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World census fails to capture women's inequality
Wed 18 Jan 2006 4:36 PM ET
(Adds details from news conference, paragraphs 4, 11)
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Many developing nations are making economic, health and education decisions without knowing how many girls or boys are born or how many work or die, according to a U.N. report released on Wednesday.
Some countries, like Colombia, Nigeria, Peru and Uzbekistan, have not conducted a census since 1995, while Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan and Vietnam have registered less than 90 percent of all births.
Populous India and China, along with many African states, are among the nations that did not report the sex of infants born between 1995 and 2003, the survey said.
India has submitted regular estimates while China has reported births by sex only once in 1989.
The 165-page report by the U.N. Statistic Division, entitled "The World's Women 2005, Progress in Statistics" is a follow-up to U.N. resolutions urging nations to provide census data, especially on gender, rather than conduct spot checks.
"The whole goal of the improvement of the quality of life worldwide is dependent on knowing the situation of women, men, the elderly, infants," said Mary Chamie, chief of the U.N. demographics and social statistics branch.
"We need it for questions on globalization, for questions on trade, on understanding of economic production, education, getting vaccinated and for that matter, reproduction," she said in an interview. "It's like going to the doctor, but the doctor never examines us."
The survey analyzed the reporting of statistics in five areas: census of the entire population, birth registration, births by sex, population by sex and age and economic activity by sex and age.
On the plus side, 81 countries representing 28 percent of the world population completed all five surveys. The largest of them are the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Iran and the Philippines.
Fourteen nations completed none of the surveys, including Afghanistan, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, North Korea, Eritrea, Lebanon, Liberia and Sudan, many suffering from war or civil strife. And over 100 countries are not reporting complete figures on birth, deaths and economic activity.
In Africa, only 14 out of 55 nations reported births by sex. In Asia, statistics on the sex of newborn infants cover only 19 percent of the entire population.
And a total of 26 countries did not conduct a census at all over the last 10 years, representing 10 percent of the world's population, Chamie told a news conference.
For many countries, producing even the most basic statistics on the labor force remains a challenge, the report said.
While 108 countries surveyed reported data on wages by major industry groups, less than a quarter distinguished between men and women.
"In order for governments to plan and evaluate programs, they require information on the economic activity of the population," the report said. This includes data on employment, unemployment, occupation and wages by sex as well as age.