Postal statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from November 2009.
Table 1: Selected indicators of the European postal market 2004-2007[1]
Table 2: Selected indicators of the European postal market (continued), 2004-2007[2]
Table 3: Indicators of the European postal market 2004-2007[3]

The main priority of EU policies on postal services is to ensure efficient, reliable and good-quality service at affordable prices for the citizens and enterprises of the European Union, through an ongoing process of liberalization.

Eurostat has restarted collecting data on postal services in 2005. This article takes a look at the resulting postal statistics from 2004 to 2007. The data collection covers the Universal service providers (USP) the companies operating under the 'Universal service obligation'. For countries where a USP no longer exists, the company which was the USP prior to liberalization is referred to.

Main statistical findings

  • Domestic postal turnover growing slower than the GDP during the period 2004-2007
  • Share of postal employment decreasing in the EU-27 in 2007 compared to 2004
  • Network access (number of inhabitants served by post offices) varies considerable between countries
  • Significant differences between countries concerning the number of letter-post items sent per capita
  • High rate of on-time delivery of priority letters in most countries
  • Large differences between the prices for posting a standard letter (domestic and intra-EU services)
Graph 1: Total turnover from the domestic postal sector as % of GDP[4]
Graph 2: Total number of persons employed in the domestic postal sector as % of the total employment[5]
Graph 3: Number of people served by one post office (including postal agencies, postal outlets, as well as mobile post offices) 2004 2007[6]
Table 4: Access points 2007[7]
Graph 4: Number of letter-post items sent per capita (2004, 2007)[8]
Graph 5: Number of letter-post items (in 1000) distributed per person employed 2004 2007[9]
Graph 6: Ordinary letters and postcards as % of the total letter-post services 2004 2007[10]
Graph 7: Reserved area as % of the total letter-post services 2004 2007[11]
Graph 8: Percentage of priority letters delivered on-time according to national performance indicators (domestic services), 2004-2007[12]
Graph 9: List price (EUR) for a standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service) for domestic services 2004 2007[13]
Graph 10: List price (EUR) for a standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service) for Intra-EU services 2004 2007[14]
Graph 11: List price for a standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service) for domestic services in Purchasing power parities (PPPs), 2004-2007[15]
Graph 12: List price for standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service) for Intra-EU services in Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs) 2004 2007[16]

Domestic postal turnover

Turnover growing slower than the GDP during the period 2004-2007

All EU national postal operators together generated in 2007 a turnover of EUR 60 billion, which amounts to approximately 0.5% of EU GDP. Almost 70% of the total turnover of the national postal operators was created in the four largest economies: Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy, where the turnover ranged from EUR 13 billion (Germany) to EUR 5 billion (Italy). Larger countries tend to have higher turnover figures in absolute terms, and therefore turnover in relation to GDP has been used to facilitate comparison between countries.

Sweden remains in 2007 the country with the highest turnover from domestic postal sector in relation GDP (0.8%), followed by Denmark, France, Finland and Belgium, all with turnover percentages in GDP above 0.6%. At the other end of the scale are the two new EU Members States, Bulgaria and Romania, with turnover ratios to GDP of only around 0.1%. Although domestic postal turnover in absolute terms (expressed in current prices) has generally increased compared to 2004, its ratio to GDP fell in most countries, as well as at the EU-27 level. Countries where the ratio of domestic postal turnover to GDP fell most compared to 2004 were Estonia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Only Lithuania and Italy have seen the domestic postal turnover in relation to GDP slightly growing in 2007 compared to 2004.

Postal employment

Share of postal employment decreasing in the EU-27 in 2007 compared to 2004

The national postal sector employed more than 1 million persons in 2007, accounting for 0.5% of total EU-27 employment. The number of persons employed compared to 2004 dropped by 6.5 % in the EU-27, although this decline slowed down towards 2007. France had in 2007 the highest share of postal employment in total (1%), being followed by Finland, Denmark and Hungary, all with shares above 0.8%. Lowest shares (below 0.3%) were registered in Greece, Cyprus and Portugal. Compared to 2004, postal employment in absolute terms increased in several countries of the EU, as well as in Iceland. However, its share in total employment has followed the same pattern only in Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Greece and Slovenia. For the rest of the countries and the EU-27 it has decreased – the countries where the shares fell most compared to 2004 were Denmark, France, Sweden and Norway. The average productivity measured in terms of turnover per person employed in 2007 was EUR 54000 in the EU-27, almost 12% higher than in 2004. There are significant differences between the Member States, the productivity measured in terms of turnover per person employed ranging from EUR 2000 in Bulgaria to EUR 97000 in Sweden.

Network access

Network access (number of inhabitants served by post offices) varies considerable between countries

Postal items may be deposited by customers for processing in postal services in different physical facilities. These access points include post offices, agencies and outlets, mobile post offices, letter boxes, post office boxes and places at which only stamps can be bought. More than 150000 post offices (including full-service post offices, agencies, outlets, as well as mobile post offices) served the EU citizens needs in 2007 and this number remained more or less stable compared to 2004.

Number of people served by one post office is an indicator for the access to network and it is calculated as the population divided to the number of post offices. In 2007 each post office served on average 3300 persons in the EU-27. Looking at the data for individual countries large variations could be observed. Postal coverage (network access) was highest in Cyprus and the Czech Republic, with one post office serving less than 1000 inhabitants, whereas in Belgium and the Netherlands it was about 8 times lower. Compared to 2004 the network access significantly improved in Hungary and Malta, whereas Denmark and Latvia showed the highest rise in the number of people served by one post office. In 2007, there were 720 thousand letter boxes spread across the EU, corresponding in average to one per 690 citizens.

Number of letter-post items

Significant differences between countries concerning the number of letter-post items sent per capita

In 2007, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands handled the highest number of letter-post items (for France and the United Kingdom no data were available). Nevertheless, compared to 2004 the number of letter-post items dropped in Italy and the Netherlands by 8 % and 11%, respectively. Norway's postal traffic in 2007 was also in decline compared to 2004 by more than 20%.

The analysis of postal traffic in relation to the population data shows that the highest number of letter-post items sent per capita in 2007 was recorded in Finland (406), followed by Luxembourg (388) and then by the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Slovenia, each with more than 200 items distributed per capita. In contrast, twelve EU Member States distributed less than 100 letter-post items per capita, with five of them – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania - sending below 50.

Among the countries with the highest number of letter-post items handled per capita (more than 200), only in Luxembourg and Slovenia an increase compared to 2004 was observed. However, the most notable increase is shown by Estonia and Croatia.

With 121 000 letter-post items distributed per person employed in 2007, Luxembourg maintained its first position, being followed by Germany, Finland and Sweden, each with more than 90 000. On the other hand, Bulgaria showed in both years the lowest number (7000). Largest increase compared to 2004 was observed in Germany, Estonia, Sweden and Croatia.

Almost all letter-post items sent in Cyprus and Malta in 2007 were ordinary letters and postcards (more than 98%), whereas in Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania and Luxembourg this share was only around 50%. Compared to 2004, the share of ordinary letters and postcards in the total letter-post items fell significantly in Estonia, Sweden and Poland. The most important rise was observed for Ireland and Romania.

Reserved area refers to services for which the USPs enjoy exclusive rights to operate. The scope of the reserved area is defined in terms of deliveries within specific weight/price limits. All mail that falls outside the area reserved to USP may be handled by any other postal business operating in the market.

To illustrate the magnitude of the reserved area by country, the share of letters delivered in the reserved area as a share of all letters delivered by the USP is presented. These data give and indication on the share of the USP monopoly over a certain part of the postal market. As national definitions for the reserved area vary, comparison between countries is limited.

On-time delivery of priority letters

High rate of on-time delivery of priority letters in most countries

On-time delivery of priority letters is a quality indicator of postal service showing the share of letters delivered within the time limits defined by the national performance indicators in the total of all letters sent. Due to variations in national performance standards, size of the country, population density, etc., the quality of service data is not directly comparable across countries. The national performance standards range in the countries from 1 to 3 working days elapsing between the date of deposit and the date of delivery to the addressee. The share of priority letters delivered on time according to national performance indicators in 2007 was for most of the countries above 90 % or close to it.

Prices for posting a standard letter

Large differences between the prices for posting a standard letter (domestic and intra-EU services)

In order to compare the prices for posting a standard letter for domestic and intra-EU services across countries, the prices collected in national currency have been converted into euro using the annual average exchange rate.

Prices paid in 2007 by customers sending standard letters to national destinations via mail varied considerably across the EU, by a factor of 5. Malta and Slovenia offered the lowest national prices at EUR 0.14 and EUR 0.23 per item. The highest prices were observed in Norway (EUR 0.75), Denmark (EUR 0.74), and Finland (EUR 0.70).

For intra-EU cross-border traffic the highest prices were found in both Sweden and Norway (EUR 1.19), more than 4 times the tariff applied in Malta (EUR 0.27). Posting a domestic standard letter was in 2007 as expensive or almost as expensive as an intra-EU letter in Finland and Italy, while in Romania intra-EU prices were 2.5 times higher than the domestic ones.

To adjust the prices to the purchasing power in each country the Purchasing power parities for the individual consumption of households have been used. The data actually show the price to pay for posting a standard letter (domestic and intra-EU services) within each country in comparison to the general price level of the country.

The adjustment using the PPPs changes the price comparison significantly. Relative to the national price levels, posting domestic letters was most expensive in Poland, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic and least expensive in Malta, Slovenia and Spain. Intra-EU services were most expensive in Poland, Hungary and Lithuania and cheapest in Malta.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat restarted collecting data on postal services in 2005. The National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) are Eurostat's partners in the data collection and the reference years are 2004 to 2008. This article covers years up to 2007. The definitions used were discussed and agreed in cooperation with the European Postal Regulators in a project group ("Assistance and development of EU statistics") of the European Committee for Postal Regulation (CERP).

The data collection covers the companies operating under the Universal Service obligation (Universal Service Providers - USP). For countries where a USP no longer exists, the company which was the USP prior to liberalisation is referred to. "Universal service" refers here to the set of general interest demands to which services such as the mail should be subject throughout the Community. The aim is to ensure that all users have access to quality services at an affordable price.

Only data on the USP have been published so far. Activities other than postal services (for instance financial services) of the USP are excluded due to the fact that they are not comparable between countries. Differing market conditions should be taken into consideration while making comparisons between countries.

All variables used in this article were collected in the context of the "EU Postal Survey" of Eurostat, on the basis of annual questionnaires covering the USP in the participating countries. Participating countries are the 27 EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland and Norway. The data was provided by the National Regulatory Agency of each country.

The data were collected for the period 2004-2008. However, 2008 data have not yet been validated and published.

Context

The purpose of Community policy in the postal sector is to complete the internal market for postal services and to ensure, through an appropriate regulatory framework, that efficient, reliable and good-quality postal services are available throughout the European Union (EU) to all its citizens at affordable prices. The importance of postal services both for the economic prosperity and social well-being and cohesion of the EU make this a priority area for Community action.

The Community framework for EU postal services is set out in Directive 97/67/EC as amended by Directive 2002/39/EC and as amended by Directive 2008/06/EC (3rd Postal Directive). The improvement of quality of service, in particular in terms of delivery performance and convenient access are fundamental aspects of the EU postal policy. The Commission monitors and ensures the correct implementation of the regulatory framework and, where appropriate, proposes changes to this framework in order to achieve the Community's postal policy objectives. The above-mentioned directives provide the European legal framework with which the national regulatory authorities are to accelerate and promote the opening of markets.

The process of liberalising the postal services market in the EU was initially set in motion by the Green Paper on the development of the single market for postal services in 1992, as part of the goal to create a European single market. The aim is to get national monopolies to open up to competition in order to make postal services cheaper, faster, more efficient and more innovative, harmonise performance across EU Member States and improve the quality of cross border-services.

The ongoing process of liberalization has brought about a gradual reduction of reserved postal services, and the complete liberalization of the postal sector is expected as of January 1, 2011 (2013 for some EU Member States). Five EU Member States have already fully liberalised their postal service markets: Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and UK.

Further Eurostat information

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Notes

  1. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. For GDP, total employment and population, see references of Graphs 1-4.
  2. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey, 2008. Figures in italic are estimated. Post offices: revised figures for ES.
  3. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey, 2008. On-time delivery: The indicators refer to % of priority letters delivered on-time according to national performance indicators (DOM 501). The standard measured is D+1, except for SI (2004) and RO, where it is D+2 and for ES and HR (2004), where it is D+3. DE: Figures for 2004 and 2005 (measured by Bundesnetzagentur), 2006 and 2007 (measured according to EN 13850).
  4. Source: Turnover: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008; GDP: Eurostat, National accounts – ESA. The turnover refers to the total turnover from the provision of postal and related services domestically (FIN 303). Turnover data for CZ (2007), MT (2004), HU (2007) and SK (2004) are confidential. Turnover data for AT (2007) and RO (2004) are not available. Confidential data and estimations of missing data are included in the EU-27 aggregate. Variations between the years can be explained by an increase or decrease in the turnover and/or the GDP of the countries.
  5. Source: Employment in the postal sector: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. Total employment: Eurostat, Annual employment averages, domestic concept – ESA, except for FR, RO and IS – resident population concept - LFS. Employment in the postal sector refers to the total number of persons employed for the provision of postal and related services domestically (EMPL 106). Data on domestic employment in the postal sector are confidential for IT (2004) and not available for IE (2007) and IT (2007). The figures for the EU-27 aggregates have been calculated without IT, for IE figures have been estimated.
  6. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. Population data of Eurostat: national population, population by sex and age on 1 January 2005 / 1 January 2008. The indicator refers to all offices open to the public and all postal agencies, as well as mobile offices (ACC 202). CZ: delivery and collection personal included ("mobile postmen", which cannot be separated from "mobile offices"). CY: "agents" included in the figures. These agents own small businesses in villages and - next to the provision of basic postal services – deliver and collect mail in the respective village. ES: revised figures for all data years.
  7. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. CZ: ACC 2023: mobile postmen are included. CY: "agents" included. "Agents'" own small businesses in village and – next to the provision of basic postal services – deliver and collect mail in the respective village. ES: revised figures.
  8. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. Population data of Eurostat: national population, population by sex and age on 1 January 2005/2008. The indicator refers to the total letter-post services (ITM 402). Letter-post services include ordinary letters and postcards, direct mail, registered mail, insured mail and other letter-post items. Data on letter-post items: BE, LT (2004), AT, and UK (2007) are not available. Data on letter-post items of FR, MT (2004), UK (2004) and FR are confidential. PL: revised figures for all previous data years.
  9. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. The indicator refers to the total letter-post services (ITM 402) in relation to the domestic employment (EMPL 106). Data on letter-post items: BE, LT (2004), AT, and UK (2007) are not available. Data on letter-post items of FR, MT (2004), UK (2004) are confidential. Data on employment for IT (2004) are confidential and for IE (2007) and IT (2007) not available. PL: revised figures for all previous data years for letter-post items.
  10. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. Ordinary letters and postcards (LET 409) are shown in relation to the total letter-post services (ITM 402). Data on letter-post items: BE, LT (2004), AT, and UK (2007) are not available. Data on letter-post items of FR, MT (2004), UK (2004) are confidential. LET 409: data for BE, LT (2004), NL (2007), AT, IS, and NO are not available. Data for FR, MT (2004), PT and UK (2004) are confidential.
  11. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. The indicator refers to the reserved area (ITM 403) in relation to the total letter-post services (ITM 402). ITM 403: no data available for BE, EE (2004), IT, CY, MT (2004), NL, AT, FI, SE, UK, NO. Some of these countries have no reserved area. ITM 402: Data for BE, LT (2004), AT, and UK (2007) are not available. Data of FR, MT (2004), UK (2004) are confidential.
  12. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008. The indicator refers to % of priority letters delivered on-time according to national performance indicators (DOM 501). The standard measured is D+1, except for SI (2004), and RO, where it is D+2, for ES and HR (2004), where it is D+3. DE: the figure for 2004 was measured by the German NRA (Bundesnetzagentur), the figure for 2007 was measured according to EN 13850. No data available for BG (2006) and RO (2004). The quality of service data is not directly comparable among Member States due to variations in national operations.
  13. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008 and Eurostat, bilateral exchange rates, annual data. The indicator refers to the domestic list price payable for the handling of a standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service), (PRI 601). No data available for BG (2007). Exchange rates used for currency conversions of the countries (BG, DK, CZ, EE, CY, LV, LT, HU, MT, PL, RO, SI, SK, SE, UK, HR, IS, NO) not using the EURO as national currency, are the annual averages of 2004 and of 2007. (CY, MT, SI and SK have introduced in the meantime the EURO as national currency). Prices in the different countries might not be comparable due to different pricing systems used, either pricing according to weight or pricing according to format.
  14. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008 and Eurostat, bilateral exchange rates, annual data. The indicator refers to the Intra-EU list price payable for the handling of a standard (1st class) letter weighing less than 20 g (universal service), (PRI 602). No data available for BG (2007) and MT (2004). Exchange rates used for currency conversions of the countries (BG, DK, CZ, EE, CY, LV, LT, HU, MT, PL, RO, SI, SK, SE, UK, HR, IS, NO) not using the EURO as national currency, are the annual averages of 2004 and of 2007. (CY, MT, SI and SK have introduced in the meantime the euro as national currency). Prices in the different countries might not be comparable due to different pricing systems used, either pricing according to weight or pricing according to format.
  15. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008 and Eurostat, purchasing power parities and comparative price level indices for ESA95 aggregates. Aggregate used: individual household consumption.(A01). No data available for BG (2007).
  16. Source: Eurostat, EU Postal Survey 2008 and Eurostat, purchasing power parities and comparative price level indices for ESA95 aggregates. Aggregate used: individual household consumption (A01). No data available for BG (2007) and MT (2004).
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