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More on the Household budget survey (HBS)

One of the most important tasks for statistics is to discover and direct attention to groups that are vulnerable in one or another respect. This can regard low income earners, the elderly, and single parents, but also groups that happen to be adversely affected by effects of taxes or fees.

Statistics are a precondition for a vital democracy that demands well defined information about a number of conditions in society. To a great extent, the Household Budget Survey contributes to this important information. Persons participating in the survey thus provide valuable input that will be of use in many different areas.

Important input, to what use?

Facts about our expenditures show how our consumption changes, how new products come onto the market, and how others leave. Such facts can also indicate the extent to which prices control our choices and how we adapt our expenditures according to a given budget.

Statistics Sweden began conducting the Household Budget Survey as early as 1908. The aim was to see how people managed their livelihoods, especially among the larger families that were more common at that time.

Statistics about our expenditures inform about how we handle the economic conditions we live with. Who has needed to reduce expenditures, and what expenditures were those? Other groups have seen an increase in disposable income - what are they using this increased capacity for?

How can one get by on the money one earns?

Consumer guides, banks and mass media offer good advice about how to improve one's personal economy. The Household Budget Survey is an information source for these kinds of evaluations.

Measuring inflation

Keeping inflation at a low level is an important goal in society. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures inflation for the average household. Results from the Household Budget Survey are used, among other things, as a basis for calculating the CPI, which in turn affects what is known as the price base amount that controls pensions, basic deduction, repayment of student loans, etc.

Reform evaluation

The Swedish Consumer Agency, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, labour market organisations, as well as the cooperative and private industries are some of those making use of the results for reform evaluation, selection of retailing sites, contract negotiations and budgetary advice.

An image of the entire Swedish population

Statistics Sweden randomly selects a variety of households every year - small and large, households with high incomes and those with low incomes, households in the rural areas as well as urban ones. Statistics Sweden also ensures a diverse selection of households over the entire year; otherwise the information collected would fail to reflect the seasonal changes of expenditures. This method of selecting households ensures that the households selected afford a fair and accurate image of the entire Swedish people.

What happens to the information?

Information submitted is protected by the rules of the Secrecy Act and the Data Protection Act. All those working with the survey have an obligation of secrecy. The information is computerised and only published in the form of numerical tables and diagrams. Thus it is not possible to distinguish what an individual person may have answered.

The Official Statistics Act (2001:100) stipulates the length of time that the information can be stored. The main rule is that the information shall be eliminated when it is no longer needed. The government and the National Archives may, however, specify exceptions to this requirement if necessary, in consideration of cultural heritage or for research purposes. Special consideration is given to the protection of individual privacy prior to making a decision.