30 July 2001




Meeting of the Expert Group on

International Economic and Social Classifications

New York, 18-20 June 2001


Meeting of the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications

New York, 18-20 June 2001


A.        Introduction

1.                  The Meeting of the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications (the Meeting) was convened in New York on 18-20 June 2001 at the request of the United Nations Statistical Commission. The meeting was conducted by the Statistical Classifications Section of the Economics Statistics Branch of the United Nations Statistics Division. Participants at the meeting included experts from 17 countries and 5 international organizations. The participants represented both users and custodians of classifications.  A list of participants is available as document ESA/STAT/AC.78/3.

2.                  The Meeting was opened by Mr. Hermann Habermann, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). It was chaired by Mr. Norbert Rainer of Statistics Austria. The discussions at the Meeting followed the Provisional Agenda set out in ESA/STAT/AC.78/1.  The documents available at the Meeting are listed in ESA/STAT/AC.78/2.

3.                  The objectives of the Meeting were threefold.  They were to discuss the work                   in the Expert Group with a view to fostering collaboration and coordination within the “family” of international economic and social classifications, to discuss and review the upcoming updates and revisions of ISIC and CPC and to address implementation of international economic and social classifications.

4.                  The Chairman, in his opening remarks highlighted the goal of convergence among activity classifications in the “family” by 2007, noting that it was necessary to find consensus among all the classifications involved.  He also addressed the implementation of classifications in the “family”, drawing a parallel to the implementation of the System of National Accounts (SNA) 1993.  In summarizing what were expected to be important components of implementation, the following were identified: establishment of milestones; agreement on timing and schedule; assignment of tasks and preparation of relevant guidelines, handbooks and language translations in a timely manner.

5.                  Major input into this meeting was provided through the documents prepared by the Technical Subgroup of the Expert Group, based on previous requests by the Expert Group. This includes the drafts for the revised ISIC Rev.3.1 and CPC Ver.1.1, as well as the report of the Technical Subgroup containing a proposal for the work programme for the 2007 revisions.

B.  Background

6.                  At its thirty-third session held in March 2001, the Statistical Commission, recognizing that the Expert Group has consistently addressed work done on the economic classifications within the “family”, requested that the social classifications play a more integral role in the work of the Expert Group.  In particular, it recommended that the Expert Group explore ways to better involve the custodians of this group of classifications.

7.                  On the subject of preparation for the updates and revision of ISIC and CPC, planned for 2002 and 2007 respectively, the Meeting was requested to prepare drafts of the updated ISIC and CPC for 2002 and a timetable for the 2007 revisions, on the basis of prior recommendations and requests of the Statistical Commission and the Expert Group.  The Meeting was also charged with agreeing on a modus operandi for the 2007 revision with a view to ensuring adequate national, regional and sub-regional representation.  A core set of issues that would form the basis of the 2007 revision should also be considered.

8.                  The Statistical Commission also identified the implementation of economic and social classifications as a topic for discussion.  Notably, the strategies and tools for the 2002 and 2007 revisions of ISIC and CPC should be addressed. Further, the Meeting was requested to ascertain what modalities non-UNSD custodians have in place for the implementation of their classifications.  Such a discussion should encompass the possible involvement of regional agencies in implementation measures; the types of assistance needed by countries; the resource implications of implementation and the establishment of reasonable goals as well as an implementation timetable.

9.                  Following these introductory remarks are the main Conclusions and Recommendations of the Meeting.

C.  Conclusions and recommendations

Report on work on Family of International Economic and Social Classifications 

1.                  The Expert Group noted the work done on the UNSD Classifications Website as an important tool for distributing information on classifications.

2.                  The Expert Group recommended that the family of classifications be enlarged, including classifications such as for gender, age and marital status, as well as other classifications of the SNA. Some of these classifications may not have an identified custodian, but they are widely used and the relevant statistics would benefit from having an international body monitoring the standardization process for them.

3.                  The Expert Group noted the extreme importance of the timely availability of classification documents in all official UN languages for the implementation process.

4.                  The Expert Group noted that despite the mechanisms in place, information on international classifications does not always reach all interested national parties. The cooperation of the Regional Commissions may be necessary to improve the situation.

5.                  The Expert Group recognizes the resource intensive nature of the work as custodian for international standard classifications and suggests a review of the resource allocation to the UNSD Classifications Section. The Section is carrying out the different tasks as a coordinating body for the Family of Classifications, as well as being the custodian for two of its major members, ISIC and the CPC, in addition to developing and maintaining other classifications.

6.                  The Expert Group recognized that cooperation in the field of classifications requires the willingness of custodians to actively participate. The topics of the Expert Group meetings should reflect the interests of the custodians of a larger group of classifications, such as methodological and conceptual classification issues related to their development, revision and implementation. UNSD has been asked to engage other custodians by actively promoting discussion topics of the Expert Group meetings.

7.                  The Expert Group strongly emphasizes that custodians of international classifications should contact it when making preparations for revisions of their classifications, to improve the coordination of such work and to broaden the range of expertise that may be consulted. The Expert Group requests that the UN Statistical Commission brings this to the attention of other custodians as a high priority.

8.                  The Expert Group recognized that previous work on economic classifications was driven by country interest and demand of many countries as well as international and regional bodies. At the same time the Expert Group has been much less aware of the demands and processes that have generated the international standard social classifications. The Expert Group should therefore request presentations by custodians of social classifications on these issues, including the investigation of national issues for such classifications and their use that have been carried out.

9.                  The Expert Group reviewed the proposed Classification of Environmental Protection Activities (CEPA) and accepted it as a member of the Family of International Economic and Social Classifications. The Expert Group recommends that the UN Statistical Commission approve the CEPA as an international standard.

Update of ISIC and CPC for 2002

10.              The Expert Group reviewed the drafts of the updated ISIC Rev.3.1 and CPC Ver.1.1 and recommends that they be approved by the UN Statistical Commission as international standards. 

11.              The Expert Group decided that the following alternate aggregations and special groupings should be included in the ISIC Rev.3 Manual: a) Information Sector, b) Information and Communication Technology, c) Informal Sector (high-level aggregation). Alternate aggregations defined in other frameworks, such as the Tourism Satellite Account, should be noted and properly referenced in the ISIC manual. The UN Statistical Commission should be asked for an explicit mandate to consider future work on other aggregations, such as for the Agri-food sector or Energy related activities, which could be developed into an international standard.

Revision of ISIC and CPC for 2007

12.              The Expert Group reviewed and approved the timeframes proposed by the Technical Subgroup for the revision of ISIC and CPC for 2007 and asked that the work programme be further elaborated, taking into account the need for the active participation of the Expert Group and all other concerned parties.

13.              The Expert Group recognized the importance of an agreed conceptual basis for the revision of ISIC and CPC and asks that this be given the highest priority for the short-term work programme.

Implementation of classifications

14.              The Expert Group agreed that the monitoring and evaluation of the status of implementation of international classifications requires, for each branch in the Family of International Classifications, information on the relationship between the national classification and the international standard. This information could be used to construct a typology of usages of the international standard classifications. As tools and measures to support the implementation of the classifications vary according to the type of usage, these should be tailored and targeted accordingly. It also recommends that a set of indicators that summarize the status of worldwide implementation be developed and that consideration be given to the development of a handbook on the purpose, nature and application of the classifications in the Family of International classifications.

15.              The Expert Group agreed that bilateral cooperation is an important tool for the implementation of classifications, with the international agencies functioning as moderators and coordinators. It is also necessary that countries specify contact persons / custodians for their respective classification. These should serve as informants for national users of the classifications and as contacts to the international custodians.

Organization of work

16.              The Expert Group requested that all materials related to the work of the Technical Subgroup be distributed to the Expert Group for comment.

17.              The Expert Group must be closely involved in the process of the ISIC and CPC revision for 2007. The discussion of conceptual issues for the revisions has to be extended beyond the Technical Subgroup.

18.              The Technical Subgroup should establish a list of conceptual issues for the ISIC and CPC classifications revision at its next meeting. This list should be distributed to the Expert Group for comments and then to a worldwide audience to form a basis for the revision process.