Doing Business 2016 Data Notes

The indicators presented and analyzed in Doing Business measure business regulation and the protection of property rights—and their effect on businesses, especially small and medium-size domestic firms. First, the indicators document the complexity of regulation, such as the number of procedures to start a business or to register a transfer of commercial property. Second, they gauge the time and cost to achieve a regulatory goal or comply with regulation, such as the time and cost to enforce a contract, go through bankruptcy or trade across borders. Third, they measure the extent of legal protections of property, for example, the protections of minority investors against looting by company directors or the range of assets that can be used as collateral according to secured transactions laws. Fourth, a set of indicators documents the tax burden on businesses. Finally, a set of data covers different aspects of employment regulation. The 11 sets of indicators measured in Doing Business were added over time, and the sample of economies and cities expanded. 

The data for all sets of indicators in Doing Business 2016 are for June 2015 (1).


The Doing Business data are collected in a standardized way. To start, the Doing Business team, with academic advisers, designs a questionnaire. The questionnaire uses a simple business case to ensure comparability across economies and over time—with assumptions about the legal form of the business, its size, its location and the nature of its operations. Questionnaires are administered to more than 10,700 local experts, including lawyers, business consultants, accountants, freight forwarders, government officials and other professionals routinely administering or advising on legal and regulatory requirements (table 13.2). These experts have several rounds of interaction with the Doing Business team, involving conference calls, written correspondence and visits by the team. For Doing Business 2016 team members visited 33 economies to verify data and recruit respondents. The data from questionnaires are subjected to numerous rounds of verification, leading to revisions or expansions of the information collected.

The Doing Business methodology offers several advantages. It is transparent, using factual information about what laws and regulations say and allowing multiple interactions with local respondents to clarify potential misinterpretations of questions. Having representative samples of respondents is not an issue; Doing Business is not a statistical survey, and the texts of the relevant laws and regulations are collected and answers checked for accuracy. The methodology is inexpensive and easily replicable, so data can be collected in a large sample of economies. Because standard assumptions are used in the data collection, comparisons and benchmarks are valid across economies. Finally, the data not only highlight the extent of specific regulatory obstacles to business but also identify their source and point to what might be reformed.

Limits to what is measured

The Doing Business methodology has five limitations that should be considered when interpreting the data. First, for most economies the collected data refer to businesses in the largest business city (which in some economies differs from the capital) and may not be representative of regulation in other parts of the economy. (The exceptions are 11 economies with a population of more than 100 million as of 2013, where Doing Business now also collects data for the second largest business city (2). To address this limitation, subnational Doing Business indicators were created. Second, the data often focus on a specific business form—generally a limited liability company (or its legal equivalent) of a specified size—and may not be representative of the regulation on other businesses (for example, sole proprietorships). Third, transactions described in a standardized case scenario refer to a specific set of issues and may not represent the full set of issues that a business encounters. Fourth, the measures of time involve an element of judgment by the expert respondents. When sources indicate different estimates, the time indicators reported in Doing Business represent the median values of several responses given under the assumptions of the standardized case.

Finally, the methodology assumes that a business has full information on what is required and does not waste time when completing procedures. In practice, completing a procedure may take longer if the business lacks information or is unable to follow up promptly. Alternatively, the business may choose to disregard some burdensome procedures. For both reasons the time delays reported in Doing Business 2016 would differ from the recollection of entrepreneurs reported in the World Bank Enterprise Surveys or other firm-level surveys.

Changes in what is measured

As part of a two-year update in methodology, Doing Business 2016 expands the focus of five indicator sets (dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, enforcing contracts and labor market regulation), substantially revises the methodology for one indicator set (trading across borders) and implements small updates to the methodology for another (protecting minority investors).

The indicators on dealing with construction permits now include an index of the quality of building regulation and its implementation. The getting electricity indicators now include a measure of the price of electricity consumption and an index of the reliability of electricity supply and transparency of tariffs. Starting this year, the registering property indicators include an index of the quality of the land administration system in each economy in addition to the indicators on the number of procedures and the time and cost to transfer property. And for enforcing contracts an index of the quality and efficiency of judicial processes has been added while the indicator on the number of procedures to enforce a contract has been dropped.

The scope of the labor market regulation indicator set has also been expanded, to include more areas capturing aspects of job quality. The labor market regulation indicators continue to be excluded from the aggregate distance to frontier score and ranking on the ease of doing business.

The case study underlying the trading across borders indicators has been changed to increase its relevance. For each economy the export product and partner are now determined on the basis of the economy’s comparative advantage, the import product is auto parts, and the import partner is selected on the basis of which economy has the highest trade volume in that product. The indicators continue to measure the time and cost to export and import.

Beyond these changes there is one other update in methodology, for the protecting minority investors indicators. A few points for the extent of shareholder governance index have been fine-tuned, and the index now also measures aspects of the regulations applicable to limited companies rather than privately held joint stock companies.

Data challenges and revisions

Most laws and regulations underlying the Doing Business data are available on the Doing Business website. All the sample questionnaires and the details underlying the indicators are also published on the website. Questions on the methodology and challenges to data can be submitted through the website’s "Ask a Question" function.

Doing Business publishes 21,800 indicators (109 indicators per economy) each year. To create these indicators, the team measures more than 110,000 data points, each of which is made available on the Doing Business website. Historical data for each indicator and economy are available on the website, beginning with the first year the indicator or economy was included in the report. To provide a comparable time series for research, the data set is back-calculated to adjust for changes in methodology and any revisions in data due to corrections. This year, however, the trading across borders indicators are back-calculated for only one year because of the significant changes in methodology for this indicator set. The website also makes available all original data sets used for background papers. The correction rate between Doing Business 2015 and Doing Business 2016 is 5.3% (3).

Governments submit queries on the data and provide new information to Doing Business. During the Doing Business 2016 production cycle the team received 107 such queries from governments. In addition, the team held multiple videoconferences with government representatives in 50 economies and in-person meetings with government representatives in 20 economies.


1. The data for paying taxes refer to January–December 2014.
2. These are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation and the United States.
3. This correction rate reflects changes that exceed 5% up or down.