Welcome to the website of the Inter-secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys

United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Innovative Methods to Measure the Impact of COVID-19 on Mortality through Surveys and Censuses

23 – 25 August 2022    Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (hybrid)   
meeting venue

The meeting will discuss and agree on a set of proposed recommendations for censuses and surveys based on ongoing research and experiments, and particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. These recommendations will seek to (a) improve adult mortality data collection in terms of quality, availability and timeliness; and (b) generate census and survey data that could be used to measure the impact of epidemics, pandemics and other disasters on adult mortality. The proposed recommendations would cover innovations in questionnaire design; interview methods and sampling strategies, as well as integration of surveys and censuses with other data sources on mortality (e.g., civil registration, health information systems). (By invitation only)

Meeting page

Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on Mortality: rethinking sampling strategies

Tuesday, 5 July 2022       9:00 - 10:30 AM (EDT)    Organized by: UN-DESA and WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Mortality Assessment – Working Group 2   

The webinar will focus on sampling strategies to collect data on adult mortality, which is a rare and potentially sensitive event. It will cover issues such as the selection of respondents, the sample sizes required to detect recent periods of excess mortality and/or differentials in mortality, as well as possibly innovative strategies to increase statistical power.

ISWGHS and the Global Network of Data Officers and Statisticians

24 May 2022   8:30 - 10:00 AM (EST)
Including Respondent Perspectives in International Survey Development to Improve Quality and Comparability of Data across Languages

In the webinar we first discuss best practices for survey translation. Next, we will turn to the topic of questionnaire pretesting methods, focusing in particular on how we implement the methods to test translated questionnaires at the U.S. Census Bureau. We will include discussion of how agencies and researchers new to respondent pretesting can incorporate this type of research into their processes. We will also discuss how to include different levels of review depending on the resources available on a given project. Finally, we will present a few emerging methods for including respondent voices in survey development. The inclusion of respondents in the survey design process is a vital component of producing the high-quality survey data necessary for making many important policy and planning decisions around the world.


Patricia Goerman, Mikelyn Meyers, Yazmín Garcia Trejo, U.S. Census Bureau

UNDESA/WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Mortality Assessment, Working Group 2

13 April 2022   9:00 - 10:30 AM (EST)
Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on Mortality: the potential of high frequency surveys

Organised by UNDES/WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Mortality Assessment, Working Group 2, the webinar will provide a platform to (a) exchange experience of countries and researchers in using high frequency surveys to collect data including those on adult mortality; and (b) discuss lessons learnt and experiences gained that can be incorporated into the recommendations for countries.

  • Webinar recording on YouTube

  • ISWGHS and the Global Network of Data Officers and Statisticians

    12 April 2022   8:00 - 9:30 AM (EST)
    Respondent Centred Surveys: Stop, Listen and then Design

    Colleagues from United Kingdom will share their experience in harnessing respondent centred surveys that lower respondents' burden and are of higher data quality.

    • Laura Wilson, UK Government Data Quality Hub
    • Emma Dickinson, Social Survey Transformation (SST), Office for National Statistics (ONS), United Kingdom
    List of resources:

    Rapidly innovating to produce timely data on violence against women

    16 March 2022

    While we just celebrated International Women's day, we recognize that women continue to face many inequalities and challenges – including rising violence. A recent report by UN Women produced new survey data confirming the "shadow pandemic" that is violence against women (VAW). In a conversation with Jessamyn O. Encarnacion, who is the Inter-Regional Advisor on Gender Statistics at UN Women, we find more about how innovations have helped produce the numbers behind this report.

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    ISWGHS-ECLAC Statistics Division joint webinar: measuring the impact of COVID-19 on survey data quality

    16 March 2022   10:00 am - 12:00 PM (EST)

    The webinar will present national experiences on the continuity of the production of official statistics based on household surveys during the pandemic and its impact on data quality. It will also present guidance on how to assess and minimise the impact of COVID on survey quality, aimed at NSOs interested in quantifying the effects of mode change and pandemic on official figures.

    More information: here

    UN Statistical Commission side event: Quick Data, Fast Actions: Emerging Approaches and Challenges

    21 February 2022   8:30-9:30 AM (EST)

    Given the urgency in national data needs for policymaking during the pandemic, almost all countries implemented at least one COVID impact assessment survey. Resiliency and fast actions of NSOs in the crisis have further expanded their roles as an indispensable partner for formulating pandemic-related interventions and policies. How countries responded to COVID-19 has proved the resilience of NSOs in responding to crisis but has also raised a number of questions that a panel of experts debated on including data quality standard, inclusiveness and ethical considerations.

    More information:

    Counted and Visible Toolkit

    cover image

    The Counted and Visible: Toolkit to Better Utilize Existing Data from Household Surveys to Generate Disaggregated Gender Statistics (Counted and Visible Toolkit) provides a compilation of tools and mechanisms used by several countries to produce evidence to inform gender-responsive policies and catalyze actions to leave no one behind. The selected countries are linked to UN Women’s global gender data programme, Women Count.

    The toolkit was developed by UN Women, in collaboration with the Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Surveys (ISWGHS), and benefited from the outcomes of the Counted and Visible global conference in 2020.

    International Statistical Institute: "IASS Webinar 11: Positioning Household Surveys for the Next Decade"

    23 November 2021

    Household surveys play a critical role in meeting national data needs. A recent mapping exercise found that approximately one-third of all Sustainable Development Goal global indicators (80 out of 232 indicators), covering 13 different goals, can be sourced from household surveys. Despite their fundamental role in national statistical systems over the past decades, household surveys are facing funding challenges and scepticism on their continued utility within the changing data landscape. Within this context, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges for household surveys, given limitations on face-to-face survey operations as a result of social distancing and other restrictions in many countries. A survey conducted by the UN Statistical Division and the World Bank in May 2020 found that 96 percent of national statistical offices either partially or fully stopped face-to-face data collection at some point during the pandemic. A position paper is being prepared by the Inter-Secretariat Working Group of Household Surveys (ISWGHS) that aims to identify priority areas and the enabling environment, both at the national and international level, for household surveys to better perform their foundational roles, meet new data demands and increase their development policy and research impact in the remaining decade for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The presentation covers the recent work of ISWGHS on improving national capacity in the area of household surveys and key aspects covered by the position paper.

    Keeping Labour Data Flowing during COVID - What did We Learn? A Conversation with Kieran Walsh, Senior Statistician, ILO Department of Statistics about the ILO Global Survey with National Statistical Offices

    12 November 2021

    The ILO Department of Statistics recently published a report on a global survey with national statistical offices on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour force surveys and dissemination of labour market statistics. We have the pleasure to have a conversation with Mr. Kieran Walsh for some insights about the report and how it informs the work programme of ILO in the future.

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    World Data Forum session TA3.02: Leaving no one behind: adopting a systematic approach of using small area estimation for SDG monitoring

    4 October 2021   0900 – 10:00 (GMT +2)

    In committing to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States recognized that the dignity of the individuals is fundamental and that the Agenda’s Goals and targets should be met for all nations and people and for all segments of society. Ensuring that these commitments are translated into effective action requires a precise understanding of the target populations and progress made in addressing their particular priorities.

    To properly measure this, statistics need to be presented for different population groups and geographical areas. The Global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator framework has included an overarching principle of data disaggregation: Sustainable Development Goal indicators should be disaggregated, where relevant, by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, or other characteristics, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. (General Assembly Resolution, A/RES/70/1)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the importance of disaggregated data as well as integration of multiple data sources when face-to-face survey interview was halted for a period of time in most of the countries. Small area estimation, as one of the data integration technique, plays an important role in filling data gaps.

    The Session provides a platform to share national experiences in using small area estimation methods for SDG monitoring; identifies areas for further methodological development in leveraging new data sources and the needs for capacity development. The session also identifies steps required to establish a sustainable small area estimation system within national statistical offices.

    List of resources

    World Data Forum session TA2.13: Positioning Household Surveys for the Next Decade

    4 October 2021   15:00 – 16:00 (GMT +2)

    Household surveys are a vital component of national statistical systems and a key source of social and economic statistics. They provide data for a wide range of research efforts that inform the design and evaluation of development policies. They are critical for tracking progress towards national and international goals. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), household surveys are the source of one-third (80) of all (232) indicators, cutting across 13 out of 17 SDGs. Furthermore, household surveys are critical for validating and calibrating machine learning models that combine household surveys with alternative data sources, providing insights with accuracy and precision that otherwise cannot be achieved by using these data sources alone.

    Despite their importance for development, weaknesses persist regarding the availability, coverage, accuracy, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and policy-relevance of household surveys, particularly in the low-income countries that stand to benefit most from survey data. Household surveys also face challenges such as diminishing response rates brought on by urbanization and higher income levels; coordination failures within overburdened statistical systems; and lengthy questionnaires that can trigger respondent fatigue with negative consequences for data quality.

    The session provides a platform for ISWGHS to showcase innovative approaches taken by its members; and discuss plans to help countries in adopting those new approaches.

    List of resources

    International Statistical Institute – World Statistics Congress 2021 IPS 141: IASS Tribute Session to Lars Lyberg: How Survey Experts Can Better Contribute to the Better Use of Citizen-Generated Data for Public Policy

    14 July 2021   1400 – 1530 (GMT +2)

    Citizen-generated data (such as community-driven data, citizen science data) are flourishing globally both in filling data gaps for SDGs and in encouraging the participation of citizens, civil societies and community-based organisations in producing data for public policy more broadly. Citizen-generated data, when properly collected and utilized, can help enhance relevance, reduce respondent burden, increase efficiency and produce more timely and disaggregated statistics. The official statistical community, which is often tasked with producing high quality data for policymaking, increasingly recognizes the value of citizen-generated data. However, concerns over lack of quality standards have deterred their extensive use for policy making.

    On the other hand, survey experts have extensive experiences in designing data collection process that responds to policy questions. They also have a good understanding of how to identify, measure and improve the quality of data. This knowledge and experience can afford much insight into the data ecosystem of citizen-generated data. For example, the error framework that is typically used in quantifying survey errors has been extended in recent years to take into consideration possible errors generated from other data sources.

    The session provided an opportunity for survey experts, the citizen-generated data community and policymakers to present frameworks and discuss collaborative work to develop principle and standards to ensure the quality and to build capacity of citizen- generated data for their use in public policy.

    List of resources

    International Statistical Institute - World Statistics Congress 2021 IPS 140: COVID-19 and household surveys: what have we learned and what does it mean for the future?

    13 July 2021   1700 – 18:30 (GMT +2)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a major challenge for national household survey programmes. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the World Bank, as of May 2020, 96 percent of national statistical offices partially or fully stopped face-to-face data collection. In response to these challenges, national statistical offices have adopted innovative approaches and/or turned to alternative data sources.

    Looking ahead, the global data community faces several key questions on the future of household surveys. How will COVID-19 reshape national household survey programs in the future? How can we establish sustainable household survey programs that are resilient and versatile to future shocks like COVID-19? Will COVID-19 be a catalyst for innovation in the field of household surveys? What are the priority actions for countries and for the international community in the next decade for household surveys?

    In this session, countries and international agencies shared on innovative approaches they have taken and on their views on how household surveys should be best positioned for the next decade.

    List of resources

    International Statistical Institute - World Statistics Congress 2021 IPS 109: New Data Sources Meet Household Surveys: Scaling-up Innovation for Official Statistics

    6 July 2021   6 July 2021, 1100 – 1230 (GMT +2)

    With rapid advancement in data generation and computing technologies, new data sources, including from the private sector, offer an ever-expanding frontier both in data availability and innovative computing methods. Meanwhile, survey statisticians have long experience in designing data collection that address compelling policy questions based on robust statistical methods.

    The session explored recent developments in data innovation and interoperability of data sources with a focus on practical applications showcasing the value addition household surveys can bring to the broader data ecosystem. The session also addressed the challenges faced by NSOs in adopting the innovative approaches and how the global statistical community, academia, the private sector and NSOs can work together to scale up these innovations in an equitable manner.

    List of resources

    ISWGHS-World Bank joint webinar: eLearning on telephone surveys to measure the impact of COVID-19

    29 July 2021   8:00-9:30 PM (EDT)

    Jointly organised by the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys and the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team, the webinar introduced the eLearning materials and discuss how the materials have been used by national statistical offices and regional and sub-regional training centers. The webinar aimed to broaden the outreach of the training materials and to improve the national capacity in carrying out phone surveys that produce high quality data.

    List of resources

    Small Area Estimation for Official Statistics

    1 July 2021   10:00 AM -12:30 PM (EDT)

    Jointly organized by ECLAC Statistics Division and ISWGHS, the webinar will bring together social researchers from the National Statistical Offices (NSOs) and other parts of the National Statistical Systems (NSSs) to strengthen their capacity to estimate SDG indicators at the subnational level, with a particular focus on poverty indicators


    Surviving the COVID stress test: the leading experience of KOSTAT

    31 March 2021  

    South Korea’s success in combating COVID-19 certainly has many lessons to offer to the rest of the world, so has its national statistical system. When the first shock of COVID-19 hit the country between early March to mid-April in 2020, Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) was at its busiest time preparing for a number of household surveys such as the household finances and living conditions survey and employment survey. Click here to learn how KOSTAT is working to make sure household survey programme endure the COVID19 stress test.


    Planning and Implementing Household Surveys Under COVID-19

    17 February 2021  
    UN Statistical Commission Side Event

    A New Technical Guidance Note has been produced and released by the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys to deal with COVID-19 situation. With face to face survey operations and social distancing measures creating challenges for the process of data gathering through surveys in many countries - this document provides guidance on considerations to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission during survey field work and to maintain, to the extent possible, continuity in survey operations.

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    UNSC side event: Positioning Household Surveys for the Next Decade

    19 February 2021   8:00-9:00 AM (EST)

    Virtual consultation will take place with stakeholders as part of the UN Statistical Commission to discuss the preparation of a paper on Positioning Household Surveys for the Next Decade. The event is organized by the Inter-secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys and the annotated outline of the paper, available here, will provide the basis for the discussion.

    Event update Report

    Technical Guidance Note on Planning and Implementing Household Survey COVID-19

    14 February 2011    11pm – 12am EST    15 February 2021   11am-12pm Bangkok time  

    With face-to-face survey operations and social distancing measures creating challenges for the process of data gathering through surveys in many countries - a New Technical Guidance Note has been produced and released by the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys and covers considerations to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission during survey field work and to maintain, to the extent possible, continuity in survey operations.

    Read More

    COVID-19: assessment of the mode effect on official statistics, jointly organized by ISWGHS and ECLAC

    7 December 2020   9:00-11:00 AM (EDT)

    As many countries have switched the survey mode from face-to-face to telephone due to the pandemic and are now gradually resuming face-to-face interviewing following the opening up of economies, this webinar aims to delve deeper into assessing the impact of data collection mode on official statistics and the current methodologies NSOs are using to distinguish the mode effect from the pandemic effect. The webinar will also discuss how the experiences gained by countries during the pandemic provide an opportunity for household surveys to move towards a “new normal”; and the challenges associated with such transition.


    The 2020 United Nations World Data Forum – The COVID-19 Crisis: is Household at a Crossroads?

    October 2020  

    Is household survey at a crossroads post COVID-19? Will the swift adaptions of household surveys at national level lead to permanent changes in the national statistical infrastructure? What are the lessons learnt from countries that have implemented such changes? What worked well and what did not? What important elements to consider before embarking on a total transformation of the household survey programmes? The session aims to respond to the questions raised above and showcase innovative approaches in sampling and other elements of household surveys, with a balance of methods that are in the forefront of research; and those that have been adopted by global survey programmes and by national statistical offices.


    world data forum 2020 household survey poster


    world data forum 2020 household survey poster

    Watch the session

    UN Statistical Commission Friday Seminar on Emerging Issues: Household Surveys in a Changing Data Landscape

    March 2020  

    Organised by the United Nations Statistics Division, in collaboration with the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys, the seminar provided a platform for national statistical offices, international organisations and the research community to debate and discuss strategies to realise the full potential of household surveys in this new environment. The seminar helped identify the way forward for further methodological development in household surveys, for scaling up innovative approaches in countries and for identifying capacity building needs. The seminar also explored and suggested practical ways to streamline and scale up those innovative approaches and do so equitably, with low income countries benefiting in equal manner.

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    Achieving the Full Potential of Household Surveys in the SDG Era – a background paper prepared for the Statistical Commission

    February 2019  

    The Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Survey submitted a background paper for the 50th session of the Statistical Commission. The paper demonstrates the importance of household surveys in measuring progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and their potential as flexible, customizable data sources uniquely positioned to meet data needs for evidence-based policy making. The paper proposes multiple actions, including coordinated actions at various levels, methodological development and implementation of standards, innovative methods for dissemination of data, and advocacy for increased use of data, to achieve the full potential of household surveys.

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    Secretary-General's Report to the 49th Statistical Commission

    March 2018  

    The report provides a summary of the recent activities undertaken by the Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Surveys, including the mapping of global Sustainable Development Goal indicators and household surveys. It contains a proposal for establishment of a trust fund for the implementation of various future activities of the Group (Agenda item 3(d)).

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    Secretary-General's Report to the 48th Statistical Commission

    March 2017  

    The report provides a summary of the work of the Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Surveys. It provides information on the establishment of the governance mechanism and the programme of activities initiated and to be undertaken by the Intersecretariat Working Group to foster the coordination and integration of household survey activities (Agenda item 4(b)).

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    Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Surveys established

    6 March 2015  

    The Statistical Commission, at its 46th session (3-6 March, 2015) endorsed the establishment of the Intersecretariat Working Group on Household Surveys, under the aegis of the Statistics Division, in order to foster the coordination and harmonization of household survey activities. The report is available at

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