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Statisticians strengthen engagement with global business to improve economic measurement

Businesses have gone increasingly global. Their value chains are often supported by subcontractors from all over the world. The production process is a giant global jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces slotting together only in the final assembly line.

The impact of this globalization of business through multi-national enterprise (MNE) groups presents one of the largest measurement challenges facing producers of economic statistics today.

On 9–12 April more than 100 national accountants gathered in Geneva to address the challenges of measuring the globalized economy.

Communication with MNE groups is key to ensuring high quality statistics. Statisticians increasingly require expertise in accountancy, to be able to understand business accounts and translate the information to statistical concepts. Statisticians must be able to speak a language that businesses understand.

With this common language in place, they then need to engage proactively with MNEs. Statisticians at many national statistical offices and central banks have established teams to collaborate with MNE respondents and help them to respond to statistical surveys. This increases the quality of data gathered and reduces businesses’ reporting burden.

Now statistical authorities are forming a UNECE network of experts on MNE reporting. This network aims to improve the quality and coherence of economic statistics internationally by reconciling data and reducing asymmetries between countries' statistics.

At the UNECE Expert Meeting on National Accounts, The Task Force on Exchange and Sharing of Economic Data presented a vision for data sharing.  

Ideally, statistics would be based on globally-reconciled data on MNEs so that official statistics describing the economy could be produced without statistical asymmetries, gaps or double counting. The same data would only be collected once from MNEs for the production of official statistics. Policymakers, businesses and researchers would be able to analyze economic development, changes in globalization and global division of work across countries using internationally-consistent, high quality statistics.

Statisticians are now working to make this vision a reality in the future. The Task Force has prepared recommendations to facilitate progress towards the vision, with Guidance for Data Sharing to be finalized and sent for global consultation before the end of 2019.

The meeting of national accountants also shared recent experience in accounting for global production arrangements, following the Guide to Measuring Global Production developed by UNECE, OECD and Eurostat and a number of countries. The last session discussed digitalization, which has led to a further globalization of economic transactions and the rise of global consumers along with a further increase in global production arrangements. These discussions added weight to the sense of urgency for statisticians to better understand the activities of MNEs, so that they can solve the puzzle and produce relevant and high-quality economic statistics.