Post and courier sector statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1

From Statistics Explained

Data from January 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article belongs to a set of statistical articles which analyse the structure, development and characteristics of the various economic activities in the European Union (EU). According to the statistical classification of economic activities in the EU (NACE Rev 1.1), the present article covers post and courier sector statistics, corresponding to NACE Group 64.1, which is part of the media and communications sector. The activities covered in this article are:

  • national post activities (NACE Class 64.11), which include the pick-up, transport and delivery (domestic or international) of mail and parcels, and other services such as P.O. boxes.
  • other courier activities (NACE Class 64.12), which include mainly express courier services, where enterprises have widened their initial focus on business documents towards the transfer of packages and freight, blurring the distinction between courier and transport enterprises.
Table 1: Postal services. Evolution of main indicators, EU-27

Main statistical findings

Table 2: Postal services. Selected indicators for Universal Service Providers (USPs), 2006
Table 3: Post and courier activities (NACE Group 64.1). Structural profile, EU-27, 2006
Table 4: Post and courier activities (NACE Group 64.1). Expenditure, productivity and profitability, EU-27, 2006

Focus on postal infrastructure and transport of postal items

According to data collected by the UPU from its postal administration members, there were about 100.4 thousand permanent post offices in the EU-27 in 2006. This was slightly more than in 2004 or 2005, and equivalent to one permanent post office for every 4.9 thousand inhabitants on average.

The number of letter-items for both domestic and international dispatch was 117.8 billion in the EU-27 in 2006, about 2 billion less than in 2004 or 2005 and equivalent to an average of 238 letters per inhabitant. Ordinary parcels for both domestic and international dispatch amounted to 1.0 billion items in 2006, again slightly lower than the previous two years. For both letters and parcels, domestic deliveries accounted for the vast majority of the total, 98.5 % for letters and 97.7 % for parcels.

According to Eurostat’s Inquiry on Postal Services, among the Member States for which data is available, mail deliveries in the ‘reserved area’ (where universal service providers have exclusive rights) ranged from 39 % of letter-post services in Estonia up to 94 % in Malta, with Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom reporting no reserved area. The price for a standard letter was 20 cents or less in Romania, Malta and Slovenia, while it reached 60 cents or more in Finland, Denmark and Italy.

Structural profile

There were approximately 40.0 thousand enterprises in the EU-27's post and courier activities (NACE Group 64.1) sector in 2005. With close to 1.9 million persons employed, this sector represented 38.4 % of the media and communications (NACE Divisions 22 and 64) workforce in 2005. This sector's contribution in terms of output was much lower, 13.1 % in terms of turnover and 17.2 % in terms of value added. National post activities (NACE Class 64.11) was the largest of the two subsectors within the post and courier activities sector, accounting for slightly less than two thirds both of sectoral value added and employment in 2005, the remainder being accounted for by courier activities (NACE Class 64.12).

The five largest EU economies were also the five largest contributors to the post and courier activities sector in 2006, whether measured in value added or employment terms. Looking at the relative contribution of post and courier activities to national non-financial business economy value added, relatively few Member States were particularly specialised or unspecialised in these activities. The most specialised was France where post and courier activities generated 1.4 % of non-financial business economy value added, only slightly above the EU-27 average of 1.1 %; the least specialised countries included the Baltic Member States, Spain and Cyprus where post and courier activities contributed around 0.5 % of non-financial business economy value added. It should be noted that no recent data is available for Luxembourg which, traditionally, is specialised in these activities.

Annual short-term statistics for post and courier activities in the EU-27 provide a picture of the development of the turnover index over the period 2000 to 2007 – see Media and communications statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1. During this period there was uninterrupted year on year turnover growth in this sector, on average 4.1 % per year, compared with an average growth rate of 5.3 % per year for non-financial services (NACE Sections G to I and Divisions 72 and 74).

Expenditure and productivity

In the EU-27’s post and courier activities tangible investment was valued at EUR 3.0 billion in 2006, equivalent to 5.0 % of value added: this investment rate was the fifth lowest of all non-financial business economy NACE groups in 2005 or 2006. More than half of operating expenditure in 2005 was accounted for by personnel costs; this was the fourth largest share of personnel costs recorded among all NACE groups in the non-financial business economy, mainly influenced by the high share recorded in national post activities where personnel costs took up more than two thirds (68.6 %) of operating expenditure. In other courier activities, personnel costs still represented more than one third (35.5 %) of operating expenditure in 2005, just over double the non-financial business economy average in the same year.

With EUR 32.2 thousand of value added generated per person employed in 2005, the EU-27’s post and courier services sector recorded a relatively low level of apparent labour productivity compared with most other activities, as the non-financial business economy average was EUR 10.1 thousand above this value. Average personnel costs were EUR 27.6 thousand per employee in the EU-27, only slightly below the non-financial business economy (EUR 1.3 thousand below) in 2005. As a consequence, the wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio for post and courier services was extremely low, 116.6 % in the EU-27 in 2005, significantly below the non-financial business economy average of 146.5 % and the media and communications average of 188.7 % in the same year. The wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio was higher for other courier activities (131.0 %), while it was as low as 110.0 % for national post activities in the EU-27 as a whole. Most Member States [1]recorded a low wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio for post and courier activities, although Sweden was the only one that recorded a ratio below parity (100 %) indicating that average personnel costs exceeded apparent labour productivity.

Data sources and availability

The main part of the analysis in this article is derived from structural business statistics (SBS), including core, business statistics which are disseminated regularly, as well as information compiled on a multi-yearly basis, and the latest results from development projects.

Other data sources include the postal statistics database UPU and Eurostat, Inquiry on Postal Services 2007.


This sector gathers together several activities linked to media and communication activities, however, within this group a distinction has to be made between traditional activities (for example, postal services) for which the level of activity is rather stable and other newer activities (such as mobile telephony and electronic publishing), for which growth developments are more marked.

In most Member States, universal service providers (USPs) [2]still operate as a monopoly and have exclusive rights, balanced by the fact that they have a universal service obligation. Private operators dominate the express services market, providing letter and parcel services, specifically to the business-to-business, direct mail and business-to-private segments of the market. Since the middle of the 1990’s there have been gradual developments towards market liberalisation for post and courier services, with parcels and express services markets now fully open to competing operators. The latest amendment (2008/6) of the European Parliament and of the Council to the 1997 Directive on Community postal services was adopted in February 2008 and set out a timetable to abolish remaining restrictions on mail deliveries under 50 grams (known as the ‘reserved area’ for national operators) and open up Europe's postal sector to full competition. The deadline for full market opening is 31 December 2010 for just over half of the Member States and 31 December 2012 for the remainder.

Further Eurostat information


Main tables


Dedicated section

Other information

  • Directive 2008/6 of 20 February 2008 amending Directive 97/67 with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services

External links

See also


  1. Cyprus and the Netherlands, 2005; the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Slovenia, not available.
  2. The term USP takes account of the possibility that operators are no longer public organisations.