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9.1. Social and demographic statistics – some issues . Jan Byfuglien Statistics Norway. Introduction. Major challenges in the area of social statistics, also for external assessments/reviews are: International guidelines have not been very complete and precise

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Social and demographic statistics – some issues

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Social and demographic statistics – some issues

Jan Byfuglien

Statistics Norway


  • Major challenges in the area of social statistics, also for external assessments/reviews are:

    • International guidelines have not been very complete and precise

    • There are national traditions and specificities that make harmonisation difficult

  • Profound knowledge of international guidelines and regulations and honest self-assessment is important

  • A major outcome might be documentation of current practices as a basis recommendations for improvement actions

A source for EU legislation in statistics:

A source for methodological information:

Demographic statistics

  • Importance and usage:

    • High quality population figures are essential for administration and planning. Especially monitoring of migration is important, also for political reasons

  • Data sources:

    • Administrative sources, censuses, sample surveys or a combination

  • Issues to be addressed:

    • Cooperation with other partners – completeness, consistency

    • Implementation of international definitions: de jure/de facto, birth related definitions, causes of mortality, international migration

  • However; not mix population register as an administrative register for administrative usage and statistical register

Demography and population census: international recommendations and requirements

  • Joint UNECE/Eurostat ”Recommendations for the 2010 Censuses of Population and Housing” (on UNECE website)

  • Council of Europe, UNSD and Eurostat Agreement: Eurostat four demographic collections per year: ”Rapid”, ”Joint”, ”Nowcast” and ”Regional”. Covers also some CIS countries.

  • Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics systems. UN 2001

  • Handbook on training in civil registration and vital statistics systems. UN 2002

Migration and asylum statistics

  • UN Recommendations on statistics of international migration

  • EU Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection

  • Agreements at European level:

    • ”Eurasil – Network of Asylum practitioners”

    • CIREFI Agreement on topics related to illegal immigration

Some important definitions (EU regulation)

  • ‘usual residence’

    • means the place at which a person normally spends the daily period of rest, regardless of temporary absences for purposes of recreation, holiday, visits to friends and relatives, business, medical treatment or religious pilgrimage or, in default, the place of legal or registered residence;

  • ‘immigration’

    • means the action by which a person establishes his or her usual residence in the territory of a Member State for a period that is, or is expected to be, of at least 12 months, having previously been usually resident in another Member State or a third country;

  • ‘emigration’

    • means the action by which a person, having previously been usually resident in the territory of a Member State, ceases to have his or her usual residence in that Member State for a period that is, or is expected to be, of at least 12 months;

Reasons for non-compliance with international standards in the field of population and migration

  • Practises for the registration of persons with different legal status, for instance:

    • Allow persons to be considered as resident in the country even if living abroad for more than 12 months

  • The different durations used for determining place of residence, for instance:

    • Register persons as residents even with short term stay

Different population definitions*

Legally resident population

Long-term emigrants?




Resident population

Irregular immigrants

Present population

* Improving statistics on international migration: some priorities. ECE/CES/2008/42

The benefits of a national population registration system

  • A national system for population registration can serve a number of administrative and planning tasks – and improve the quality of the regular demographic statistics

  • Combined with the development of administrative registers in other social areas this may improve the overall socio-statistical system and replace the censuses

  • This development requires:

    • Proper legislation – also outside the field of statistical legislation

    • New authorities responsible for administrative registers?

    • A system of unique identification of persons

    • Good cooperation between NSIs and administrative authorities

The Norwegian example: Three base registers with a common identifier: address


The common identifier:






The relationship between administrative and statistical registers:

  • Are widely used for administrative purposes – but not via SN!

  • Statistics Norway has full access to microdata from these registers

  • Statistics Norway (SN) uses these registers to define, identify and update basic statistical units and related variables

The benefits of a register based census











Families and households:

Registers and forms







Housing and dwellings:

Census forms

Housing Census


Combined method in 2001: € 12 500 000

Registers only for 2011: € 1 250 000 (estimate)

Social surveys

  • Surveys describing for instance:

    • Household budgets

    • Income distribution and living conditions

    • Labour market situation

  • Data source: often sample surveys

  • Usage: high level of public and political usage and interest

  • Thus there are some risks:

    • Distrust in quality, biased dissemination and misrepresentation

International guidelines/recommendations

  • Household budget surveys:

    • EU methodological recommendations

  • Income and living conditions:

    • UN Handbook on Poverty Statistics: Concepts, Methods and Policy Use (provisional version)

    • EU Regulation on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)

  • Labour market statistics

    • ILO Conventions, recommendations, resolutions and guidelines

    • EU Regulation on the organisation of labour force sample surveys

Focus of review: quality of data collection and dissemination

  • How updated is the sample frame? Population register?

  • The representativity and coverage of the sample?

  • Professionalism in the formulation of questionnaires; pretesting of forms

  • The quality of the interview organisation; proper training and follow up?

  • Consistency with international guidelines?

  • Independence in design of survey and dissemination of results?

Other areas of social statistics

  • Education, health, culture, crime

  • Data source: often administrative data collected by other authorities

  • International guidelines: UN, UNESCO, WHO and to an increasing degree, Eurostat

  • Issues:

    • Division of labour/cooperation between NSIs and other producers

    • Relationship between administrative and statistical usage

    • Consistency in relation to international guidelines

To conclude: Assessment in the field of social and demographic statistics can be quite demanding:

  • Lack of clear international guidelines in some areas

  • National specificities can make harmonization difficult

  • Most areas are quite important for the public and for policy makers and thus requires professional handling of data collection and dissemination

  • Often several actors producing administrative data and -sometimes statistics – which requires good coordination

  • Major outcome: actions to improve quality, trust and coordination?

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