Users say – Statistics Finland: the Incomes Register has combined many streams into a river

3/23/2022

Statistics Finland collects information from different sources and uses it to compile reliable and independent statistics on Finnish society. Statistics are prepared for citizens, decision makers, researchers, and simply put, everyone who needs information on society in the form of statistics.

Statistics Finland uses the data available in the Incomes Register in employment and income distribution statistics, the national accounts, estimations of the number of personnel for the business register, and the monthly wage and salary indices.

‒ For example, all employment data on income earners is obtained for employment statistics from the Incomes Register. Previously, the same data was obtained from ten different sources. Such a major reduction is a significant improvement, says Jukka Pitkäjärvi, who works as a development manager for Statistics Finland’s personal data resources.

In addition to its statistical production, Statistics Finland also transfers the Incomes Register’s data to researchers. Through Statistics Finland’s researcher services, the Incomes Register’s data has been transferred to the Situation Room of the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics during the coronavirus pandemic.

‒ The Situation Room’s researchers have produced information to support societal decision making in the public sector regarding, for example, how the national economy and the employment market have developed during the pandemic at a monthly and even at a weekly level. Here, the Incomes Register has been a significant, but not the only, data source.

Statistics Finland already knows where it will next use the data.

‒ We will use the Incomes Register’s data to monitor the status of the wellbeing services counties and to see how the number of personnel will start to develop in the new counties in 2022, Pitkäjärvi says.

Statistics Finland obtains a broad range of data from the Incomes Register

Basically, Statistics Finland has access to all earnings and benefits payment data entered in the Incomes Register. In practice, this means a massive dataset which has required hours and hours of planning and implementation using technical solutions for data transfers and resources. The Incomes Register having primarily been built for other decision making by the authorities also sets its challenges in using the data for statistical purposes.

‒ What makes us different from other data users is that Statistics Finland has access to huge volumes of data collected from different parts of society to which the Incomes Register’s data can be connected or which can be used alongside its data, Pitkäjärvi says.

Every year, Statistics Finland publishes hundreds of official statistics. When it comes to the official statistics, the use of the Incomes Register’s data is only taking its first steps.

‒ There is so much unused potential. We need to expand and strengthen our use of the Incomes Register and carefully consider what opportunities the Incomes Register’s data has and also where it may not be usable.

Experimental statistics represent new phenomena

In addition to official statistics, Statistics Finland produces experimental statistics. They represent new phenomena or use new types of data or new calculation methods. Some of them may eventually become official statistics.

‒ For example, we have used the Incomes Register’s data for a year now to produce statistics on the Incomes Register’s wages and salaries. During the spring, we will produce experimental employment statistics, combining the Incomes Register’s data with data obtained from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s job-seeker register and with different registered data related to studies and education. Experimental statistics can also be developed further based on user feedback, Pitkäjärvi says.

The Incomes Register’s data is also used frequently in Statistics Finland’s researcher services.

‒ From the beginning of 2022, the Incomes Register’s earnings payment data will be used in 12 research projects and its benefits payment data in four projects.

With regard to services subject to a charge, Pitkäjärvi would like to mention the statistical database built by Statistics Finland and the Finnish Tax Administration, in which Statistics Finland produces monthly statistical data using the Incomes Register’s pension data.

Extensively reported data is also required for statistics

Statistics Finland hopes that employers and others submitted data to the Incomes Register as extensively and accurately as possible. For example, data related to employment, working hours and itemised income types is important considering statistics. Data related to places of business, in particular, is used in many statistics.

‒ What places of business does each company have, and where do their employees work? If this data was obtained more extensively from the Incomes Register, it would be great. The accurate job title is another useful piece of data for us. If we obtained employees’ accurate job titles from the Incomes Register, we would be able to reduce or even stop some of our own data collection processes.

Currently, the Incomes Register’s data is used in three data collection processes, while they cannot have been stopped altogether.

‒ This is something we still need to work on. We should be able to replace or reduce our data collection processes using the Incomes Register’s data. As development is carried out alongside other statistical activities, this will take time, Pitkäjärvi says.

‒ We have a number of development ideas waiting for implementation. For example, we will investigate how the Incomes Register’s data could be used in the questionnaire for the labour force survey. We could possibly remove certain questions and obtain the data from the Incomes Register.

From the perspective of statistics, it is important that data is reported as accurately as possible to the Incomes Register. If the current data content was expanded, Statistics Finland would find it useful to add self-employed individuals’ income data and capital income, such as rental income, to the Income Register.

See Statistics Finland’s experimental statistics, in which data obtained from the Incomes Register has been used (in Finnish): The Incomes Register’s wages and salaries | Statistics Finland (stat.fi)

In the Users say series, organisations that use the Incomes Register’s data talk about the benefits and challenges of the use of data from their own perspectives.

Read also the previous parts of the series: