18 January 2006


Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press conference launching report ‘the world’s women 2005:


progress in statistics’


Presenting a groundbreaking new United Nations study on the state of statistics on women, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo noted little advancement in national statistical capacity, particularly in the collection of sex-disaggregated data, in the last 30 years.

Analysing statistics from 204 countries, The World’s Women 2005:  Progress in Statistics focused on how gender sensitive national statistical systems around the world were, stated Mr. Ocampo.  Joining him at the Headquarters launch this morning was the main author of the report, Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, as well as Jeremiah Banda, Chief of the Branch’s Social and Housing Statistics Section.

He said that among the areas that seemed to be well covered by national statistical systems were population (although with infrequent information), education enrolment and participation in the labour market.  On the other hand, information was significantly lacking on births and deaths.

The report also addressed violence against women, he said, noting the existence of very little information worldwide on the issue, as well as controversy on the methods for measuring the extent of the problem.  Only about 38 countries –- most of them industrial -- had information on that issue.  There was a significant lack of information on violence against women in developing countries.

Highlighting some of the report’s recommendations to improve the quality of statistical systems in general, he said Governments should conduct at least one census every 10 years, as well as establish, strengthen and maintain civil registration and vital statistics systems.  To improve the collection of sex-disaggregated statistics, the report recommended that Governments foster dialogue between national statistical offices and stakeholders, such as women’s groups, to identify and better understand gender issues.

The goal of statisticians, said Ms. Chamie, was to provide the best, most solid, clear and reliable numbers to qualify and quantify what was going on around the world.  The report focused on the national capacity to report, as well as gender mainstreaming in the national capacity to report.  “It’s quite clear from the results of these 204 countries or areas that we analysed that strong statistical capacity of nations result in strong gender statistics programmes.”

Noting that statistics were “important storytellers”, she said that at the most essential levels of government, official statistics were needed for detailed assessment of progress in the situation of women and men, girls and boys.  That required detailed data.

Turning to some of the report’s findings, she said that out of the 204 countries or areas covered, 26 did not conduct a census in the last 10 years (1995-2004).  Forty-three per cent of Africa’s population was not included in the last round of population and housing censuses.  Over 90 countries did not report their births, and roughly the same amount did not report their deaths, through a civil registration system that covered the nation.  That meant that only 30 per cent of world’s population was residing in areas where births and deaths were registered, while 70 per cent was not.

She went on to say that 53 countries did not report their nation’s population by sex and age in the last 10 years; 66 countries did not report the enrolment of children in primary school by sex and age; 81 countries did not report economic activity by sex and age; 108 did not report unemployment by sex and age; and 152 countries did not report wages by major industry group and sex.

In addition, she mentioned the lack of concepts and methods in key areas such as violence against women, poverty, power and decision-making, and human rights.  There were 38 countries that had national surveys, which included questions on violence against women.  But as of yet, there was no international statistical system collecting the official national statistics in that area.  “Therefore, what we see is an inadequate statistical capacity, with a lack of gender mainstreaming and insufficient concepts and methods”, she added.

In response to a question on the reasons for countries with little or no reporting, Mr. Ocampo noted that the development of good statistical systems was associated with the income of countries, and so poor countries had weaker statistical systems and faced major challenges in building their capacity in that area.

Ms. Chamie added that there were also serious delays in reporting and lack of collection, as well as incomplete information.  Conducting a census, for example, was a huge undertaking, and time was needed to gather and analyse the information collected.  There was a clear need for the sustained commitment of Governments and stakeholders to support their national statistical offices.

She added that the United Nations had been collecting such data for 50 years, and the current report was the first to analyse the actual capacity of Governments to report to the Organization and the international statistical system.  “We’ve provided the statistics.  This time we’re providing information about the actual reporting by countries.”  In the process of preparing the report, the Organization had developed a system to be able to continue to report back, on an annual basis if requested, on how the reporting was going, which countries were reporting and what the topics were.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.