Survey structure, administration, and methodology
The Survey is divided into 15 sections:
- About Your Company
- Most Problematic Factors for Doing Business
- Financial Environment
- Foreign Trade and Investment
- Domestic Competition
- Business Operations and Innovation
- Education and Human Capital
- Travel and Tourism
Most questions in the Survey ask respondents to evaluate, on a scale of 1 to 7, one particular aspect of their operating environment. At one end of the scale, 1 represents the worst possible situation; at the other end of the scale, 7 represents the best (see Box 1 for an example).
The administration of the Survey could not be carried out without the network of over 160 Partner Institutes worldwide. Partner Institutes are recognized research or academic institutes, business organizations, national competitiveness councils, or other established professional entities and, in some cases, survey consultancies, that have the network and capacity to reach out to the business community, are reputable organizations, and have a firm commitment to improving the competitiveness conditions of their economies (for the full list, see the Partner Institutes section at the beginning of this Report).1
In administering the Survey, Partner Institutes are asked to follow detailed sampling guidelines to ensure that the sample of respondents is the most representative possible and comparable across the globe and in a specific timeframe. The sampling guidelines were developed based on best practices in the field of survey administration and on discussions with survey experts. In view of comparability across countries and time, the sampling guidelines have remained the same since their revision and the improvements implemented in 2012. The Survey sampling guidelines specify that the Partner Institute build a “sample frame”—that is, a list of potential business executives from small- and medium-sized enterprises and large companies—from the various sectors of activity, as detailed below. It then applies a dual stratification procedure based on these two criteria of company size and sector. Specifically, the Partner Institutes are asked to carry out the following steps:
- Prepare a “sample frame,” or large list of potential respondents, which includes firms representing the main sectors of the economy (agriculture, manufacturing industry, non-manufacturing industry, and services).
- Separate the frame into two lists: one that includes only large firms, and one that includes all other firms (both lists representing the various economic sectors).2
- Based on these lists, and in view of reducing survey bias, choose a random selection of these firms from both lists to receive the Survey.
Furthermore, the sampling guidelines specify that the Partner Institute should aim to collect a combination of random respondents with some repeat respondents for further comparative analysis.3 The Survey is administered in a variety of formats, including face-to-face or telephone interviews with business executives, mailed paper forms, and online surveys. For energy, time, and cost considerations, the Forum encourages the use of the online survey tool. However, deciding which of these differing methodologies to use may be based on the particular country’s infrastructure, distance between cities, cultural preferences, and other such issues.
The Partner Institutes also play an active and essential role in disseminating the findings of The Global Competitiveness Report and other reports published by the World Economic Forum by holding press events and workshops to highlight the results at the national level to the business community, the public sector, and other stakeholders.
Striving for excellence
The World Economic Forum has, over the years, always given great importance to reflecting the newest thinking in matters of development and measurement of economic growth as well as to applying surveying best practices. To this end, it has undertaken two audits since 2008 as well as yearly reviews of the Survey.
An initial audit by a team of survey experts from Gallup was performed in 2008, following which a number of recommendations were implemented. A second audit was conducted in 2012 by Gallup, during which the Survey instrument, the sampling guidelines, and the administration process underwent a thorough review. The review took a twofold approach, analyzing the recommendations and their impact on the process as well as keeping up to date on best practices in the field of surveying. Overall, the outcomes of both reviews were very positive. The Executive Opinion Survey process has implemented all the needed improvements with regard to the Survey tool, translations, and sampling quality as well as following international best practices in surveying. Box 2 presents some statistics about the Survey’s demographics and reveals that the sample of respondents is very diverse.
The 2012 audit addressed an important aspect related to the impact of national culture—the so-called cultural bias—that may impact interviewee responses. The Global Competitiveness and Risks Team recognizes this as a possibility; nonetheless, following international best practices and upon Gallup’s recommendation, it was decided not to re-weight the data using vignettes because of the limited effectiveness of such a procedure and to prevent introducing additional noise into the data that can occur with such an approach. In view of aiming to prevent national bias, the Partner Institutes are reminded to complete the survey according to guidelines and to ask the respondents to answer the survey in view of the country they are assessing based on international comparison.
In the context of the GCI revision (see Chapter 1.2), the Survey was entirely reviewed in the Fall of 2014, resulting in a streamlined and shortened questionnaire that also aims to better capture the concepts included in the GCI.
With such ongoing efforts in the realm of survey administration best practice, the Forum’s competitiveness team continues to improve processes to achieve greater data accuracy and heightened comparability across economies. Further details about the Survey’s statistics and weightings can be seen in Table 2.