The 2030 Agenda sets the ambitious objective of eliminating inequalities among people on the planet. Many factors are linked with inequalities —people’s income level, where they live, their gender, their ethnicity, and their age, to name a few.
To know where these inequalities exist, as well as to decide how to focus efforts to reduce and eliminate them, and to monitor whether policies are working, decision-makers need disaggregated data.
It’s not enough, though, to have data disaggregated along just one of these dimensions. To really know, for example, how children and young people are faring and how policies affect them, we need data that tell us not just their age but also other things about them: such as whereabouts in a country they live, whether they have a disability, and whether they are migrants.
Yet such data about children and youth are rarely collected or made available on a national level using shared methods that would permit comparison among countries. Some data sets might have an age and sex breakdown, while other surveys collect information about ethnicity, but the combination of these different breakdowns—known as multiple disaggregation—is much less common. For detailed, ‘granular’ data we need more complex household or population surveys with large samples, or greater use of administrative data and innovative new data sources, including integrating different sources.
Collection of data on children also requires special attention to the safeguarding of child rights, including protecting privacy and confidentiality. All of these considerations make it more expensive and technically challenging to collect this kind of information.
Some groups of young people are missed out of national statistics altogether. Children and adolescents living in institutions are explicitly excluded from most social surveys, for instance, while child migrants may be under-represented. Even rarer is information collected specifically about issues affecting children, such as targeted, representative surveys on violence against children, child refugees or the political and civic engagement of young people.
Adding to this dearth of data is a lack of standardized statistical definitions—complicated by wide variation in national laws determining who is considered a child, an adolescent or a young person. Even when agreed definitions do exist, they may not be consistently applied, adding to the challenges of comparison.
The WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission’s A future for the world’s children, released in February 2020, highlighted a lack of data as a major impediment to adequately assessing progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, noting that even in high income countries data gaps on children, adolescents and youth exist.
Bridging the gaps
Recognizing this lack of adequate data and definitions, the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians last week decided to establish a Task Force for Statistics on Children, Adolescents and Youth. Several CES member States, working jointly with UNICEF, UNFPA, Eurostat and UNECE will explore how countries currently collect and publish data about children and young people and the issues affecting them, and will identify critical gaps that need to be filled. Their work will be guided by the knowledge that if strong policy frameworks existed to support collection, validation and use of data, the apparently expensive and technically challenging task of producing statistics on children, adolescents and youth could be translated into a valuable public asset.
UNICEF’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office expressed its readiness to partner actively with the UNECE, UNFPA and Eurostat, working jointly with Member States to create conditions for an even stronger generation, management and use of data for policy-making related to every child. Investing in children and young people, representing one of the region’s greatest assets, is everyone’s interest, said UNICEF.
Over the next two years the group aims to develop guidance on definitions and methods that will help countries increase the availability of comparable and policy-relevant statistics about the lives of children and young people. By facilitating the production of SDG indicators and other relevant indicators broken down by age and other dimensions, as well as by harmonizing the ways that statistics on children, adolescents and youth are presented, the Task Force hopes to shine a light on the lives and experiences of children and young people as a key step in tackling the inequalities that so many of them face.
Note to editors
About the Conference of European Statisticians
UNECE work on statistics is performed in close cooperation with more than 60 countries under the Conference of European Statisticians (CES), established in 1953. CES gathers the heads of national statistical offices of UNECE member States, OECD member countries and international organizations including OECD, Eurostat, IMF, World Bank, CIS-Stat, EFTA, the European Central Bank, and several UN agencies.
Cooperation under CES guides international statistical work in the region, helping countries to align their priorities, identify new and shared challenges, and work together to address them. It also maximizes resource use and avoids duplication.
Read our factsheet to learn more: https://www.unece.org/DAM/stats/documents/Flyers/UNECE_work_on_statistics.pdf