Statistical Journal of the IAOS

Special issue on the Future of Economic Statistics

The Statistical Journal of the IAOS can be read via the printed version and online via the official statistics website : The website offers beyond the on-line versions of the articles also a discussion platform, news and interviews.  

The latest version of the Statistical Journal, of the IAOS, September 2020, Volume 36, no. 3, is a Special issue on the Future of economic statistics.


The future of economic statistics is a very relevant and central topic also considering the efforts needed in the coming years in this central domain of official statistics. Some 20 manuscripts with in total almost 50 authors contributed under the lead of the Guest Editor Ivo Havinga (UNSD) to this Special. The articles are for an important part based on the work of the Friends of the Chair Group (FoC Group) on Economic Statistics. The Statistical Commission in particular provided the mandate to the FoC Group to assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness of the current system of economic statistics, take stock of the governance arrangements of existing statistical groups and statistical initiatives, and provide recommendations on the working methods and the update of the system of economic statistics. The challenges and lessons learned for business and economic statistics and especially also the lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, made clear that the future system of economic statistics becomes more relevant than ever, but at the same time needs to be more responsive and agile to meet the collective needs of users.

The publication of the Special Issue on the future of economic statistics has, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, has become timelier than ever and shows the ways this set of statistics can be organized and guided by multi dimensional statistical frameworks and needs to be agile and responsive to user needs on the national, international and regional scale. It also shows how the outreach of this work can take place, via partnerships and cooperation and capacity building efforts.

The fifth discussion on the SJIAOS discussion platform centers around statements taken from Volume 36/3, The Future of economic statistics.


The discussion focusses on the four inter-related and mutually reinforcing building blocks of the emerging new statistical business model for economic statistics: outreach and user consultation; statistical framework;  institutional and statistical operations, and data stewardship; and statistical infrastructure and data solutions. 

Outreach and user consultation 

Users underline the need for a broad statistical framework for the future system of macroeconomic and microeconomic statistics for evidence-based policy and decision making. This framework is to inform the multidimensional and interrelated aspects of globalization and supply chains of Multinational Enterprise Groups (MNEs), digitalization and technological innovation, location and urbanization, climate change, demographic shift, and inequality.

Statistical framework 

The user demand to inform the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic warrants a choice for the appropriate statistical framework in which to present the statistical and data products in an integrated and coherent manner.

Institutional and statistical operations, and data stewardship 

Apart from data stewardship and whole-of system approach through new networking arrangements with public and private sector partners for access and use of technology, data, and methods, the institutional and statistical operations should increasingly adopt the compilation of iterative and experimental measures in a timely manner in addition to the traditional timeseries and indicators to meet the new user demands.

Statistical infrastructure and data solutions

The statistical response to COVID-19 warranted a pivot to a new statistical infrastructure that is flexible in adoption innovative data solutions. These new statistical infrastructure and data solutions extend to applying new technologies for new data sources and new data collection methods, using alternative data sources, fostering network relationships with data providers (both administrative and private data), integrating high frequency data and structural information, and making decisions on when to discontinue the collection and compilation of traditional time-series.

Also a new discussion on the impact of Covid-19


The first set of statements in the special discussion on the SJIAOS discussion platform focused on the roles of Official Statistics in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. It stated the important role that official statistics will have to play in the phase of world-wide recovery from the pandemic and the rapid investments and actions that are needed to fulfill properly this role. With this second set of statements we want the discussion to focus now on the impact of the pandemic on statistical methodology and especially the effect the of the strong economic downturn on techniques and time series data used for estimations in now- and forecasting.

Second set of statements: Official Statistics in the context of the COVID-19 crisis;  

Official statistics methods need investments to be robust enough to maintain sufficient product quality in times of economic downturns 

Official statistics has not properly researched and understood how its methods and models behave at times of downturns (and potentially in the corresponding situation of similarly paced (unpredictable and fast) growths – though these seem to be infrequent compared to downturns). There is generally a wish to make methods robust to unusual changes, but these are often tackled situation by situation. Production of official statistics during COVID-19 has necessitated some radical changes in both data collection and statistical methods; these have been introduced with admirable speed and dedication, but this process would have been made easier with a body of research already in place to draw from.

This discussion on the SJIAOS discussion platform is based statements extracted from the article ‘Robust official business statistics methodology during COVID-19-related and other economic downturns’ by Paul A. Smith and Boris Lorenc (respectively. University of Southampton; Bright Lynx Research; European Network for Better Establishment Statistics). This article is available as blog on


Covid-19; official statistics during a pandemic

The Covid-19 crisis will have an enormous impact on global wealth. Positive social economic developments from recent years, especially in poorer countries, risk to be stopped or even reversed, and a strong increase of people in poverty and in need for help is expected. A recovery of the hard-hit economies in many countries will costs a lot of energy and budget. It will be a huge challenge to let all this happen in good balance with for example other important policy aims like the fight against climate change. The crisis showed the vulnerability of many systems, in health, education etc.. For official statistics it pointed among others to the weak coordination between domains of involved statistics, to the lack of timeliness of official data, to incomplete and erroneous statistics and to the opportunity this crisis gave to fake and purposely misleading statistics popping up.

The four manuscripts in this issue on Covid-19, cover very different elements of this multi dimensional development and are prepared by Len Cook (New Zealand), Olav Ljones (Norway), Ashfin Ashofteh and Jorge M. Bravo (Portugal) and Jean-Luc Tavernier (France). Covid-19 is also the item for an extra discussion on the SJIAOS Discussion platform: Official Statistics in the context of the COVID-19 crisis

Pre-release access of official statistics: does it conflict with independence and impartiality?

‘Pre-release access of official statistics’, is the fourth discussion on the discussion platform. Equal access of official statistics to users at the same time is broadly recognised as best practice for adhering to the statistical principles of professional independence and of impartiality and objectivity. The United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics indicate that under the very first principle of “Relevance, impartiality and equal access”. However, practice varies across and within countries, with pre-release practiced widely: pre-release access by government and pre-release access by the press. This is usually justified as enhancing the information for the public when statistics are officially released. However, does even advertised pre-release access by policy makers preclude the possibility of pressure (or the perception thereof) on the independent production of statistics to serve political/policy interests? Is pre-release to government impartial when it gives at least a head start to the party in power relative to its opposition? Does pre-release access by the press adequately protect the level playing field for market participants, and does not lead to profiteering by some? Do the benefits of pre-release outweigh the costs associated with the risks? Is there a need for strengthening the existing movement away from pre-release access and a tightening of the guidelines in codes of practice for official statistics?’

Beyond the Covid-19 and Pre-release articles this very rich issue is built on some 10 different sections. After the contribution on the history of ISI and on the Strategy 2019-2021 for the IAOS, 25 articles deal with a variety of topics ranging from new data sources, fake data, to indicators for SDG’s, informal employment and cross-border data sources for national accounts.

The Statistical Journal of the IAOS

The flagship of the IAOS is the ‘Statistical Journal of the IAOS’. The Journal is expected to be widely circulated and subscribed to by individuals and institutions in all parts of the world.The journal has four regular issues per year, each with in average around 25 articles focussing on current and emerging issues and challenges related to the management, production and use of official statistics and related public policy matters. The ‘Journal’ is available on-line and via a printed publication and is supported by a website. Beyond the link to the on-line version of the Journal the website provides a permanent platform for news, information on events. A main feature of the website is the discussion platform. This discussion platform facilitates in parallel to and based on articles in the Journal discussions on important topics for official statistics.

Submit a paper

The success of the Statistical Journal of the IAOS depends upon the contributions of IAOS members and authors. All papers are subject to anonymous review. For a full description of the publication’s editorial aims and scope, and how to submit manuscripts, go to or to IOSPress. For more information on the journal in general, submission, review and revision procedures or specific manuscripts, do not hesitate to contact the Editor in Chief, Pieter Everaers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Papers are expected to be of wide interest to readers. Such papers may or may not contain strictly original material. All papers are refereed. The journal has an Editor-in-Chief who is responsible for ensuring its content and quality. For the review process he is supported by an editorial board of circa 30 eminent official statisticians and for the strategy of the Journal by a small Advisory Board The journal should publish papers of wide interest to both users and producers of official statistics. The journal should encourage papers with a focus on the basic principles for official statistics covering areas such as the importance of applying the best scientific methods, the need for statistical independence, balancing the needs of users with the burden on respondents, the continuing challenges around confidentiality, and the growing need for consistency and coherence across statistical domains and over time and for international comparability.

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