300. This chapter discusses collections of data from individuals and households, which are groups of persons with common economic interests, for measurement of various household sector transactions in the BOP. The chapter describes migration statistics and similar statistics on movements of persons across national borders, surveys collecting data on travel expenditure, and other household surveys.


300. This chapter discusses collections of data from individuals and households, which are groups of persons with common economic interests, for measurement of various household sector transactions in the BOP. The chapter describes migration statistics and similar statistics on movements of persons across national borders, surveys collecting data on travel expenditure, and other household surveys.

301. Household sector transactions included in the BOP typically fall into the following categories. Expenditure on goods and services by persons traveling abroad is recorded in passenger fare and travel items. Expenditure by students studying in foreign countries is recorded in travel services and, if the student is financed under a foreign aid program, an offset entry is included under current transfers. Health care services provided to patients in foreign countries are recorded under travel. Earnings of residents who work abroad for nonresident employers for less than 12 months are included in compensation of employees. Expenditures made by these workers on goods and services in host countries are included in the travel item. Income earned by persons who work in their home countries for nonresident entities, such as a foreign embassy, is also included in compensation of employees. Offsets to remittances, by residents, of funds to families abroad (for example, by foreign workers living in an economy for 12 months or more) are included in workers’ remittances. Pensions and social security payments received by residents from foreign governments are included in current transfers. External financial investments by households are included in the financial account. Transfers of goods and financial assets by migrants are included in migrants’ transfers under the capital account; offsets are recorded in the goods item and in the financial account, respectively. Additional details on the treatment of household transactions in the BOP can be found in chapter 10, paragraph 456.

302. Sources described in other chapters of this Guide could be used to collect data for the household sector. For example, many household transactions should be included in a well-designed ITRS. However, the ITRS must be designed to capture and classify small value transactions that are typical of households. ITS could be used to measure aspects of migrants’ transfers not identified in an ITRS. ES of transportation enterprises could be used to measure passenger fares; ES of the travel industry, to measure travel; official sources, to measure education and health services provided to nonresident travelers; surveys of employers and employment agencies, to measure compensation of employees and possibly workers’ remittances; various official sources and surveys of pension funds, to measure pensions and social security payments; and fund managers, to measure financial investment abroad by households. In addition, the compiler may be able to approach some partner countries to collect required data. However, such sources may not always be adequate for the compiler’s purposes, and a resort to personal and household collections may be necessary. In addition, household collections may be a useful check on the validity of data collected from other sources.

303. The remainder of this chapter reviews the primary types of household collections (migration statistics, alternative statistics on across-the-border movements, surveys of travelers, and other household collections) that could be available to the BOP compiler.

Migration Statistics


304. Migration statistics are designed to measure persons crossing a country’s frontier; these statistics usually distinguish between short-term visitors and migrants. A short-term visitor is normally defined as a person staying in a country other than the one in which the person is normally a resident for less than 12 months. Short-term visitors include travelers; border, seasonal, and other short-term workers; and nomads. Migrants are persons moving permanently or for periods of 12 months or longer. Migration statistics should not include movements of military personnel or civilian government employees and their dependents living abroad because they are considered residents of their home countries.

305. Both short-term visitors and migrants are of interest are for BOP purposes. For short-term visitors, the objective is to measure earnings and expenditure of resident short-term visitors abroad and nonresident short-term visitors in host countries. Compilation of relevant BOP items is discussed in chapters 12 and 13. For BOP purposes, migrants are regarded as having changed residency.49 Migrants are of interest because they are likely to move goods and financial assets when they move from one country to another, or they may maintain financial assets and liabilities in their former countries. Both these aspects of migration represent transactions that should be measured in the BOP. The compilation of relevant BOP items is discussed in chapter 15.

306. Data on the number and characteristics of migrants and short-term visitors are usually obtainable from international migration statistics, guidelines for which may be found in “Recommendations on Statistics on International Migration” in the United Nations Statistical Papers.50

307. International migration statistics may be based on measurements of persons as they cross national borders or arrive at airports, population registers, or field surveys. Measurements of persons at border crossings and at airports is likely to provide better data on short-term visitors than population registers and field surveys. Whatever the data source used, the compiler should be aware of its limitations.

International Guidelines on Migration Statistics

308. The “Recommendations on Statistics on International Migration” represent an update of a set of guidelines issued in 1953.51 The 1980 guidelines contain some interesting observations on the quality of existing international migration statistics; compilers should consider these observations when assessing the quality of their own national migration statistics. The 1953 guidelines were based on the premise that data should be collected through well-controlled border crossings or at airports but, in the 1980 guidelines, this approach is considered insufficient. Because many statistically advanced countries did not wish to impede the flow of international visitors, these countries turned to other sources of data to estimate arrivals and departures; other countries were not able to control all border crossings. Increases in short-term crossings (particularly of seasonal workers and business and recreational visitors) complicated measurement. Some countries defined immigrant more broadly than emigrant, and more effort was often devoted to measurement of arrivals than to that of departures—a factor that further contributed to problems with the quality of statistics.

309. The 1980 guidelines define categories of arrivals and departures that migration statistics should measure. In the guidelines, emphasis is placed on measuring the length of stay and on using 12 months as the dividing line between migrants and tourists.52 (Tourist is used as a synonym for short-term visitor.)53

310. In the 1980 guidelines, it is observed that data collections conducted at borders or at international airports were the source most frequently used in Africa, Asia, North America, and Oceania. Registrations (which may take the form of permanent population registers, employment registers, and other administrative records) were the source most widely used in Europe and the former U.S.S.R. Some countries used a variety of methods, including population censuses and household surveys.

311. The guidelines also set out the type of data classifications that should be collected, types of tables that should be prepared, and principles that should be employed in the compilation of statistics on migrants and short-term visitors.

Measuring the Number and Characteristics of Arrivals and Departures

312. Data on border crossings are typically produced as a byproduct of an administrative process designed to identify and control persons entering and leaving a country. The essential procedure requires such persons to complete and submit migration cards or forms. Data collected may include the person’s name, sex, nationality, date and country of birth, passport number, marital status, intended address in host country, flight number or other transport details, intended or actual length of stay, and purpose of visit. These data are required for migration officials to check the identity of the person traveling, as well as to administer migration policy. The information may also be used for statistical purposes; for this reason, requests for additional data may be added to migration cards or forms. The compiler may, from time to time, have the opportunity to influence the design of these documents and should take advantage of these opportunities to facilitate data collection for BOP purposes. Data from these cards or from population registers or field inquiries are the basis of migration statistics.

313. From the compiler’s viewpoint, the information shown in table 7.1 is generally required to compile various BOP transactions data. For each category shown in table 7.1, data may also be required on country of destination or origin, length of stay, purpose of journey, etc. Also, supplementary data may be required on nonresident students who stay in host countries for periods of 12 months or longer, or on national students who leave for 12 months or longer, in order to treat these cases correctly in the BOP. These data, together with data on the patterns of expenditure and compensation of employees, could form the basis for a data model (such as that described in chapter 12, paragraph 536) to estimate various BOP items.

Table 7.1

Categories of Data Required from Migration Statistics

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Alternative Statistics on Across-the-border Movements

314. A country’s official migration statistics are usually compiled, in conjunction with the migration authorities, by the central statistical agency. However, these statistics—especially in relation to short-term visitors—may not always be available, so the compiler may require another source of data on short-term movements. As an alternative to migration statistics, the compiler could investigate the possibility of using data, to be provided by transport enterprises, on the number of passengers moving across a country’s borders by means of various transport modes (such as plane, ship, or train). Data on passengers traveling by road may be available from official sources or, in the case of bus travel, from bus or tour companies. For island countries and countries where the majority of across-the-border movement of persons is via organized transport, data from transport entities can be an effective source for measuring such movements. Data on the number of nonresident travelers registering at hotels may also be available as a source of information on some short-term visitors.54 The compiler should become aware of these sources and seek to influence their development when they prove useful in BOP compilation.

Surveys of Travelers

315. Surveys in various forms are conducted by many countries to measure activities of travelers. Some surveys may be designed purely to meet BOP requirements for measuring travel and, possibly, other forms of expenditure and income. Other surveys with broader purposes may contain information on travel expenditure and therefore be of interest to the compiler. Travelers may be surveyed when they arrive or depart or sometime after they have returned to their home countries. Table 7.2 on page 54 sets out various categories of traveler surveys and whether these surveys measure anticipated or actual expenditure (and earnings).

Table 7.2

Different Categories for Surveys of Travelers

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316. Surveys of arrivals measure actual expenditures abroad of residents returning home and anticipated expenditures of nonresident visitors. Conversely, surveys of departures measure actual expenditures of departing nonresident visitors and anticipated expenditures of departing resident visitors. Surveys of returned travelers collect data from residents some time after they return home. In some countries, these surveys include questions on income earned (compensation of employees) and other possible BOP transactions, such as transfers and financial account transactions.

317. Survey methodology may take a number of forms. If a survey is made in respect of arrivals or departures, it may take place on board aircraft or in passenger terminals. The survey may be conducted by distributing and collecting forms or by personal interview. Surveys of returned visitors may be conducted by mail or by personal or telephone interview. In these surveys, returned visitors can be identified from migration cards or similar sources. Surveys may be carried out by an official statistical organization, another government agency, or a private agency working on behalf of an official agency.

318. A number of countries conduct surveys based on interviews of departing nonresident visitors. In some countries, this approach is also used to measure expenditure by returning resident travelers. These surveys are often conducted, on behalf of the national tourist authority, by a private survey company. The primary purpose of the survey is to gather information on travel activities and attitudes of departing (or returning) visitors to facilitate tourism analysis and policy determination. Interviews include many questions; those of particular interest to the BOP compiler concern travel expenditure by, and earnings of, nonresident visitors in the host country and similar information for residents returning from abroad. Travel expenditure may be broken down into a number of categories, including expenditure at hotels and restaurants and on transportation, entertainment, shopping, and other services.55 Additionally, travel expenditure may be classified by type of payments used (for example, package tour, credit cards, and travelers’ checks) to reconcile such data with data from other sources.

319. Some countries use surveys of international air travelers to provide information on travel and passenger fare receipts and payments. Cooperating airlines distribute questionnaires (to be completed on a voluntary basis) to all passengers on selected flights, collect completed forms, and return the forms to the BOP compiler. Like surveys based on interviews, these typically serve the interests of the tourism industry as well as those of the BOP compiler. Key items for the compiler include destination or origin, expenditures in host countries, length of stay, and passenger fares. Information is combined with migration statistics to produce final results.

320. As surveys of travelers are typically sample surveys, results should be expanded to determine aggregate results for the population of visitors. Aggregates can be obtained by number raising (that is, results for each person sampled are expanded by the inverse of their chance of selection) or by ratio estimation (that is, results for persons in each category—however defined—are expanded by the ratio of the number of persons in the population in that category to the number of persons in the sample in that category). A ratio estimation procedure should produce more accurate results; therefore, sample surveys are often linked to sources, such as international migration data. However, less rigorous sampling techniques may be acceptable if the survey is simply designed to derive per capita estimates for input into data models rather than actual aggregate travel expenditure. In any case, the compiler should either gain some familiarity with statistical theory and mathematical aspects of sample design and selection and/or seek professional assistance from mathematical statisticians. Sample surveys are discussed further in chapter 18, paragraphs 886-891.

321. In surveys of travelers, group travel, which is largely associated with families, requires particular attention. It is important to determine whether or not a traveler is a member of a traveling group. As sample expansion procedures usually are based on the individual as the statistical unit, it is necessary to assign group travel expenditure to individuals. It is possible to adopt a variety of procedures, but the procedures must be consistent. One procedure is to prorate all group expenditure to the adults in the group. (An adult could be defined as a person of more than a certain age.) A related issue is the expenditure of children. In many surveys of travelers, children are not included in the sample. As children (other than students) often travel in groups with adults, their omission should not be a concern, especially if there are alternative methodologies for measuring students’ expenditures when amounts are significant. Procedures should be developed, however, for assigning the expenditure of non-student children traveling in a group. For example, all expenditure of children could be assigned to the head of the household or another adult. Also, it is important that the absence of children be taken into consideration in any sample estimation.

322. One problem with surveys of travelers is memory recall. This difficulty can be overcome in interview surveys by encouraging the interviewee to consult records and/or by providing suitable prompts. During the interview, the interviewer may encourage the interviewee to consult credit card slips, travelers’ check records, etc. Countries that conduct surveys of travelers some time after their return almost always collect expenditure information classified by type of payment, rather than by types of goods and services acquired, because the financial records required to support this approach are normally retained by travelers for some time.

323. Another problem, particularly for package tours, is the splitting of traveler expenditures into passenger fare and travel components. To overcome this problem, survey questionnaires may seek the total value of a trip—that is, passenger fares plus travel expenditure. The BOP compiler could then estimate travel by deducting from the total value of the trip an estimate of international passenger fares obtained from another source, such ES of transportation enterprises (described in chapter 5). Alternatively, the BOP compiler could consult with travel industry representatives to break down trip expenditure into the two components.

324. The compiler should play an active role in the development and monitoring of traveler surveys conducted by other agencies. Particular attention should be paid to the wording of questions, the location of questions on forms or the sequence of questions in interviews, the training of interviewers, and data validation and sampling techniques. It is desirable that individual records (or completed forms) from surveys be given to the compiling authority for validation checks of data, examination of collection procedures, review of possible sample problems (such as outliers), and expansion of sample results via, for example, a ratio estimation procedure used in conjunction with international migration statistics.

Other Collections

325. Most countries conduct household expenditure surveys (for example, to arrive at weights for consumer price indexes). These surveys could be used to estimate travel expenditure abroad, which is a component of household expenditure. Experience with this approach is not particularly encouraging as the sample of persons who traveled is usually not large enough to provide accurate answers for BOP purposes. However, in the absence of alternative data sources, this approach could be used to generate broad estimates of travel and also to provide estimates of workers’ remittances to persons abroad. (The survey could include a supplementary question on this issue.)

326. Closely related to household expenditure surveys are household income surveys, which obtain information on household sources of income. The BOP compiler could investigate the possibility of using (particularly in the absence of alternative data sources) these surveys to measure remittances received from relatives working abroad and income earned from household investments made abroad.

327. A number of other data sources may also be used to measure BOP transactions of persons and households. Examples are: surveys of business migrants to seek information on amounts of assets and liabilities transferred; surveys of nonresident students to measure sources of income and expenditure patterns; and household surveys of guest workers to collect data on income, expenditures, and taxes.