Social indicators

UNITED NATIONS

Economic and Social Council

Unofficial copy for information purposes prepared from the official electronic file.

E/CN.3/AC.1/1996/R.4
24 January 1996
ORIGINAL: ENGLISH


WORKING GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL STATISTICAL PROGRAMMES AND COORDINATION

Eighteenth session

New York, 16-19 April 1996

SOCIAL STATISTICS: FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD SUMMIT

FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Report of the Expert Group on the Statistical Implications

of Recent Major United Nations Conferences

Note by the Secretary-General

1. At its twenty-eighth session (New York, 27 February-3 March 1995), the Statistical Commission, in its consideration of agenda item 12, "Measuring and monitoring economic and social development", requested its Working Group on International Statistical Programmes and Coordination to consider further the statistical implications of the follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 6-12 March 1995). The Commission also established the Expert Group on the Statistical Implications of Recent Major United Nations Conferences to draw up a work programme reflecting the major action areas identified by the Summit and indicating where international statistical work in the social field should be concentrated, with due regard to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 5-13 September 1994) and the expected outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 4-15 September 1995). The Commission requested that, in the light of the policy areas identified, the Expert Group propose specific statistical activities for the period 1996-1998, and assign priorities to them based on the skills and financial resources likely to be available in international organizations and countries. 1/

________________________

96-01603 (E) /...

*9601603*

2. The Expert Group held a technical meeting in Oslo on 10 June 1995, immediately following the meeting of the Siena Group on Social Statistics. The Expert Group meeting was attended by Ms. C. Denell (Sweden), Mr. I. Ewing (New Zealand), Mr. G. Guteland (Sweden), Mr. F. Gutierrez (Mexico), Mr. L. Lundgren (Sweden), Mr. R. Madden (Australia), Ms. M. McEwin (Australia), Mr. B. Petrie (Canada) and Mr. D. Roberts (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), as well as by representatives of the United Nations Statistics Division, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the International Labour Office and the Statistical Office of the European Community (EUROSTAT). The Expert Group held its second meeting in Geneva on 13 June 1995. In addition to the above-mentioned participants, that meeting was attended by Mr. J. Olenski (Poland), Mr. J. Pullinger (United Kingdom), Mr. S. Sathyam (India), Ms. J. Szczerbinska (Poland) and Mr. L. Thygesen (Denmark). Mr. Guteland served as Chairman and Mr. Madden as Rapporteur at both meetings. The report of the Expert Group is contained in the annex.

3. The Working Group may wish to:

(a) Endorse and recommend to the Statistical Commission for adoption the list of policy themes and main areas of social concern recommended by the Expert Group in paragraph 8 of its report as a subject-matter framework for further work in statistics to follow up recent major United Nations conferences;

(b) Recommend to the Statistical Commission the adoption of the list and menu of statistical indicators to form a minimum national data set (MNDS), as contained in paragraphs 96-98 and in the appendix of the report, following technical consultation and refinement with national and international specialists in these fields, for the purposes outlined in paragraphs 11-16 of the report;

(c) Take note of the data gaps and other needs for further work identified by the Expert Group in sections II-VI of its report, and request the Statistics Division to invite the international statistical services concerned to comment on their plans and objectives in these fields for the period 1996-1999. In this connection, the Working Group may wish to:

(i) Endorse and recommend to the Statistical Commission the organization of an expert group on poverty, with a planning meeting to be convened by ECLAC in 1996 or 1997, as recommended by the Expert Group in paragraphs 45-47 of its report;

(ii) Consider the Expert Group proposal in paragraph 54 of its report to establish an informal group on income, consumption and expenditure statistics;

(d) Request the Statistics Division, in cooperation with ECE, to report to the Statistical Commission at its next session on their suggestions for the nature and timing of an international report on social progress, initially as a pilot report, as recommended in paragraphs 111-114 of the Expert Group report;

(e) Endorse and recommend to the Statistical Commission the timetable suggested by the Expert Group, as contained in paragraph 115 of its report, subject to the availability of appropriate resources;

(f) Request the Statistics Division to submit to it at its nineteenth session a consolidated report on the above recommendations, accompanied by the report of the Expert Group.

Notes

1/ Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1995, Supplement No. 8 (E/1995/28), paras. 65-70.

Annex

REPORT OF THE EXPERT GROUP ON THE STATISTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF

RECENT MAJOR UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCES

CONTENTS

Paragraphs Page

I. INTRODUCTION ........................................... 1 - 16 6

A. Establishment of the Expert Group ................ 1 - 3 6

B. The vital role of social statistics ..................... 4 - 7 6

C. Broad areas of social concern ......................... 8 - 10 7

D. The Expert Group proposal ........................... 11 - 16 8

II. POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT ...................................... 17 - 30 9

A. Statistical indicators ........................... 18 - 22 9

B. Statistical and measurement issues ............... 23 - 28 10

C. Further work ..................................... 29 - 30 11

III. ERADICATION OF POVERTY ............................... 31 - 54 11

A. Statistical indicators ........................... 35 - 40 12

B. Statistical and measurement issues ............... 41 - 44 14

C. Further work ..................................... 45 - 54 15

IV. EXPANSION OF PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT AND REDUCTION OF

UNEMPLOYMENT ......................................... 55 - 66 16

A. Statistical indicators ........................... 58 - 59 17

B. Statistical and measurement issues ............... 60 - 62 18

C. Further work ..................................... 63 - 66 18

V. SOCIAL INTEGRATION ................................... 67 - 79 19

A. Statistical indicators ........................... 70 - 73 20

B. Statistical and measurement issues ............... 74 - 76 21

C. Further work ..................................... 77 - 79 21

CONTENTS (continued)

Paragraphs Page

VI. STATUS OF WOMEN AND MEN .............................. 80 - 87 22

A. Statistical indicators ........................... 81 - 82 22

B. Statistical and measurement issues ............... 83 - 85 23

C. Further work ..................................... 86 - 87 24

VII. STATISTICAL RESPONSE TO THE FIVE POLICY THEMES OF

RECENT MAJOR UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCES .............. 88 - 115 24

A. A minimum national social data set ............... 89 - 94 24

B. Suggested composition of the minimum national

social data set .................................. 95 - 99 25

C. Assessing national social statistics capacity .... 100 - 106 26

D. Building national social statistics capacity ..... 107 - 110 27

E. International reporting on social progress ....... 111 - 114 28

F. Suggested timetable .............................. 115 29

Appendix. Menu of indicators .......................................... 31

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Establishment of the Expert Group

1. Since its inception, the United Nations has promoted social and economic development and world peace. In the last three years, Governments have taken a number of new initiatives to address social issues at the head-of-State level, beginning with the World Summit for Children. In the last 24 months, three major conferences on social issues have been organized by the United Nations: the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which discussed population and welfare issues; the World Summit for Social Development, which covered the issues of poverty, employment and social integration; and the Fourth World Conference on Women, which concentrated on the status of women. Many themes were raised at all three conferences.

2. The agreed outcomes of the above-mentioned conferences were documented in their programmes of action, which describe issues of current world concern and propose solutions, and mention the need for adequate information to inform social policy development and monitoring. Common requirements for social statistics include: a/

(a) Improved reliability and validity;

(b) Greater disaggregation, particularly by gender;

(c) Improved international comparability;

(d) Wider dissemination and use.

3. At the twenty-eighth session of the Statistical Commission (27 February-3 March 1995), the Expert Group on the Statistical Implications of Major United Nations Conferences was established to:

(a) Consider the programmes of action adopted by ICPD, the World Summit for Social Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women;

(b) Agree on a number of critical policy domains;

(c) Identify relevant statistical issues arising from such policy domains;

(d) Propose a work programme for presentation to the Working Group at its eighteenth session.

B. The vital role of social statistics

4. A sound system of social statistics is vital to the effective development of social policy, to informed decision-making on policy issues, and to the evaluation of the impact of social and economic policy. For many countries, inadequate systems of social statistics constitute a major impediment to effective social development. Insufficient awareness of the importance of the linkages between policy development and social statistics, the need for more internationally agreed statistical standards and guidelines, and the need for improved frameworks in which to summarize policy outcomes all point to the need for greater national and international priority to be given to social statistics.

5. To acquire the necessary capability to monitor country progress in achieving the outcomes of the policy themes of major United Nations conferences, a good understanding of the linkage between sound social data systems and effective social policy development is a prerequisite. This calls for partnership between national statistical offices (NSOs) and policy makers to ensure that statistical objectives and priorities are focused on providing the data foundations necessary for effective social policy development.

6. It should be noted that since the 1940s an understanding of the linkages between economic statistics and economic policy issues has guided statistical efforts in such areas as labour, prices, national accounts, government finance and balance of payments, to the benefit of economic policy monitoring and development.

7. The international community (NSOs, international statistical bodies and funding agencies) needs to accept responsibility for supporting the development of social statistics in each country as an urgent priority in the programme to implement the recommendations of the World Summit for Social Development.

C. Broad areas of social concern

8. The Expert Group has identified the following broad areas of social concern arising from the five policy themes of ICPD, the World Summit for Social Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women:

Policy themes Main areas of social concern

Population and development Health

Material well-being

Education

Eradication of poverty Income and expenditure

Economic resources

Expansion of productive employment Work

and reduction of unemployment Working environment

Education and training

Social integration Housing

Work

Crime and criminal justice

Status of women and men Health

Education

Work

Income

9. The policy themes are themselves strongly interconnected. For example, the expansion of productive employment is a key issue affecting the status of women and men and the incidence of poverty; changes in population composition affect the demand and supply of labour; and gender issues are key determinants of population growth and development.

10. Ideally, a framework for social statistics should be developed by considering how these broad areas of social concern affect particular population groups, such as women, retired people, children and single parents. Such a framework, however, does not exist, and its articulation is unlikely in the short to medium term. Nor has the Expert Group attempted this complex task. Rather, focusing on short and medium-term action priorities, the Expert Group believes it would be feasible to identify a minimum set of statistics and indicators that would assist countries in assessing their social position and progress.

D. The Expert Group proposal

11. The Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development states that:

"The United Nations system's capacity for gathering and analysing information and developing indicators of social development should be strengthened, taking into account the work carried out by different countries, in particular by developing countries. The capacity of the United Nations system for providing policy and technical support and advice, upon request, in order to improve national capacities in this regard should also be strengthened". (para. 99 (e))

12. Accordingly, the Expert Group has focused on national issues at its first priority but has borne in mind the requirements for international monitoring and reporting.

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