medium-size firms are only sampled, and it is this domain of firms where the greatest need for burden management exists. Given the theme of this report that a need exists to increase sampling of young and small firms in business surveys, it is especially important to develop mechanisms to help spread the burden across those firms.
Two different approaches can achieve this ideal level of burden sharing, and both should be examined by survey managers and statisticians. The first approach may be called the PRN system, which entails the assignment of a permanent random number to each firm (or establishment) in the register. The random number would be stored as a separate field and would be available permanently both for a given survey over time and to different surveys across agencies. The random number would be used for specifying probability samples of firms. Because the number is permanent, it would provide a basis for spreading the sampling across all firms in the population. The implication is that all firms would be asked to respond to a similar number of surveys, leveling the response burden across firms. Some firms would not be asked to respond to a disproportionately large number of surveys, which is what could hypothetically happen today. The coordination or management of reporting burden according to a PRN system has been implemented in Sweden and is described by Ohlsson (1995).
The second approach may be called the burden budget system. If Xi is the size of the i-th firm, then define a burden budget Bi proportional to Xi, for each firm in the population. The burden budget might be expressed in units of hours, completed survey questionnaires, or the like. The burden budget would represent the firm’s total obligation to respond over a defined period of time, such as five years. Every five years, the burden budget might be reset to its original value. The business register would record the specific surveys for which each firm was selected to participate, both over time and across agencies. With each survey in which the firm participated, the cumulative burden budget would be reduced by a measure of its participation. At any given time, Bi would represent the firm’s remaining burden in the five-year period. In sampling for a new survey, the firm would be selected with a probability proportional to, or otherwise positively related to, Bi. Thus, as the firm fulfills its assigned reporting obligation through participation in surveys, its cumulative Bi declines and its probability of selection in future surveys declines. In this way, firms that have not participated eventually do participate because their cumulative Bi has not declined and, correspondingly, their probabilities of selection in future surveys increase. A simple system of this type operates in the United Kingdom for small firms. Participation in a survey in a given year earns very small firms a guarantee that they will not be asked to participate in another survey for a set period—three years in the UK example (Office for National Statistics, 2005). A