Gender and development People

Posted January 2000

Gender and statistics: Key elements for the advancement of women

Prepared by
Marie Randriamamonjy
Chief, Women in Development Service
FAO Women and Population Division
This report is based on "Filling the data gap", a paper prepared by the Statistics Division, FAO Economic and Social Department and the Women and Population Division, FAO Sustainable Development Department. This paper was presented to the delegates of the FAO Conference held in Rome in November 1999.

SOME MILESTONES


  1. International References:

  2. FAO's mandate:

  3. FAO's selected activities in gender sensitive statistics

    The following are the most significant initiatives aimed at rendering agricultural statistics more sensitive to gender issues. They illustrate the variety of actions taken to tackle those issues, ranging from advocacy to field activities.

A series of relevant publications, guidelines and training manuals have been issued. Several pilot projects have been initiated to:

  1. execute a regional evaluation concerning the collection and processing of data disaggregated by sex on human resources in agriculture;
  2. develop links between the agricultural and population censuses including surveys on households and labour; and
  3. technically promote and support the establishment of an African network of statisticians in the agricultural and social science fields.

A project is being implemented in four countries in southern Africa (Zimbabwe, the United Republic of Tanzania, Swaziland and Mozambique), aiming to improve the understanding and information-sharing of gender-specific knowledge and traditional expertise with regard to natural resources conservation and biodiversity.

INTRODUCTION


The end of the 2nd millennium is witnessing a formidable paradox as regards rural women and information. On the one hand, thanks to the revolution of communication technology, women are projected into the middle of global market realities. On the other, they are left out of the mainstream of development programmes. The end result of this contradictory situation is that they are impacted by globalization, changing trade patterns or tariff structures without drawing the benefits commensurate to their participation.

Rural women are not part of the global information and communication system which turns the world into a "global village"; they are neither participants nor producers. This is because they are not "media-attractive" and do not constitute an interesting target as potential consumers. Primarily, rural women are invisible: faceless and voiceless.

The root causes of this prevailing situation are multiple, ranging from the scarcity of reliable statistics on rural populations with respect to their development and the limited scope and coverage of gender data to a weak system of dissemination. This makes it difficult for issues of social equity and the specific needs of male and female agricultural producers to be adequately addressed. The problem is complex and calls for a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach. Moreover, the endeavour should be supported by a political will, coupled with a coherent methodology.

Several international conferences have stressed the importance of encouraging the availability of information and data as a compulsory starting point for any programme for the advancement of women from the First World Conference in Mexico in 1975 to the Beijing fourth World Conference which produced the Platform for Action in 1995. In FAO, the World Food Summit Plan of Action adopted in 1996 recommended in particular "the improvement of the collection, dissemination and use of gender disaggregated data in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development".

The FAO Plan of Action for the integration of women in development adopted by the Conference in 1995, points to the need for data on the role of women in agriculture, and sets precise objectives in this area:

As regards social indicators and statistics, FAO concerns are classified into three main areas: agricultural production, food and nutrition and rural development. They are interdependent but do not have the same focus and, more importantly, do not cover the same population groups. Therefore, they do not provide an overall picture of the situation of rural women.

At the national level, official statistics do not reflect the actual roles and contributions of rural producers in general and especially of rural women in all spheres of society and are unable to show both gender differentiation and inequalities in the respective roles of men and women and the differential impact of the development process on each one.

A series of questions needs to be answered if we are to meet the challenges of the 21st century, in particular those set forth in the World Food Summit plan of action: halving the number of undernourished people in the World by the year 2000.

This paper will attempt to address only one aspect of the comprehensive and encompassing strategy needed to address the issue. It will concentrate on gender and statistics as a preliminary and important element of a programme to secure women's social and economic advancement on an equal footing with men and to achieve optimal agricultural productivity and food security. Actually, women's contribution to development should be first and foremost acknowledged and valued. Therefore, the first section will address the issue of how FAO can improve its current programme and practices in this regard while the second will analyse the situation at national level.

1st section: How the improvement of statistics can enhance the knowledge on rural women's living conditions and their contribution to economic development.

Long-term development trends suggest that progressive industrialization of agriculture is associated with decrease of the proportion of populations involved in food production. However, mid-term demographic projections of the United Nations for the developing countries suggest that over the next two decades rural populations will still continue to exceed urban populations. Moreover, food needs in these countries over the next three decades are expected to nearly double. Clearly, for the time being economic growth in the developing world is going to be correlated with agricultural growth and the pressure on agriculture to increase its output, and hence its productivity, will be enormous in the years to come. Production on existing land will almost have to double in order to provide the required food supply sustainably. Thus, critical contributory factors in the intensification of agricultural productivity will be research and the organization of research-supporting databases, new technology, the development of rural human resources - including the agricultural labour force - through special social programmes, as well as the use of public environments as a forum for dialogue on policy issues. All these trends call for a serious effort to learn more about the lives and work of rural men and women, and especially about women's achievements and potentials in cost-efficient food production.

The agricultural census could be defined as "a government-sponsored operation for the collection of quantitative information on agricultural structure, including that on persons belonging to agricultural households, covering in principle the whole of a country within a given agricultural year". The decennial world census of agricultural programmes represent one of the most important information systems in a country and can serve as a basis for many other statistical programmes relating to agriculture.

The FAO's statistical data base, FAOSTAT, contains basic and useful information but more detailed and disaggregated data are necessary to reflect the gender related aspects of agricultural and rural development. Also, they can be combined with the results of population censuses or labour force surveys, for example.

The most recent FAO guidelines on demographic characteristics to be monitored in agricultural censuses during the period 1996-2005 (FAO, 1995) are summarized in the table below:

Table 1. Demographic and employment characteristics in the FAO Programme for the World Census of Agriculture 2000

REFERENCE CATEGORY

ESSENTIAL ITEMS

PROPOSED ITEMS

Holder's Household

Number of household members

None

Household members

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Main occupation
  • Whether engaged in more than one occupation
  • Marital status
  • Education
  • Whether economically active or not
  • Whether any work done on holding during the year
  • Whether permanent or occasional agricultural on holding
  • Agricultural workers other than members of holder's household

    None

  • Whether permanent agricultural workers during year
  • Whether occasional agricultural workers employed during year
  • Number of permanent agricultural workers - male (skilled or not)
  • Number of permanent agricultural workers - female (skilled or not)

  • Source: FAO (1995)

    As can be seen from Table 1, the list of essential items, recommended by FAO, includes the sex of household members. Since governments are entirely responsible for their own data collection, decision on the inclusion of a gender dimension is in their hands. FAO's advice is generally not to overload the census by broadening its coverage and to restrict the scope to essential items. Nevertheless data reflecting the gender dimension of food production are necessary.

    A. Improving data collection and statistical accuracy: strategies and methodologies

    For the time being, in most cases the thrust of the developmental planning and information system has been on physical growth of goods and services and overall welfare. Social concerns like the role of women in the development process have largely been given a secondary status in preparing national programmes dealing with raising the standard of living and productivity. It needs to be realized that:

    Policy-making for rural development will require not only more accurate and systematic statistics on rural producers, but also officially collected data that are more relevant to the needs and concerns of data users and producers' associations, academic institutions and public and private development practitioners at all levels.

    Adequate statistics to address the above issues particularly in connection with the rural and agricultural development are lacking. In fact what women do is often unrecorded, undervalued or not valued at all. To address this problem, the FAO Statistics Division has formulated the following objectives:

    1. Review of existing methodological publications on gender aspects related to agricultural survey design and data collection procedures with the objective of preparing guidelines and training materials to provide more accurate statistics on:

    2. Providing support to member countries in adopting these guidelines keeping in view the local condition and social customs;

    3. Providing support to member countries in compilation and analysis of the data for supporting programme and policy formulation.

    4. The database compiled in FAO does not aim at addressing social and development issues of rural populations in their roles as producers and consumers, or as human capital autonomously involved in the process of production (i.e. people using technology, knowledge, and information directly in their daily work). FAOSTAT gives data mainly about the production tool itself as a process of management of agriculture and the input/output balance of material resources involved. Thus, the focus of FAO agricultural statistics does not include the human resources themselves as a force directly shaping the production of food, its quantitative and qualitative characteristics. However, in view of the current trends and long-term prospective for development of agriculture, and in view of FAO's mandate as a UN agency in charge of providing data pertinent to current processes of agriculture in development, it is of specific interest for FAO to be able to use demographic and labour force data and to combine these data to those derived from agricultural censuses and surveys at subnational level. Why is this integration at subnational level necessary? One of the main problems in most UN statistical publications is that a disaggregation by rural/urban residence is not usually available when different population characteristics are reported. From the perspective of FAO's needs this makes it impossible to retabulate data on the various categories of rural populations including by gender, even at the national level. Therefore, the integration of data has to be based on subnational linkages between demographic, labour force and agricultural sources of data (i.e., censuses and surveys) so as to make possible the compilation of a gender-sensitive database on producers with an agricultural/rural profile. To make this possible, the co-operation of both, UN agencies and member countries' responsible institutions is of primary importance.

    B. Some examples of improved statistics on rural women's contribution to economic development.

    Table 2 is an example of additional useful data which can be derived from population censuses/labour force surveys to highlight women's share in agricultural and non agricultural labour-force. Such data are of key importance in order to understand the farmer population, its composition at a given time and its dynamics over time. It also raises additional issues such as the extent of male migration, employment level, measurement and characteristics of women's labour.

    Table 2. Sex distribution of the total, agricultural and non-agricultural labour force

    World/ region

    Women's share in:

    Total labour force

    Agricultural labour force

    Non-agricultural labour force

     

    1990

    1997

    1990

    1997

    1990

    1997

    World

    40.0

    40.4

    42.7

    43.3

    37.3

    38.0

    Developed countries

    43.4

    44.2

    38.4

    36.7

    44.0

    44.9

    Developing countries

    38.8

    39.3

    42.9

    43.6

    32.3

    33.7

    Sub-Saharan Africa

    42.4

    42.5

    46.9

    47.3

    31.4

    32.7

    Asian developing countries

    39.4

    39.8

    43.5

    44.0

    31.7

    33.1

    Latin America and Caribbean developing countries

    32.6

    34.1

    16.9

    17.0

    37.9

    38.8

    Oceanic developing countries

    39.1

    40.3

    43.5

    44.8

    29.8

    31.9

    LIFDC's

    39.6

    40.0

    43.5

    44.0

    31.7

    33.4

    Low-income* countries

    36.2

    36.9

    41.3

    42.1

    26.0

    28.4
    * Low-income food-deficit countries
    Source: FAOSTAT

    Table 3 shows the type of detailed and gender related information data which can be obtained in cross-tabulating, the share of women in the agricultural labour force by several variables such as level of income, size of holdings, and the sex of land holders .

    Table 3. Women's share in the total agricultural labour force in selected developing countries, classified by income and agricultural land classes

    Average income per week per agricultural worker Arable land under permanent crops per economically active agricultural worker classes
    Less than 0.5 ha 0.51-1.00 ha 1.01-1.5 ha More than 1.5 ha All land classes
    Percentage
    Less than $5 48.4 50.1 49.1 49.7 48.7
    $5-10 47.8 38.2   54.1 44.6
    $10-20 39.7 41.4 43.6 38.0 40.9
    $20-40 44.2 24.5 16.7 43.9 34.8
    More than $40   29.3 18.6 19.9 20.8
    All income classes 47.8 38.9 34.9 30.5 43.4
    Source:FAOSTAT and World Bank

    2nd Section: How the Governments of FAO member states can help changing the situation

    Generally speaking, developing countries suffer from the failure of statistical systems to respond to data needs. As a result, they do not have the social, demographic, economic data needed for an accurate development planning.

    In the production and use of gender-specific statistics, nearly all countries are facing similar problems which can be summarized as follows:



    Governments of Members States can help in reversing the above situation by:

    Table 4 gives the list of countries which have simultaneously included in their agriculture censuses demographic items such as the sex and age of the household members. Despite several problems related to concepts, time references, operations, this attempt is commendable and encouraged.

    Table 4. Coverage of demographically relevant items in agricultural censuses in developing countries, 1986-1985

    Region-Country Census year Demographically relevant items in the census:
    Members of holder's household classified by sex Member of holder's household classified by age
    Africa:      
    Benin
    1992
    X
    X
    Burkina Faso
    1993
    X
    X
    Cape Verde
    1988
    X
    X
    Congo, Dem. Rep.of
    1990
    X
    X
    Guinea
    1989
    X
    X
    Guinea Bissau  
    X
    X
    Reunion
    1988
    X
    X
    Sao Tome & Principe
    1990
    X
    X
    Tanzania
    1994/95
    X
    X
    Uganda
    1991
    X
    X
    North and Central America:      
    Bahamas
    1994
    X
    X
    Dominica
    1995
    X
    X
    Grenada
    1995
    X
    X
    St. Vincent & Grenadines
    1986
    X
    X
    South America:      
    Argentina
    1988
    X
    X
    Colombia
    1988
    X
    X
    Paraguay
    1989
    X
    X
    Korea, Rep. of
    1990
    X
    X
    Myanmar
    1993
    X
    X
    Nepal
    1992
    X
    X
    Pakistan
    1990
    X
    X
    Philippines
    1988
       
    Thailand
    1991
    X
    X
    Oceania:      
    Cook Islands
    1988
    X
    X
    New Caledonia
    1991
    X
    X
    Niue
    1989
    X
    X
    Western Samoa
    1989
    X
    X
    Source:FAO (1997)

    Table 5 shows a slight decline in the number of countries collecting data on the sex of holders: 36 in 1980 versus 26 in 1990. Only 10 did the recording in both dates. It is therefore difficult to make a comparison over time and indicate the trends.

    Table 5: Developing countries collecting information on sex of holder, 1980 and 1990 census rounds

    Region/Country 1980 1990
    Africa:    
    Benin  
    X
    Botswana
    X
    X
    Burkina Faso  
    X
    Cape Verde  
    X
    Central African Republic
    X
     
    Congo, Dem. Rep. of
    X
    X
    Djibouti  
    X
    Ethipoia
    X
     
    Kenya
    X
     
    Lesotho  
    X
    Madagascar
    X
     
    Malawi
    X
     
    Niger
    X
     
    Reunion
    X
    X
    Rwanda
    X
     
    Sao Tome & Principe  
    X
    Sierra Leone
    X
     
    Swaziland  
    X
    Tanzania    
    Togo
    X
     
    Uganda  
    X
    Zambia  
    X
    North and Central America:    
    Antigua and Barbuda
    X
     
    Bahamas
    X
    X
    Belize
    X
     
    Dominica  
    X
    Grenada
    X
    X
    Guadeloupe
    X
    X
    Guatmala
    X
     
    Jamaica
    X
     
    Martinique
    X
    X
    Saint Lucia  
    X
    Trinidad and Tobago
    X
     
    South America:    
    French Guyana
    X
    X
    Paraguay
    X
     
    Asia:    
    Bahrain
    X
    X
    Cyprus
    X
     
    Jordan
    X
     
    Korea, Rep. of
    X
     
    Myanmar  
    X
    Nepal
    X
    X
    Oman
    X
     
    Philippines
    X
     
    Saudi Arabia
    X
     
    Sri Lanka
    X
     
    Thailand
    X
     
    Tonga
    X
     
    Turkey
    X
     
    Yemen Arab Rep.
    X
     
    Oceania:    
    Fiji  
    X
    Niue  
    X
    Western Samoa  
    X
    Source: FAO (1997)

    Formulation of strategies for maximizing the use of available data.

    In order to have a more comprehensive picture of rural women's participation in food production and food security, alternative opportunities should be explored for further development of relevant data systems that are both cost-efficient and organizationally sustainable. Four possible strategies for action are considered:

    1. Supplementing the data from agricultural surveys, available national and subnational data from population censuses and labour force surveys, household income and expenditure surveys, etc.

    2. Developing common coding systems and methods for data merging between population and agricultural censuses.

    3. Increase the use of diagnosis and evaluation surveys. These methods are avitally important to measure productivity and technical efficiency by sex in various socio-cultural, family and production contexts.

    Moreover, in most cases, qualitative indicators as well as quantitative measures are needed in order to achieve meaningful and valid analytical models.

    CONCLUSIONS

    Statistics are both an instrument of knowledge and a tool for advocacy. There is a need for joint and concerted efforts between FAO and its member governments, on the one hand, and between FAO and other UN and international specialized institutions on the other, to obtain meaningful results in the field of gender disaggregated statistics.

    In order to ascertain accurately the real situation of rural women and men and their labour contribution, development agents should draw qualitative information from sources such as socio-anthropological studies, values and attitudes surveys, market analysis and feasibility studies. As regards more specifically rural women, they should also use special studies on key issues such as land and credit access, institutions and participation in rural organizations. This implies a series of adjustments:

    Governments should be aware of the fact that by addressing the issues of gender equality, they will also touch upon those of labour force dynamics and development, productivity and poverty. Moreover, improving gender statistics is part of a strategy to create an enabling environment for improving food security and achieving sustainable development.

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