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Eurostat's Statistical Treasure Trove
Volume 38, Number 5 - September/October 2014


The full Statistics Database is accessed from the top left side of the front page, where it says Statistics Database accompanied by a green arrow. The Statistics tab only takes you to Database by theme.

This brings you to a navigation tree with six headlines:

Database by themes

Tables by themes

Tables on EU policy

Cross cutting topics

New items

Recently updated items

The most important subjects are Database by themes and Tables by themes. The source and main structure of the two are the same, but the format and possibilities to edit the data contents are different. Basically the Database by themes will bring you to different sets in the raw data that you can edit and refine whereas the Tables by themes gives you a predefined table with limited editing but a great variety of visual presentations of the data.

Database by themes

Database by themes is where you have the widest possibilities for deciding the contents of your table. You can design the tables based on the dimensions, choose which ones you want, and easily refine and redesign the format.

The navigation tree is your best entry to the different datasets and is divided into headlines with many sublevels.

A general problem in the navigation tree is that the categories are not entirely MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive). This makes it difficult to find the relevant tables easily, as you may have to look into many sublevels before you find what you are looking for.

The search function is a very good help to overcome this problem. To ensure that you get a correct result, I suggest browsing through the navigation tree first to get the right terms before you launch the search.

In this example, I browsed through the category Population and social conditions and decided to search by the term Pension , which gave a result of 56 “nodes” (see the Pension Search Results graphic below). You open the topics in the navigation tree and get to the table called Pensions.

The Pensions table is shown in a predefined format. On the top of this page just under the headline of the table, you find a very small link to table customization. This lets you change the table formats, both in terms of labels and number formats.

The predefined table can easily be edited by clicking on the + sign next to each of the dimensions. This brings up a new window that allows you to tailor your data selection. (See Table editing above.) Remember to click the “update” button once you have made your selection. This is sometimes done automatically but not always. In this window, you can choose and adjust the different dimensions and define the dataset you need. Once this is in place and you have updated your table, you may adjust the format of the table. This is done by using the “drag and drop” of the different parameters. You have to try this a couple of times to understand how it works, but basically the idea is that you drag the dimension to the axis of your choice.

You can then easily export the results to Excel or one of the other formats available.

Tables by themes

Tables by themes gives you predefined tables, graphs, and maps. One problem: These graphs and maps are based on a limited number of predefined tables that cannot be adjusted. Sometimes the formats make sense; in many cases, they do not make much sense unless you edit them.

In this example of the elderly population I went to Population and social conditions, which gave five different tables (see Tables by themes below). Population and social conditions in the Database by themes provided six different tables. Choose “People by age group.” This takes you to a table with information about the proportion of the total population by age groups. The only problem, as you see in the top image above, is that you cannot view the age intervals in the table, as the text is too long for the text field.

The drop-down menu in the top left corner lets you edit the layout of the table. You can change the year or change the axis—for instance, you can choose only to see the percentage of the population from 65–79.

You can see this table as a graph and as a map by choosing the other tabs on the top as seen above. However, when I chose age 65–79, the chart turned out to show the age group 0–14, but that category is not shown at the top of the page. To correct this, you have to change the age group in the tool box under data (hover over the age categories, otherwise you cannot distinguish the age categories from each other).

The map is a very nice way of illustrating these differences across countries. You can even change the colors (although the variety of color schemes is quite limited) and have a lot of possibilities of changing what is illustrated in the map.


Whether you concentrate your research using Eurostat or another source for European information, take time to explore the various datasets, search capabilities, and output options. Be critical and explore how much data you can get out. It’s worth your while to spend some time getting to know the intricacies of this complex database. 

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Anja Chemnitz Thygesen owns ACT, a Danish information research company that specializes in market and company research in the Scandinavian markets, and is part of OneAnswer, a pan-European network of business researchers.


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