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Data Disaggregation Project 


Global Action on Aging, along with many NGO's, advocates for better population data collection in the United Nations system. Population data that is disaggregated by age and sex will inform the work of the United Nations and its Member States.  Policies, planning, and understanding priorities in any country become much clearer with good data. 

GAA posts key documents on data disaggregation, comments from the UN community,  reports on official meetings and news analyses.

Why Data Disaggregation?

  Articles and Reports | GAA Follow-up at the UNAdditional Resources

Why Does GAA Advocate for Data Disaggregation?

Disaggregating data by sex and age means converting general figures such as a country’s total population into a more specific statistical scheme. For example, disaggregated data makes it possible to obtain the number of older women living in a country.  For political, as well as security and diplomatic reasons, countries often consider population data generation an element of their sovereignty, independence and autonomy. 

Effective social policies, such as the distribution of social pensions to specific populations, require precise data on the group or population they address. However, accurate data is often forgotten. How can any government, organization or agency effectively assist local vulnerable populations, such as older persons, if it does not know the population size, gender statistics, age stratification, financial status, and community demographics? Governments require disaggregated data as part of strategic planning. They also require specific data to monitor social and development policies. Comparative data is used to note progress and evaluate the impact of policies on local populations.

However, even before disaggregating data, a significant number of countries face tremendous challenges in collecting data. Collecting data costs money that some governments do not have or cannot afford to spend, especially because the initial investments are very high. Experts unanimously acknowledge an immense gap between developed and developing countries in regards to statistical capacity. In particular, African countries with less stable governments are among those with the least statistical capacity. Rich countries unfairly accuse poor countries of not putting enough effort into building their statistical capacity. The United Nations is now helping countries build or improve their current statistical capacity by training statistics professionals, investing in technology and starting experimental surveys. 

Global Action on Aging advocates for the UN, rich countries and international organizations to take a stronger role in financing and providing technical support to programs building statistical capacity, particularly in poor countries. Improving statistical capacities, data collection and the separation of data by sex and age on all levels will be necessary. We urge the UN and Member States to take this elementary step to improve the lives, rights, and safety of older persons. 

Related Reports and Articles  


UNFPA: “Population Aging in China – Facts and Figures” (April 2006)
This booklet, prepared by the UNFPA office in China, includes a page with information on population aging in the World and China disaggregated by sex (page 4). The data show that although more boys are born than girls in most countries, women tend to live longer, thus outnumbering men in old age. Older women often live in poverty as they generally have had less formal employment, with little or no pension or medical insurance. Global Action on Aging advocates for data disaggegation by sex and age at the UN, as a way to monitor policies for older persons around the world. 

The World's Women 2005, Progress in Statistics [Executive Summary] (January 18, 2006)
Responding to the requests of groups of women, older persons and persons with disabilities for better disaggregated data, the UN Statistics Division published World's Women 2005 Progress in Statistics in January 2006. The book reveals which countries have collected research that shed light on the situation of women and older persons.  As one reviews the list of countries with the least data collection, it becomes abundantly clear that extreme poverty, armed conflicts, natural disasters, fragile economies or governments often make it impossible to collect good data. Download the Full Report (Zip format)

The World Health Organization Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women [Executive Summary]  (November 2005)
This report presents initial results based on 24,000 interviews of women in 15 different sites and 10 different countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Peru, Namibia, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand and the United Republic of Tanzania. The report shows that intimate partners are the first perpetrators of physical, psychological or sexual violence towards women. The disaggregated data collection method provides experts with findings which could not come from existing international statistics. The report also highlights how women internalize some cultural norms justifying violence towards them. 

World Population Policies 2005
This report, issued by Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, shows on a country-by-country basis the changes in the government's views on population policies over the period 1975-2005. The report highlights how governments act in respond to their population's development in terms of age structure, health and mortality. This publication presents key figures for each decade (1976 - 1986 - 1996 - 2005). 

Advocacy and Resource Mobilization for the 2010 Round of Censuses (February 25, 2005)
In February 2005 a joint meeting of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Statistics Division focused on the implementation of the 2010 World Program of Censuses. This publication reviews all the decisions of this meeting and, especially, emphasizes the value of censuses in measuring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

World Population Ageing 1950-2050 (2002)
This report was prepared by the UN Population Division as a contribution to the 2002 World Assembly on Ageing and its follow-up.  The report provides a description of global trends in population ageing and includes a series of indicators of the ageing process by developing regions, major areas, regions and countries.


                   Fiji: Population Census to Cost $7m (September 13, 2006)
Fijian authorities started preparations for the upcoming Population and Housing Census in June 2007.
Minister for Finance and National Planning, Ratu Jone Kubuabola, said that census results are important planning tools to make informed policy decisions on children, youth and the elderly. The census will cost the small island nation about $7million-- a good example of the high costs to collect data for developing countries. (According to the CIA World Factbook, Fiji has an estimated population of 905,949 persons.)

With UN Help, Nigeria Finishes Gathering Census Data (March 28, 2006)
With the help of the UN Population Fund's staff on the ground, the Nigerian Government has finished collecting the data of its 2006 general census. After an interruption of 15 years, the Nigerian achievement of data collection in the most populated African country is both a national success and an encouragement for all developing countries, to build statistical capacity and disaggregate data. 

U.N. Reports Lack of Data on Women in Poverty (January 21, 2006)
According to the NY Times, the new UN report "The World's Women, 2005: Progress in Statistics" issued by the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs shows the lack of reliable data collection about the situations of women in the world. The often-inadequate statistics in poor countries make health or human rights' diagnosis, policies and monitoring even more difficult. As a necessary basis prior to any appropriate development policy, disaggregated data by sex and age should become a real priority for governments as part of their "sovereign" responsibility.

UN Report Recommends Improved Data Collection to Better Women's Lives (January 18, 2006)
The UN News Service reviews the press conference on the release of the UN report, The World's Women 2005, Progress in Statistics. Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch of the UN Statistics Division said that the "UN Commitment to the Millennium Development Goals has been a prod to improved statistical collection." 

GAA Follow-up at the UN

GAA's Review: UN Statistical Commission 2006 (March 14, 2006)
The 37th session of the UN Statistical Commission took place in New York, UN Headquarters, March 7 - March 10, 2006. Global Action on Aging reviewed the commission meetings particularly the sections dealing with social statistics and statistical capacity improvement. 


UN Commission for Social Development: HelpAge International Side Event: Reducing Poverty by Supporting Caregivers (February 10, 2006)
During the 2006 UN Commission for Social Development, HelpAge International, one of GAA's partners, organized a side event on poverty reduction. Speakers demonstrated how disaggregated data by age and sex can help shape better policies. You may access their presentations here. 
- HelpAge International Position Paper on Poverty Reduction
- Poverty reduction by Supporting Caregivers, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children, By Candace Miller (Ppt)
- Old Age, Poverty and Exclusion in Bolivia, Beyond Disaggregation, by Fiona Clark
(Ppt Presentation)
- Old Age, Poverty and Exclusion in Bolivia, by Fiona Clark (Presentation Comments, Doc)


GAA's Review: UN & WHO Briefing on "Data and Statistics on Gender Equality: Progress and Challenges" (January 25, 2006)
About 100 countries do not carry out regular population data collection due to many reasons including extreme poverty, armed conflict, natural disasters. fragile economies or governments. This chart identifies the countries or regions and some of challenges that prevent adequate population data collection. 

Collecting disaggregated data about women in the world has double importance. First, good data gives a clear and accurate picture of women's situation in the world. Second, data disaggregation inform decision-making and creating appropriate policies and monitoring. Since 1995 the UN has made significant progress on collecting data and on building a research methodology. Global Action on Aging reviews two recent publications that pushed forward these efforts. 


Report of the Event “Not Just a Numbers Game: Ensuring the Excluded Get Counted in Poverty Monitoring” (February 10, 2005) 
“Reaching groups of people who are socially excluded is difficult. While such groups may be among the poorest of the poor, poverty reduction policies are likely to fail to benefit them unless specifically designed to do so. This side event at the UN Commission for Social Development focused on the need to strengthen the collection and analysis of statistics on excluded groups to ensure that they get counted in poverty monitoring and are assisted by poverty reduction strategies.” 

Additional Resources  


Countries and Frequency of Data Reporting (PDF)
On the basis of the data of the World Women 2005, Progress in Statistics report and UN information on peacekeeping operations and development policies this document presents charts and combined information on countries that have not, for various reasons, reported data to the UN databases over the last eleven years. 


Web Links on Data Disaggregation 

UN/DESA Statistics Division 
The UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division plays a key role in improving global and national statistical systems through its technical cooperation and data management programs. UN/DESA Statistics Division carries out four main tasks: (1) the collection, processing and dissemination of statistical information, (2) the standardization of statistical methods, classifications and definitions, (3) the technical cooperation program and (4) the coordination of international statistical programs and activities.  The Statistics Division’s website features the latest publications, projects and events from this important office. 


UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
UNFPA supports governments' efforts in organizing censuses, collecting data, building statistical capacity and acts in partnership with the UN/DESA Statistics Division on the ground. 


Population Activities Unit of the UN Economic Commission for Europe 
Visit the "Aging" section  of the Population Activities Unit (PAU) of the UNECE, which refers to the challenge of data collection when implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (2002). 


Nigeria: Demographic and Health Data Collection and Analysis
This page highlights the 1998-2003 technical cooperation program for data collection in Nigeria supported by the UN. 


Nigeria: United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
This website provides information on UNDP's actions and projects in Nigeria including UNDP's role in the 2006 census. 


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