Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

The United Nations Statistical Commission adopted the fundamental principles of official statistics in 1994 at the global level, which were then adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. In 2018, the ILO Director-General fully committed to these principles

1. Relevance, impartiality and equal access

Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens’ entitlement to public information.

2. Professional standards and ethics

To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.

3. Accountability and transparency

To facilitate a correct interpretation of the data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.

4. Prevention of misuse

The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.

5. Sources of official statistics

Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.

6. Confidentiality

Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.

7. Legislation

The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.

8. National coordination

Coordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

9. Use of international standards

The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all official levels.

10. International cooperation

Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics in all countries.

Principles governing international statistical activities

Bearing in mind that statistics are essential for sustainable economic, environmental and social development and that public trust in official statistics is anchored in professional independence and impartiality of statisticians, their use of scientific and transparent methods and equal access for all to official statistical information, the Chief Statisticians or coordinators of statistical activities of United Nations agencies and related organizations, agree that implementation of the following principles will enhance the functioning of the international statistical system.

  1. High quality international statistics, accessible for all, are a fundamental element of global information systems
  2. To maintain the trust in international statistics, their production is to be impartial and strictly based on the highest professional standards
  3. The public has a right to be informed about the mandates for the statistical work of the organisations
  4. Concepts, definitions, classifications, sources, methods and procedures employed in the production of international statistics are chosen to meet professional scientific standards and are made transparent for the users
  5. Sources and methods for data collection are appropriately chosen to ensure timeliness and other aspects of quality, to be cost-efficient and to minimise the reporting burden for data providers
  6. Individual data collected about natural persons and legal entities, or about small aggregates that are subject to national confidentiality rules, are to be kept strictly confidential and are to be used exclusively for statistical purposes or for purposes mandated by legislation
  7. Erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics are to be immediately appropriately addressed
  8. Standards for national and international statistics are to be developed on the basis of sound professional criteria, while also meeting the test of practical utility and feasibility
  9. Coordination of international statistical programmes is essential to strengthen the quality, coherence and governance of international statistics, and avoiding duplication of work
  10. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contribute to the professional growth of the statisticians involved and to the improvement of statistics in the organisations and in countries