What are gender statistics

Modified on 2015/05/01 04:33 by Sean Zheng — Categorized as: Chapter 1 - An overview on Gender statistics

Gender statistics are defined as statistics that adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men in all areas of life (United Nations, 2006). This definition closely follows the Beijing Platform for Action, which was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, and in paragraph 206 (a) of which it was recommended that national, regional and international statistical services should ensure that statistics related to individuals are collected, compiled, analysed and presented by sex and age and reflect problems, issues and questions related to women and men in society (United Nations, 1996). There are several requirements imbedded in the definition of gender statistics (Hedman, Perucci and Sundström, 1996; United Nations, 2001a, 2001b, 2002, 2006, 2007; Corner, 2003). First, gender statistics have to reflect gender issues, that is, questions, problems and concerns related to all aspects of women’s and men’s lives, including their specific needs, opportunities and contributions to society. In every society, there are differences between what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman and what is expected, allowed and valued in a man. These differences have a specific impact on women’s and men’s lives throughout all life stages and determine, for example, differences in health, education, work, family life or general well-being. Producing gender statistics entails disaggregating data by sex and other characteristics to reveal those differences or inequalities and collecting data on specific issues that affect one sex more than the other or relate to gender relations between women and men. Second, gender statistics should adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men. In other words, concepts and definitions used in data collection must be developed in such a way as to ensure that the diversity of various groups of women and men and their specific activities and challenges are captured. In addition, data collection methods that induce gender bias in data collection, such as underreporting of women’s economic activity, underreporting of violence against women and undercounting of girls, their births and their deaths should be avoided.

2. In summary, gender statistics are defined by the sum of the following characteristics:

(a) Data are collected and presented by sex as a primary and overall classification;

(b) Data reflect gender issues;

(c) Data are based on concepts and definitions that adequately reflect the diversity of women and men and capture all aspects of their lives;

(d) Data collection methods take into account stereotypes and social and cultural factors that may induce gender bias in the data.

Gender statistics are more than data disaggregated by sex. The characteristics listed above are useful in differentiating between sex-disaggregated statistics (the first requirement in the list above) and gender statistics (which incorporate all four requirements). Sex-disaggregated statistics are simply data collected and tabulated separately for women and men. Disaggregating data by sex does not guarantee, for example, that the data collection instruments involved in the data production were conceived to reflect gender roles, relations and inequalities in society (United Nations, 2001a). Furthermore, some statistics that incorporate a gender perspective are not necessarily disaggregated by sex. For example, national accounts statistics that incorporate a gender perspective take into account both women’s and men’s contribution to all social and economic areas, including unpaid work.

Confusion between “sex” and “gender” still persists among producers and users of statistics (United Nations, 2001a, 2002; Corner, 2003; UNECE, and World Bank Institute, 2010). The word “sex” refers to biological differences between women and men. Biological differences are fixed and unchangeable and do not vary across cultures or over time. “Gender”, meanwhile, refers to socially-constructed differences in the attributes and opportunities associated with being female or male and to social interactions and relationships between women and men. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or man in a given context. In most societies, there are differences and inequalities between women and men in terms of roles and responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources and decision-making opportunities. These differences and inequalities between the sexes are shaped by the history of social relations and change over time and across cultures.

The term “gender” has often been wrongly used in association with data. “Gender disaggregation” or “data disaggregated by gender” are incorrect terms. Gender statistics are disaggregated by sex, an individual-level characteristic commonly recorded in censuses, surveys and administrative records, not by gender, a social concept relevant at the level of a population group (Corner, 2003). When data on demographic, social or economic characteristics are collected in the field, it is the sex of a person that is recorded, as female (woman) or male (man), not the gender. Sex-disaggregated data, however, when analysed, have the capacity to reveal differences in women’s and men’s lives that are the result of gender roles and expectations.

Gender statistics should not be equated with women’s statistics. The understanding of gender statistics, their uses and their users has changed over time (Hedman, Perucci and Sundström, 1996; Corner, 2003). Initial work focused on producing statistics on women, in the context where many countries were collecting data by sex, but most of the data were analysed and/or made available to users as totals, without the possibility of differentiating between women and men. The demand for data and indicators on women came from women’s organizations and women’s advocates, who needed statistics to support new policies and programmes oriented towards reducing the disadvantages faced by women. Since then, however, the focus has shifted from “women only” to “women and men”, both in terms of statistics and in terms of policies. In terms of statistics, it became clear that the situation of women could be adequately described and analysed only by comparing it to that of men. In addition, statisticians have recognized that improvement is also needed in the area of statistics on men. (Hedman, Perucci and Sundström, 1996). Specific issues related to men’s lives, such as harmful levels of drinking and smoking, greater risk of accidents or injuries and access to paid paternity leave, have increasingly been taken into account and covered by gender statistics. In terms of policies, the change of focus from women to gender stemmed from a recognition that isolating women’s concerns from mainstream development policies and strategies limits the impact of such policies and strategies whereas paying more attention to the roles and responsibilities of both women and men and their interrelationships can make policies and strategies more effective.