Enterprise Survey Methodology

The World Bank Enterprise Survey (WBES) is a firm-level survey of a representative sample of an economy's private sector. The surveys cover a broad range of topics related to the business environment including access to finance, corruption, infrastructure, competition, and performance.



Since 2005-2006, the WBES implemented by the Enterprise Analysis Unit follow the Global Methodology. Earlier datasets from differing survey instruments have been matched to a standard instrument for dissemination on the website and data portal. Note that data users should exercise caution when comparing raw data and point estimates between surveys that did and surveys that did not adhere to the WBES Global Methodology.

Who conducts the surveys:

Private contractors conduct the WBES on behalf of the World Bank. Surveys are usually carried out in cooperation with business organizations and government agencies promoting job creation and economic growth, but anonymity is never compromised. The mode of data collection is face-to-face interviews (in-person or virtual).

Who is surveyed:

The WBES is answered by business owners and top managers. The survey respondents might sometimes involve accountants and human resource managers to answer some questions.

  • Firms classified with ISIC Rev. 4 codes 10-33, 41-43, 45-47, 49-53, 55-56, 58, 61-62, 69-75, 79, and 95. These are firms in manufacturing, construction, retail, wholesale, hotels, restaurants, transport, storage, communications, professional services, and IT.*
  • Formal (registered) companies with five or more workers.
  • Firms that have at least 1% of private ownership.

Occasionally, for a few economies, other sectors are included, such as education or health.

What is asked:

The standard WBES questionnaire covers over 15 topics, including firm characteristics, gender participation, access to finance, annual sales, among others. See the questionnaire here.

Over 90% of the questions are fact-based, while the remaining 10% assess the respondents’ opinions on obstacles to their firm’s growth and performance.

Sampling and weights:

The WBES uses stratified random sampling, with the following strata:

  • firm size, most frequently: small (5-19 workers), medium (20-99), and large (100+)
  • business sector
  • geographic region within an economy

The Sampling Note provides the rationale for the sample sizes.

Sampling frame:

Ideally, the survey sample frame is derived from the universe of eligible firms obtained from the economy’s statistical office. Sometimes the master list of firms is obtained from other government agencies such as tax or business licensing authorities. In some cases, the list of firms is obtained from business associations or marketing databases. In a few cases, the sample frame is created via block enumeration, where the World Bank “manually” constructs a list of eligible firms after 1) partitioning an economy’s cities of major economic activity into clusters and blocks, and 2) randomly selecting a subset of blocks which will then be enumerated. Since 2005-06, the publicly available survey documentation details the source of the sample frame.

Panel data:

The WBES also provides panel data, i.e., interviews with the same firms across multiple years. When conducting a new WBES, maximal effort is expended to re-interview at least half of the firms from the prior WBES. For these panel firms, sampling weights are adjusted to consider the resulting altered probabilities of inclusion in the sample frame.

* Please note that from August 2022, the WBES uses ISIC Rev. 4 (instead of Rev.3.1) for categorizing business activity.  Henceforth, businesses under Section M of ISIC Rev. 4, i.e., professional, scientific, and technical activities, became eligible to participate.


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