Working Group on Data about a Person’s Sex and Gender

September 20, 2019 by No Comments | Category Working Group

  By Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician

I have been asked by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People to form a group to investigate the collection and presentation of data about sex and gender. In this post, I describe why I’m doing the work, what I’m expecting it to deliver (by when) and how I’m planning to go about this work and engage interested parties.

Collecting, publishing and using statistics about socio-demographic characteristics about people is an important element of helping us to achieve our vision of a country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish (as expressed in our National Performance Framework). Collecting data has to be for a clear purpose: to either inform decisions about a service provided directly for an individual, or policy and management decisions about how services are set up in the first place, and the wider implications that this has for measuring inequality and tackling discrimination. And it is important that we’re precise and consistent in the data we’re collecting so this helps deliver on that purpose. Statisticians can help with this, which is why I’ve been asked to investigate the collection and presentation of data about sex and gender.

What I’m aiming to put together is guidance for those who collect data that covers how they should think about what data they need, and then some standard approaches to collecting data about sex and about gender. This will consider separately how to do this in a household survey, and where this data is captured as part of an administrative process. I will also provide guidance about how best to report and publish statistics about sex and gender.

As part of the work, I am also expecting to identify further work on potential gaps within existing data collection about individuals’ experiences, where we may need to do more to either collect data or disaggregate it by sex and gender.

To do this, I will bring together a small working group of people with significant experience in collecting and presenting data. My intention would be to draw together a picture of current views and practice in data collection, building on what we know already. I would use this to develop options and then plan to report to Ministers with a proposal in 2020.

Making sure we are drawing upon appropriate evidence will be important for giving the outcomes credibility. Therefore, I will be keen to meet individuals and organisations with views on this. I’ll go directly to those I’m aware of, though it is important that I don’t miss people who want to contribute.

I am also planning to publish all the papers and discussions at our working group meetings. I will share where this will be over the next few weeks, following the first working group meeting in September.

Having consistency across nations in our approach to data collection is generally desirable, as it helps enable appropriate data sharing. I will therefore be liaising with colleagues at the Office for National Statistics as they think through similar issues.

This is clearly important work that will set the way that we collect data on sex and gender in Scotland. I’m looking forward to engaging with a wide range of people in making sure this is done in a respectful way that ultimately allows us to take better decisions as a nation that promote equality and diversity.

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