Experts Share Efforts to Harmonize Statistics on SDGs 1, 10 in Europe
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A workshop reflected on the UNECE’s project on harmonized poverty indicators for monitoring sustainable development in the CIS countries.

Participants also discussed country practices in identifying and monitoring policy-relevant target groups for disaggregation of poverty measures.

The gathering sought to support UNECE governments in measuring progress on SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), and focused in particular on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

30 November 2018: Statistical experts and other stakeholders met to discuss recommendations on disaggregated poverty measures, to support governments in the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in measuring progress on SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). Countries shared their efforts to harmonize poverty statistics and improve cross-country comparability as part of broader efforts to monitor progress towards the SDGs.

UNECE organized a workshop on ‘Harmonization of Poverty Statistics,’ on 28 November 2018, in Vienna, Austria. An expert meeting on measuring poverty and inequality took place from 29-30 November. More than 80 experts from statistical offices, international organizations and research institutions participated in the workshop and seminar, which aimed to exchange experience and build statistical capacity for harmonization of poverty measures with a focus on the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

On SDG indicators for poverty and inequality, participants reflected on the comparability of each country’s national indicators. They also discussed CIS countries’ data disaggregation, and considered whom should be included when measuring persons with disabilities. Participants reflected on monitoring challenges related to data inconsistency, different approaches to disaggregation, missing metadata for national SDG lists, proxy indicators, and information availability. On SDG indicator 1.2.1 (share of population living below the national poverty line) for instance, statistical offices proposed including an explanation that usage of different methodological approaches makes it impossible to compare this indicator among countries.

On data harmonization, the workshop highlighted UNECE’s project on harmonized poverty indicators for monitoring sustainable development in the CIS countries. Participants reflected on conclusions from testing a set of survey questions for measuring poverty in pilot countries, including possible harmonization of SDG 1 indicators (1.1.1, 1.2.1, 1.2.2. 1.3.1, and 1.4.1) and SDG 10 indicators (10.1.1 and 10.2.1). A review of possible methodologies recommended that countries include questions based on a multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI) methodology from the Global Human Development Report to ensure comparability of MPI in all countries in the region.

Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus shared their experience with testing the model set of survey questions. Kazakhstan, for instance, described changes to its survey questionnaires, explaining differences in calculation of health care and education costs before and after the revision, changes in the way the country measures prevalence of malnutrition and levels of moderate or acute food insecurity, as part of SDG 2 (zero hunger) and the addition of a questionnaire on quality of life.

On data disaggregation, participants discussed country practices in identifying and monitoring policy-relevant target groups for disaggregation of poverty measures. The workshop used a questionnaire to better understand what data and statistics countries capture on variables for target groups, socio-economic and geographic levels, classification of monetary receipts of current transfers (e.g. transfers related to healthcare, education, supporting disabled people or retired persons or remittances), social transfers in kind, and communication and dissemination of poverty statistics.

A presentation on poverty measurements in Bosnia and Herzegovina identified two main methodological issues defining poverty assessment methods: which monetary measure of well-being is used (consumption expenditure or income); and which poverty line is used (absolute or relative). Bosnia and Herzegovina has chosen to use the World Bank’s methodology for absolute poverty and consumption expenditure, and disaggregates poverty and inequality measures by region, type of location (urban, rural and mixed), age, war displacement status, education of the head of household, employment status of the head of household, employment status of adults and household size.

As part of recent efforts to harmonize poverty methodology, Bosnia and Herzegovina strategically harmonized its statistical methodologies to European standards and regulations, used income as a monetary measure of poverty and used the EU methodology of relative poverty and conducted pilot surveys, among other actions. This process helped Bosnia and Herzegovina identify further room for improvements in standardizing poverty measurements, including increasing the quality of income data, a need for assistance in net-gross conversion of some income variables and in calculation of cross-sectional and longitudinal weights and standard errors of survey estimates, support in production of complex social indicators and increasing the quality of income data and the need for adequate support software.

The workshop and seminar also addressed: coverage of hard-to-reach and potentially disadvantaged population groups in data collection; individual level poverty measures; subjective poverty; asset-based poverty and inequality; and response rate and sampling precision challenges in surveys and empirical challenges in comparing inequality. [UNECE Press Release] [Workshop Presentations] [Expert Meeting Presentations]

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