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Vital Gender Statistics Not Captured in 90 percent of Developing World

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Statistics-gathering remains weak and fragmented in many low-income countries, while vital statistics on gender are non-existent in 90 percent of the developing world, says a new United Nations report.

The World’s Women 2005: Progress in Statistics, published in January 2006, concludes that there has been limited progress in the last thirty years both in the number of countries reporting national statistics as well as in the degree to which national statistics capture gender-related issues.

Emphasizing the need for statistical capacity building in many parts of the world, the report notes that out of 204 countries analyzed, 26 did not conduct a census between 1994 and 2004. A full ten percent of the world’s population now lives in places where a census has not taken place in the last decade.

Being able to collect statistics in a country reflects governance and stability,” said Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch of the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, speaking at a World Bank-hosted panel discussion on the Report.

In fact, collection of statistics is itself an indicator of development—many of the worst performers in national statistics in terms of household surveys are post-war countries in a fragile state that require special programs for data collection.”

Mary Chamie

Mary Chamie, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs

Globally, Europe reports the most data and Africa reports the least. With over forty percent of Africa’s population not covered by census, it is clear that today’s statistical reporting simply excludes many of the world’s poorest people. 

Shaida Badiee, Director, World Bank Development Data Group

Statistics are essential building blocks for programs to provide health and education services, to fight poverty, AIDS and deliver clean water to communities,” said Shaida Badiee, Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group, who chaired the panel discussion. “Without reliable statistics, we don’t know the full scope of the problems and cannot adequately measure the results we actually achieve".

The report recommends that governments should conduct at least one census every ten years. It also recommends that countries establish and sustain civil registration and vital statistics systems, and adopt sustainable integrated national survey programs that will help improve gender statistics.

Inadequate gender-disaggregated data

Among countries which do collect national statistics, many do not report vital data disaggregated by gender. For example, for ninety percent of people in least developed areas, there is no data on death by sex and age. Without this baseline data, there can be no accurate assessment of infant, maternal, or HIV/AIDS deaths.

Half the world’s population lives in a place where economic activity by sex and age has not been reported for the last decade. Similarly, there is no data on unemployment by sex and age for three-quarters of the world’s population.

The fact that we still have not fully mainstreamed gender issues amounts to exclusion of women,” said Mayra Buvinic, Sector Director, Gender and Development, with the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. “For data that is fundamental to promote growth and poverty reduction, we need to make women more visible in statistics.”

Mayra Buvinic

Mayra Buvinic, Sector Director, World Bank Poverty Reduction & Economic Management Network 

To improve the collection of sex-disaggregated statistics, the report asks governments to facilitate dialog between national statistical offices and women’s groups and other stakeholders, so as to better understand and identify gender issues.

“If we can handle worldwide football statistics, and statistics for other sports, we can handle gender statistics,” said Chamie. “Countries will find the money for better statistics if they are interested in them. It’s time to build statistical communication strategies and to work in closer consultation with national statistics offices.”

 Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals
 Eric Swanson
Eric Swanson, World Bank Development Data Group
 "Many of the statistics needed to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals are just not available today,” said Eric Swanson, Program Manager, World Bank Development Data Group. “There is a definite need for strengthened coordination between multilateral and national agencies.”

In response to this need, the World Bank’s “accelerated data program” attempts to align survey methods in different countries, and to identify at least two data points in the next ten years for the 25 indicators at the core of the Millennium Development Goals.

Although statistical issues seem technical, they constitute a critical development concern that needs to be tackled by the development community at large. The World Bank’s role in taking on some of the recommendations of the report includes helping to strengthen national statistics and bringing gender issues into the Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics.

Statistical issues must stay on the frontline,” concluded Badiee. “They must not be bounced back behind the scenes to statisticians.” 


The World’s Women 2005: Progress in Statistics

World Bank Statistical Capacity Building Website

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