|A data barrier hampers the efforts of
population and development planners in many countries. Most developing countries still
lack reliable statistics on births and deaths. Consequently, many countries find it
difficult to design and implement appropriate population and development policies. The
data barrier looks even more daunting when one considers the difficulty of also
integrating environmental concerns into national planning -- something that most developed
countries also find difficult to do.
major problem with regard to data is the lack of statistics broken down by gender,
ethnicity, economic status and other variables. Even basic social and economic statistics
are not always broken down by gender, and data on the health of populations often neglect
womens reproductive health. Data on labour force participation consistently
under-report the work of women, since womens work in developing countries is more
likely to be in the informal and agricultural sectors as well as in the home. Accurate
statistics on migration, particularly at the regional and international levels, are also
inadequate. All such data gaps impede efforts to design programmes and channel resources
to those most in need.
Accurate population information and statistics are
indispensable to study how demographic trends are affected by, and have an impact on,
social, economic and environmental factors. The collection and appropriate analysis of
data on these complex interactions are critical if policy makers are to formulate
population and other development programmes that respond to the needs of their intended
United Nations agencies and programmes have made a
significant contribution to the closing of this data gap, as have national aid
organizations such as the US Agency for International Development. Since the 1970s, when
the United Nations-sponsored Africa Census Programme helped fund first-time censuses in 21
newly independent countries, the UN system and UNFPA have helped countries in all regions
of the world undertake data-gathering exercises ranging from the conduct of national
censuses, to compiling and updating databases on gender, population and development.
Taking into account the new emphasis on the collection of
data on reproductive health issues, UNFPA sponsored an Expert Group Meeting on Innovative
Techniques for Population Censuses and Large-Scale Demographic Surveys in 1996. The
meeting, which was held in The Hague, the Netherlands, stressed the importance of a
national integrated information system as well as the need to include the gender
perspective in the design of data collection instruments.
The Fund's commitment to the development and use of new
methodologies in data collection, processing and dissemination is underscored by UNFPA's
participation in the initiatives of the Common Data System (CDS) Task Force, the United
Nations Economic and Social Information System (UNEIS) and the minimum national social
data set (MSDS), which is pioneering the use of a standardized database of socio-economic
indicators. UNFPA has also assisted the efforts of the United Nations Statistics Division
and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women in compiling and updating
databases on gender, population and development (WISTAT). The Demographic and Health
Survey Project, begun in 1984, has further expanded both the extent and quality of data on
womens reproductive health behaviour -- and desires -- most notably in Africa, Asia
and Latin America. Surveys in 62 countries have been completed.
But the collection of internationally comparable data is
only the beginning of the process. Data must be adequately analysed, widely disseminated
and formally integrated in development planning -- all of which requires complex skills
and, consequently, technical training. In this regard, the ICPD Programme of Action urges
nations and the international community to support training programmes in statistics,
demography and population and development studies.
The Programme of Action also identifies specific areas in
need of further research, such as reproductive health and the sociocultural context for
sexual and reproductive behaviour. New family planning methods are still needed, including
more methods for men, and barrier and other methods (such as microbicides) to help prevent
the spread of STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Designing programmes to end violence and other
abuses against women, and to eradicate harmful practices such as female genital
mutilation, requires research on gender roles and relationships and belief systems. In
addition, the Programme of Action stresses the need for gender-disaggregated data in order
to provide a more accurate picture of womens economic contributions to society,
including their unpaid labour in the family and in the informal sector.
|Women Count -- But Are Not Counted
Much of the work that women do is "invisible" in
national accounting and censuses, despite its obvious productive and social worth. One
reason for this undercounting is that womens activities tend to be concentrated in
small-scale agriculture, the informal sector and the home -- areas for which data are
still notoriously deficient.
In addition, womens work is often unpaid -- including that devoted to carrying
water, collecting fuel, processing and cooking food and caring for children.
The low value attached to womens work requires a fundamental remedy: an accurate
accounting of its contribution to development and overall social welfare. To do this
requires much better gender-specific data, particularly for the informal and agricultural