Wanted: academic talent with a passion for statistics

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
© Sjoerd van der Hucht
How many people live in the Netherlands? What percentage share of the energy consumption is sustainable? What are the top export destinations for Dutch businesses? Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has answers to these and numerous other questions. But what is it like to be working at CBS? Two talented researchers will tell us more about this.

Affinity with statistics

After earning her master’s degree in International Economics and Business at Utrecht University, Nilani Perampalam joined the National Accounts department at CBS. ‘I have an affinity with figures. During my studies, I saw the added value which CBS data have in research conducted by universities, the government and the private sector. The national accounts play a major role in policy-making; not just for CPB (the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) and national ministries, but also for the European Central Bank and Eurostat (the EU statistical office), for instance.’

Identifying patterns

In order to arrive at a comprehensive overview of the Dutch economy, CBS collects economic data on e.g. unemployment and the number of job vacancies in the Netherlands. Perampalam: ‘Data collection is done according to European directives. This means data from all member states can be compared with each other. At the National Accounts department, I compiled the figures on non-financial institutions. Based on that I could arrive at an assessment of the various business sectors. To do this kind of work, you need to know how to establish connections and identify patterns.’

‘I have been working at Statistics Canada (StatCan) on a two-year secondment since the beginning of this year’

International experience

Perampalam was always interested in gaining international experience, and CBS took a positive stance on this. ‘Since the beginning of this year, I have been working at Statistics Canada (StatCan) on a two-year secondment, again at the department of National Accounts. I’m learning a great deal by seeing how another statistical office compiles the national accounts. At the moment, StatCan only publishes the consolidated and national balance sheet accounts per business sector. From 2021 onwards, they will be obliged to publish on those sectors which receive particular transaction input as well. This really draws on my expertise as CBS is already publishing this type of data.’

Large data files

Ahmed Boutorat studied econometrics at Maastricht University and currently works at CBS as a statistical researcher at the department of information development and output. ‘Here, I process, connect and analyse large data files on the basis of which we develop and publish new statistics.’ Boutorat works in a team with highly skilled colleagues. ‘The work atmosphere is pleasant and open. Moreover, the work I am doing is socially relevant. The figures we produce are used towards policy-making. For instance, I have participated in a study that should answer the question whether stimulating of exports by the government leads to an actual increase in exports by the private sector.’ According to Boutorat, another major plus in his job is variety: ‘You work on a large survey commissioned by a ministry one day, the next day you’re writing a news article about, say, the effects of import competition on innovation by businesses.’

Secondary employment benefits

Boutorat is also very content with the secondary employment conditions at CBS. ‘CBS goes the extra mile for its employees, which shows appreciation. It’s in sometimes little things like the possibility to work from home, or training courses to further develop yourself. For example, I’ve completed various courses in statistics and ICT and will be taking a course in web scraping shortly. This is a technique which allows information from webpages to be collected and analysed using special software. It’s really interesting to be part of these new methods in statistics production.’

CBS has plenty of room for IT talent. For more information on careers at CBS, go to: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/about-us/careers-at-cbs