “Report on Response Burden placed on Irish Businesses by CSO inquiries, 2007”. This report indicated that in enterprises with less than 20 persons engaged, 61.3% never received any CSO form in 2007 while another 32.3% only received one form.

Steps have been taken and will continue to be taken to keep the response burden to a minimum. These include:

In both surveys, only a sample of small enterprises is included. For example, while the NES includes all enterprises with 250 or more employees, only 5% of enterprises with between three and nine employees inclusive are surveyed. In addition, only enterprises with three or more employees are included in the survey. Similarly, in the case of the ASI only 10% of enterprises with between one and four employees inclusive are surveyed.

In both surveys, the sample is rotated each year, to reduce the chance that a small business will be asked to take part in consecutive years.

The CSO has been working in consultation with payroll software providers to reduce the burden of response on enterprises. These payroll companies have installed an optional CSO “module” on their payroll packages which will extract all the payroll data required for the NES (and also for the new quarterly Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey or EHECS). This innovation will lead to a significant reduction in burden on those companies using the modules. The modules are currently been rolled out by the payroll companies and will be available for the NES from 2009 onwards.

The potential for similar electronic reporting options in the ASI and other large annual business surveys is also being examined.

The CSO is exploring the potential for greater use of administrative sources of data (e.g. Revenue data) in order to avoid asking businesses to provide information which can be sourced elsewhere. This offers the potential of reducing sample sizes and issuing shorter questionnaires in some surveys.

The list of questions in the NES and ASI surveys are also continuously reviewed, with a view to keeping to a minimum the overall burden on businesses.

This is in line with Government’s overall effort to measure and reduce administrative burdens placed on business by 25% by 2012.

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