Access to a large collection of business microdata

The UK Data Service provides access to a large collection of business microdata, provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These data are relatively identifiable, and should therefore be accessed through the SecureLab route.

The data are collected through a wide range of surveys and some administrative sources. The areas they cover include:

  • productivity
  • innovation
  • workforce skills
  • earnings
  • international trade
  • foreign direct investment
  • research and development
  • business demography
  • industrial relations.

Almost all of the data are collected using the sampling frame of the Inter-Departmental Business Register. It is therefore possible to combine data for the same company from two or more surveys, increasing the range of research and hypotheses that can be tested.

Unlike business microdata that can be downloaded (such as from Companies House), these data are more detailed and, as they are collected under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, can only be accessed in a secure setting to ensure confidentiality.

Some of the key studies providing business microdata are listed below.

Annual Business Survey

The Annual Business Survey (ABS) is an annual survey of businesses covering the production, construction, distribution and service industries, which represents about two-thirds of the UK economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA).

The ABS is the largest business survey conducted by the ONS in terms of the combined number of respondents and variables it covers (62,000 questionnaires despatched in Great Britain, with around 600 different questions asked). It is the key resource for understanding the detailed structure and performance of businesses across the UK, and is a large contributor of business information to the UK National Accounts.

Access the Annual Business Survey.

Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), is a large panel survey of employees’ hours of work and wages collected from organisations in Great Britain for just under 1% of workers (approximately 150,000 – 160,000 observations) per year.

ASHE replaced the New Earnings Survey in 2002, to include data from the self-employed and more accurate weighting instruments. The survey data are considered more accurate than other labour market surveys because the wage data are provided by employers, rather than individual workers. Data on bonus payments and overtime are also included.

The data can also be combined with other business microdata collected by the ONS. This has enabled studies of how business environments affect wage rates and hours of work, and vice versa.

Access the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Business Structure Database

The Business Database (BSD) is an annual extract of the Inter-department Business Register (IDBR), a database of business organisations used throughout Government. Organisations that are registered for VAT or pay at least one member of staff through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax system, will appear on this register.

It is therefore one of the largest sources of data about business organisations in the UK. The BSD snapshot contains limited information (i.e. turnover, employment, industrial classification), but offers researchers an enormous sample of observations to work with. The inclusion of demographic variables, including company start-up date and wind-down, also provides insights into business cycles.

Access the Business Structure Database.

UK Innovation Survey

The UK Innovation Survey collects data from organisations, designed to capture advances in innovative activity. This includes innovations in production, new goods and services and the markets in which businesses operate. The survey also collects information about expenditure on activities related to innovation.

Access the UK Innovation Survey.

Case studies

Browse our case studies to find case studies related to the use of business microdata.