The social surveys carried out by Statistics Netherlands have witnessed some fundamental changes over the last decades. The introduction of computer-assisted interviewing radically changed the design of most surveys. Traditional paper and pencil interviewing disappeared almost completely. Register data became more and more available as a replacement for surveying or as supporting data for sampling and weighting. And last but not least mixed-mode surveying was introduced, which started with face-to-face and telephone interviewing and later web interviewing was added. Besides, the role of social surveys within the system of social statistics have changed. Social surveys were designed in the past as single-purpose surveys. The majority of these surveys were stand alone surveys. All variables that were used in the analysis and output of the survey were collected in the survey itself. The growing possibilities of registers and other administrative data sources and the drive for more quality and efficiency caused that the various social surveys were more and more integrated with other data sources. This led to a more integrated design of social surveys.
During the first years of the 21st century, the use of register data in combination with survey data had a large impact on the questionnaires used. Almost all questions on household characteristics and income could be left out of the surveys and could be replaced by more comparable and more reliable data from registers to which Statistics Netherlands gradually got access to.
The major conclusion of the paper is that moving away from single-purpose social surveys and introducing topical modules in an integrated design of household surveys combined with optimal use of administrative data can make social statistics richer, more cost-effective and more useful as a tool to answer policy needs and can help closing the gap between social statistics and social science.
Keywords: Social statistics; Social surveys; Statistical process redesign; Mixed-mode data collection
Biography: Paul van der Laan (1952) is Senior policy adviser on social and spatial statistics at Statistics Netherlands in The Hague. He holds a MA in Economics from the University of Amsterdam. He is working at Statistics Netherlands for almost 35 years and has held positions at the Department for National Accounts, the Department for Social Accounts and the Division for Socio-Economic Statistics. Besides, he is currently Secretary of the Dutch Advisory Council on Social Statistics, Treasurer of the Netherlands Society for Statistics and Operations Research and a member of the Executive Committee of LIS, the Cross-National Data and Research Center in Luxembourg. He was a member of the former International Expert Group on Household Income Statistics and Secretary of the International Expert Group on Social Statistics.