Weekly news release on bankruptcies

Bob Kruithof and Cor Boset are working on quick monthly and weekly bankruptcy updates
© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie / My Eyes4u productions
The economic impact of the coronavirus crisis makes it more relevant than ever to provide reliable information on company bankruptcies. This is why, as of April, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports not only monthly but also weekly on bankruptcies in the Netherlands. The switch to weekly publication involved clearing some hurdles, but came about rapidly.
As soon as it became clear how severe the economic impact of the COVID-19 measures might be, CBS decided it would be necessary to report weekly on corporate bankruptcies. This met with an enthusiastic response from the users of CBS figures, including policy makers and industry associations.

New at CBS

‘CBS normally reports figures on a monthly, quarterly or an annual basis,’ statistical researcher Cor Boset explains. ‘The weekly report is a major change, but the data were available. This is how we were able to make a quick adjustment.’ CBS compiles bankruptcty statistics with the use of data from Dutch courts. ‘We receive these data on a daily basis. However, our data processing system was designed to come up with monthly figures. This is why we’ve developed a new working procedure that enables us to produce weekly reports. The new procedure runs alongside the existing statistics with monthly figures.’

Complicated calculation

To compile a statistic based on raw data from the courts, the data must be read, checked and enriched with CBS register data. These operations are the same for the weekly as for the monthly statistic. Boset: ‘Only the statistics calculation is performed separately. This sort of calculation system is more complicated than you think: it's not just a question of aggregating the number of pronounced bankruptcies. The data we receive are raw and all need to be classified correctly to avoid double counting of bankruptcies.’ The rapid switch to weekly in addition to monthly reports was feasible as CBS was able to take over much of the old working method. ‘It’s running perfectly now,’ says statistical researcher Bob Kruithof, who ensures that the data are presented and published in a clear and coherent manner.

Breakdown of sectors

To accommodate the wishes of those using the statistic, CBS now provides more detailed breakdowns in its reports of the sectors where many bankruptcies can be expected. One such sector is accommodation and food services. Kruithof: ‘Our users are pleased, although we still see a demand for even greater detail. This is not always possible, because CBS is bound by legal agreements regarding privacy. CBS publishes data on bankruptcies by either region or Standard Industrial Classification (SIC, or SBI in Dutch). While the datasets were being designed, legal experts and methodologists took into account confidentiality. Bankruptcy data at the individual level are publicly available; yet, CBS must comply with the confidentiality requirements.’

Cor Boset: ‘To give an example, we are allowed to break down data by region or by sector, but we’re not allowed to combine those data. For example, we can’t say a bakery in Fryslân province went bankrupt in week 22. If we did, there would be too much risk of revealing the baker’s identity.’ By publishing the data broken by region or by SBI, confidentiality is adequately guaranteed.

With retroactive effect

The weekly figures are available retroactively for the whole year. Kruithof: ‘The weekly news release will continue to exist as long as there is a need for it.’ It should be noted that at this moment, there is no visible increase in the number of bankruptcies. Boset: ‘We are expecting more bankruptcies when the criteria that apply to the government’s support measures become stricter. Moreover, a bankruptcy is only represented in the statistics after a court ruling. This tends to take some time.’