Statistics: an information source for everyone

20/10/2010 00:01


  • World Statistics Day, 20 October 2010 
  • European Statistics, the average European citizen
  • CBS programme for World Statistics day 2010

The United Nations has declared Wednesday 20 October 2010 the first World Statistics Day. This event highlights the importance of official statistics in our society. Statistics Netherlands has been making statistics since 1899, which have been used widely both at national and international level. Statistics are indispensable: you can only govern a country if you know all the facts.

Statistics makes it possible to compare

Statistics Netherlands has been working together with its European sister institutes since 1958. Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union. Together with the 27 national statistical institutes of the Member States and organisations of candidate members and the EFTA countries, it forms a network that makes it possible to compile comparable statistics for all these countries on the basis of clear unambiguous definitions. On 20 October, Eurostat will publish a statistical portrait of the EU in a global perspective.

Statistics make comparison possible; they can be used to compile averages, but also to give comparable data for each Member State, helping to illustrate the similarities and differences within the EU. Such European statistics exist across a wide range of fields – public finances, prices, external trade, labour market, health, education. statistics are used by in business, by government and by citizens, in education and for scientific research and they make it possible to monitor developments, support decision-making and increase knowledge.

Statistics are useful for a wide range of purposes

European regional statistics guide the European Commission in the allocation of regional funding for example, while in the economic area, harmonised price statistics play a key role in the monetary policy of Central Banks. Businesses use external trade statistics to investigate new opportunities across the internal market, while European citizens can compare taxation or unemployment in their country with other Member States. In 2011 a new population census will be launched in all Member States, and the results of these censuses will be vital, for example, at national level in decisions on the location of public infrastructure (schools, hospitals, energy supply and transport.)

An example: the average European

As one light-hearted example, European statistics can help to describe ‘average’ European citizens. For a woman, she would be 42 years old, and can expect to live for a further 41 years. She was around 28 years old when she had her first child, and has less than two children. She works in public or social services for about 33 hours a week, and has completed at least upper secondary education. For a man, he would be 39 years old, and has a life expectancy of another 39 years. He works in market services for around 40 hours a week, and has completed at least upper secondary education. Of course these figures only provide a benchmark against which citizens can compare themselves with their neighbours.

How will Statistics Netherlands be marking World Statistics Day?

To mark World Statistics Day, on 20-10-2010, Statistics Netherlands will publish three articles describing various aspects of the production of statistics. One describes the relationship between perceived inflation and measured inflation. Another describes the first survey conducted by Statistics Netherlands in the three new municipalities Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. The survey measures price differences between the three Caribbean Islands. The third article looks at the statistical aspects of marriage and divorce.
For more information about World Statistics Day, go to:

UNSD, the statistics Department of the United Nations
Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union