Enterprise Surveys versus Doing Business

Enterprise Surveys and Doing Business are complementary, but different approaches to benchmarking the quality of the business environment across countries.

An Enterprise Survey is a firm-level survey of a representative sample of the private sector in an economy. The surveys cover a broad range of business environment topics including access to finance, corruption, infrastructure, crime, competition, and performance measures. Firm-level datasets, the investment climate indicators derived from them, as well as research papers are available on the website.

Doing Business focuses on measuring the complexity of business regulations and quantifying the ease of doing business across countries via indicator sets and rankings. The indicators cover common transactions such as starting a business or registering property based on standardized case-studies.

Topic Enterprise Surveys Doing Business
Global coverage Covers 139 economies and aims to conduct a survey in all emerging economies (143) once every 4-5 years. Some developed economies have also been surveyed for comparative purposes.
Collects data annually for 190 economies.
Data source Collects firm-level data. Each unit of observation is an enterprise. The business owner or top manager is usually the subject during the face-to-face interview. Businesses surveyed include manufacturing, retail, construction, transport, communications, and other services.
Collects information through surveys administered to local experts on the subject matter or business transaction such as lawyers, accountants, and architects. The information is confirmed through the underlying laws and regulations.
Number of observations
150-360 observations in smaller economies; 1200-1800 interviews in larger economies.
Underlying laws and regulations in addition to an average of 39 surveys per economy.
Geographical coverage within an economy
In each survey project, the sample design aims to include the main cities/regions of economic activity. The actual number of cities depends on the size of the economy. Major cities include the city itself as well as the surrounding areas within a specified radius.
Collects data only for the main (most populous) business city. However there are an increasing number of subnational studies that capture differences in business regulation across cities in a single country.
Information gathered
Objective data on the business environment as experienced by firms, performance measures, firm characteristics, and perceptions regarding obstacles to growth.
Time and cost to complete common business transactions based on standardized case-studies; underlying laws and regulations.
Measures several investment climate topics: firm characteristics, gender participation, access to finance, annual sales, costs of inputs/labor, workforce composition, corruption, licensing, infrastructure, trade, crime, competition, capacity utilization, land and permits, taxation, informality, business-government relations, innovation and technology.
Measures 11 business regulation topics: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, labor market regulation, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency. The labor market regulation topic is not included in the Doing Business rankings.
For land and permits, “Hard data” include number of days to obtain a construction permit and was a bribe required to obtain the permit. “Soft data” include the firm’s opinion on whether access to land is an obstacle faced by the establishment.
For construction permits, “Hard data” include the laws and regulations, number of procedures and costs to complete a standardized transaction such as building a warehouse. “Soft data” include experts’ estimates on the number of days required for each of the procedures.
Inference from the data
Because of the stratified random sampling design of the surveys, the data are representative of the universe of formal firms (with 5+ employees) in the economy for these sectors: groups D, F, G, H, I and subgroup 72 of the United Nations Statistics Division ISIC Rev. 3.1.
Measures business regulations based on standardized case-studies that relate to a common business situation. Because standard assumptions are used in the data collection, comparisons and benchmarks are valid across economies.
Measures what happens to existing firms. For instance, the actual experiences of a firm regarding the payment of taxes: number of meetings with tax officials and the incidence of bribery with tax officials. In addition to actual experiences, the enterprise is asked how much of an obstacle tax rates and tax administration are to business growth.
Measures what a standardized firm should expect if everything was done according to the official legal requirements and costs in place. For instance, “paying taxes” measures the number of payments related to all tax and other contributions, how long it typically takes to comply with requirements related to filing and paying taxes, and the tax rates themselves are documented.
Firms may or may not comply with regulations and regulations may or may not be enforced. ES measures what happens in practice in the normal course of business. For instance, ES measures if the firm pays a bribe when obtaining an import license and the actual time it took to obtain the license.
Assumes firms are aware of and comply with all formal regulations, waste no time in collecting information, and all regulations are enforced. Even if it is common practice to bribe customs officials, DB measures what would happen if the firm complies with all regulatory requirements in a lawful manner.
Can be used to identify potential areas of reform in the business environment as well as assess the impact of reforms on businesses. Can be used to identify areas for reform based on bottlenecks or weaknesses in specific areas of private sector regulation, gain insights and learn from practices in 183 other economies around the world.