The Excelsior Information System: a brief methodological note

 More than twenty years after its creation, the Excelsior Information System has established itself as one of the most widely used sources for monitoring the qualitative and quantitative dynamics of labour demand.

In order to make the most of its potential, various methodological innovations began to be introduced starting in 2017, even to provide for a better understanding of the inflow of workers into companies, by linking them more directly to the pursuit of the active labour policies’ goals.

The changes affected both the methodological and organisational aspects of the Excelsior project, the most important being:

  • the transformation of the survey into a continuous reading, carried out on a monthly basis, rather than quarterly or annually, as was the case up until 2016, mainly using the C.A.W.I. (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) technique, which is more flexible with respect to the traditional C.A.T.I. (Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing) technique;
  • the use of a mobile forecast quarter in which each survey has a dynamic time horizon that extends over the next three months; in this manner, the data relating to each month surveyed receive an information contribution equal to 3 readings;
  • greater involvement of the chamber system within each project phase in order to bolster the direct relationships between the Chambers of Commerce themselves and the businesses throughout the territory;
  • improved reliability of the estimates given by the monthly survey, which allows businesses to express the labour demand from a very short-term forecasting perspective;
  • the adoption of a specific method for modelling the historical data obtained from administrative sources on businesses and employment (EMENS - INPS connected to the Business Register), in order to estimate the forecast inflow, integrated accordingly with the sample data relating to each monthly survey;
  • the expansion of the concept of inflow and the relative characteristics to also include flows of collaborators, temporary workers, and other non-salaried workers, in addition to the hiring of direct employees alone;
  • the adoption of a more streamlined questionnaire compared to that of the previous annual surveys, with a specific focus on expected inflow and the relative skills and characteristics required.

Field of observation

The Excelsior survey’s field of observation consists of businesses operating in the industrial and service sectors with an annual average of at least 0.5 employees. The agricultural sectors, the Public Administration, professional firms, and entities that are not registered with the Chambers of Commerce, including non-profits, are therefore excluded.

This definition takes into consideration over 1.3 million businesses (approximately one third of all businesses in the industrial and service sectors), with a total of about 12 million employees (corresponding to two thirds of the total).

It should be noted that, for the purposes of the analyses, only contracts with a duration of at least 20 business days are examined.

The classifications used in Excelsior

With regard to the economic activities, reference is made to the official Istat ATECO 2007 classification, which represents the Italian version of the European NACE Rev. 2 classification.

With regard to professional figures, reference is made to the Istat CP2011 classification, which includes the latest entries introduced by the International Standard Classification of Occupations – ISCO08.

The levels of education listed in Excelsior are consistent with the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED).

Finally, the territorial details are consistent with the European Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) classification.

Results and objectives

The various innovations introduced into the Excelsior Information System in an effort to increasingly improve its usefulness as an information tool in support of active employment policies and professional and training guidance have had a major impact on the sizing of the inflow detected, which, net of the phenomena not observed by the Excelsior Information System, by definition, are now consistent with the data recorded by the INPS administrative source.

Moreover, thanks to the systematic dissemination of the results of the monthly surveys, which lay out the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the professional profiles sought in the short term, they also allow the Excelsior Information System to provide timely indications in support of active employment policies, with detailed information even at the sectoral and territorial levels.

The annual reports (thematic bulletins and volumes) analyse the behaviour of businesses in relation to human resources issues, and with respect to the characteristics of the professional figures being sought (training, skills, experience, etc.), and represent a useful information tool to support training and occupational guidance, to facilitate a balance between supply and demand on the labour market, and to assist institutional training policy makers and training operators at all levels.

Finally, as an additional cognitive contribution useful for the planning and preparation of available training services, and for guiding the choices between the different levels of education on the part of students and families, since 2010 the Excelsior Information System has also provided forecasts regarding medium-term employment needs (five-year horizon) through a multi-sectoral econometric model, with an approach similar to that used by CEDEFOP at the European level.