Venue: Department of the Taoiseach, Room 301, Government Buildings, D02 R583
Date: Wednesday June 6, 2018 at 10.00am
Item 7: Any other business
National Statistics Board
Venue: Department of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings
Date: Wednesday 6 June 2018
Members present: Dr. Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Mr. John Shaw, Mr. John McCarthy, Dr. Eimear Cotter, Mr. Gerard Brady, Mr. John Martin and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Apologies: Mr. Gerard O’Neill
Non-members in attendance: Paul Morrin and Richard McMahon (CSO Senior Management), Ms. Claire Hanley (Secretary). Mr. Kieran Culhane (CSO) attended for item 6 of the agenda.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
A short discussion took place on a decision taken by CSO, following the last meeting of the Board, to include experimental statistics in a new area of the existing CSO website rather than launch a separate ‘Innovation Website’.
The Board discussed progress on recommended actions from the NSB Strategy, specifically in relation to the following:
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO and at European level. Specific issues were selected for further discussion.
Irish Government Statistical Service (IGSS) secondments
The number of seconded statisticians and senior statisticians has been stable at 25 since the last report to the NSB. There is a strong demand for secondments from current and new Departments with 3 new statistician posts created in the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health. The Board discussed the ongoing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff with data analytics skills.
Globalisation and the Economic Statistics Review Group
The new Productivity in Ireland 2016 publication was released on May 21st. These results are an important cornerstone of economic statistics and help users to understand how labour, capital and other factors drive economic growth.
An Economic Statistics Review Group (ESRG) meeting took place on May 29th to review progress to date on delivery of the Group’s recommendations and to update the Group on plans for deliverables in 2018. The Board were updated on the work of the ESRG which includes plans for developing the GNI* and Current Account* national indicators. It is envisaged that the Macroeconomic Statistics Liaison Group will incorporate the work of the ESRG going forward.
The annual National Income and Expenditure results, giving more definitive and detailed results for 2017 including GNI* estimates, is scheduled for publication before end-June and will include new detail on royalty payments to further help users understand the impact of globalisation on the macro-economic statistics.
A new publication on pension liabilities “Estimates of Irish Pension Liabilities 2015” was released on April 20th. This new publication includes analysis of funded and Government managed schemes and was compiled using data sources across the system.
Census of Population
The development and testing of a new electronic Enumeration Record Book which replaces the previous paper version is progressing well with positive feedback from the initial field trials. The Board were updated on developments for the storage of the confidential data being collected.
Labour Force Survey
The Q1 2018 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release, planned for June 20th, will incorporate revisions to the regional breakdown of results to take account of the new NUTS regional groupings in accordance with the 2016 EU NUTS regulation. In addition, the comparability between the new LFS and old QNHS regional and occupational estimates will be improved following an enhancement to the calibration of these breakdowns for pre Q3 2017 series.
The Board discussed the revisions to the LFS series, the backcasting of specific variables and the periodicity of the series. Plans to move from a quarterly to a monthly series will be considered in the medium term.
Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a survey developed by the OECD that measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills - literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. The Board was informed that the CSO has agreed to conduct this survey on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills in 2021/2022.
Rebased Industrial Production and Turnover Index
The rebased Industrial Production and Turnover (IPT) Index (base 2015=100) was published in May 2018. The Board was apprised of the difficulties created by the rebase as the base period weights now incorporate the level shift that occurred in industry in 2015, which was driven by globalisation activity. Following the recommendation by the ESRG, the CSO hopes to publish an employment-weighted index in the second half of 2018.
Retail Sales Index (RSI) and online sales
The Board discussed CSO’s plan is to publish a breakdown of the RSI between internet and shop sales by November 2018. This will cover only items bought in Ireland.
The CSOs internal Digital Economy Board, one of five formal statistical coherency framework boards established pursuant to the 2015 ESCoP Peer Review, was set up to look at data gaps and opportunities from new data sources. The Board agreed that a presentation from this Group would be beneficial and will be scheduled for a future meeting.
FRIBS and GNI Regulation
The Board discussed the progress on the debate around the exchange of microdata as proposed under the FRIBS Regulation. Despite Ireland’s strong case against the exchange of microdata, it appears the majority of countries are in favour of the introduction of this Regulation.
As part of the updating of the GNI legal architecture, the Presidency returned from a trilogue negotiation with the European Parliament with a proposed text that included provision for delegated acts on GNI quality measures. The CSO’s position is that provision in the GNI legislation for delegated acts on quality measures - where the comitology procedure is removed - is not acceptable. The Board were apprised of the steps taken by the CSO to oppose the proposed legislation. The compromise text will now be re-drafted.
The Board were updated on the ongoing work within the CSO in relation to Technology and the CSO’s cyber security measures.
Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey (CSEES)
The Board were informed of the publication of the results of the 2017 Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey for the Civil Service which were issued on 28th March. Fifty organisations and 21,365 civil servants took part in the survey with a Civil Service response rate of 56%. The CSO response rate was 81%.
The Board were updated on CSO staffing resources and recruitment activities taking place – both current and planned for 2018.
Richard McMahon (CSO) presented an overview of the CSO’s social survey programme for the period 2018-2020. Until recently the CSO conducted two continuous household surveys – the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) and the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC). To meet demands arising from the ESS social survey programme, a new household survey environment was introduced in CSO which consists of three main survey vehicles – the Labour Force Survey (LFS); Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC); and the General Household Survey (GHS). In addition to meeting EU requirements, there is some scope for the inclusion of a short series of additional questions, which are aligned with the main content of the survey, to respond to national data needs.
The Board discussed their role in assisting the CSO in prioritising various topics in addition to those required by EU regulation. They requested a paper from CSO which would summarise the areas to be covered, distinguish between EU requirements and national needs, and set out the criteria that could be used to prioritise themes.
The Board noted the proposal from the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Services for a comprehensive national survey on Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) and discussed the implications of such demands on CSO resources.
The Board also discussed the increasing difficulty of collecting data from households and the need for a shift from the use of primary to secondary data sources as response rates from household surveys continue to decline both nationally and internationally.
It was suggested that the CSO consider preparing a paper, for discussion at a future meeting, on the declining household survey response rates and how the trends in Ireland compare with those in other countries.
Kieran Culhane (CSO) presented an overview of the housing pathfinder project on new dwelling completions, the results of which are due to be published on June 14, 2018. The project evaluated the quality and appropriateness of ESB data as a measure of housing completions and used additional data sources to corroborate the findings. One of the main conclusions of the project related to the stage at which the Eircode is assigned in the housing lifecycle – the capacity to link administrative data sources would be facilitated by assigning the Eircode at an earlier stage.
The Board strongly welcomed the work carried out on the project and discussed aspects of the methodology involved. They envisage that this will be one of the key pathfinder projects presented at the NSB seminar later this year.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on September 5, 2018 at the Department of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings.
A NSB seminar entitled ‘A World Class Statistical System for Ireland – are we making progress?’ is planned for November 7, 2018 and will take place at the RCPI venue at No. 6 Kildare Street. The seminar will focus on the current pathfinder projects; how policy is influenced using data; and CSO collaborations with other organisations. A mid-term review of the NSB Strategic Priorities for Official Statistics 2015-2020 will be published to coincide with the seminar.
The publication of the Annual Report on the CSO Statement of Strategy 2016-2019 was highlighted to Board members. This is the first progress report on the strategy and sets out the progress made by CSO in achieving its strategic aims during 2017.
 The five statistical coherence framework boards are - Labour Market and Earnings; Income, Consumption and Wealth; Population, Households and Demography; Business and economic data; Digital Economy.