History of statistics in Belgium

The precursors of the current statistical institutions were set up at Adolphe Quetelet’s instigation in early Belgium. The Statistical Bureau (1826) was the executive body and the Central Statistical Commission (1841) ensured the coordination of all statistical initiatives in Belgium.

The first census in Belgium was taken on 15 October 1846. An agricultural and industrial census was organized simultaneously. Census and surveys became more and more numerous and resulted in many publications. However, after Quetelet’s death in 1874, the interest in public statistics weakened. It was not before after World War I that the public statistics were thoroughly reorganized in Belgium.

The Bureau of General Statistics became the Office of General Statistics in 1925. This name changed in 1932 already and new missions were assigned. The Central Bureau of Statistics was from then on empowered to carry out large-scale censuses and surveys, to edit all statistical publications and to produce statistics.  The law of 18 December 1936 introduced the obligation for private persons to respond to some surveys.

A second major reorganization took place after World War II. The National Statistical Institute (NSI) was created in 1946. In the same year the Central Statistical Commission was reformed and renamed to Higher Council of Statistics. The NSI produced a growing number of statistics within the framework created by the Statistics Act of 1962.

The federal government set up the Institute for National Accounts in 1994. This institution gathers representatives from three important institutes, that is the NSI, the National Bank of Belgium and the Federal Planning Bureau.

The NSI rapidly understood the importance of the Internet and launched its successful website in 1998.

As a result of the Copernicus reform the NSI was converted into the Directorate General Statistics and Economic Information (DGSEI) and became one of the Directorates General of the Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy. With the new Statistics Act of 2006, the DGSEI became the key player in the statistical scene of Belgium.

This Act has established a modern framework for the collection, the production and the dissemination of high quality economic and statistical information.