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Measuring global production boils down to data exchange

Many production lines have gone global, which makes changes in production patterns even faster and more difficult to follow. One top management decision may quickly relocate assets or production from one country to another. Suddenly, a country may receive huge investment flows. The parts of a final product or service you buy at a store may have been produced in different countries around the world, making it difficult to trace its origins.

Statisticians should, however, be able to measure the globalized economy and provide decision makers and the public with relevant and reliable figures. Sounds like mission impossible, especially for a single national statistical office, but could we succeed by working together internationally?

On 31 May – 2 June 2017, more than 100 national accountants gathered in Geneva to address the challenges of measuring the globalized economy. The experts agreed on the urgent need for concrete and implementable solutions for sharing data among statisticians to ensure the quality of economic statistics. They underlined the benefits of data exchange for better quality, relevance and consistency of official statistics. Data reuse also reduces the need to collect the same information from businesses many times and increases efficiency of statistical production.

A new UNECE Task Force on the Exchange and Sharing of Economic Data presented its work programme and received feedback from the meeting. The Task Force aims to share its first results with the Expert Group on National Accounts, convened jointly by UNECE, Eurostat and OECD, by 2018. It will review countries’ experience, obstacles and possibilities in data sharing to see what can be done.

An essential aspect for data exchange is trust. Ensuring trust and the confidentiality of enterprises’ data requires common principles, procedures and strict rules. At the moment, data exchange is regulated by different national legal frameworks. A UNECE Expert Group on Common Elements of Statistical Legislation is developing common principles for official statistics in all countries. It is also considering how to ensure secure data exchange for statistical purposes by means of regulation.

Data sharing is a key element in producing high-quality economic statistics, not least on GDP, trade and balance of payments, which are strongly influenced by global production. Effective data sharing helps to compile these statistics along the lines of the Guide to Measuring Global Production developed by UNECE, OECD and Eurostat together with a number of countries.

Extending data sharing requires also a cultural change in statistical production. Statisticians can advance data exchange by working together already within the current frameworks. To invoke this cultural change, Chief Statisticians will discuss the exchange and sharing of economic data on 21 June 2017 at the Conference of European Statisticians.