Monday, 31 March 2014

Invitation to join the Online Discussion on "Civil Society and Actions to Promote Well-being"

This post is an invitation to join the Wikiprogress Latin America online discussion on "Civil Society and Actions to Promote Well-being". You're invited to share your knowledge and experiences regarding well-being programmes in Latin America.

The OECD Mexico Centre, el Seminario Satisfacción Subjetiva con la Vida y la Sociedad (SAVISO)-UNAM-IIS, International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, Alternativas y Capacidades A.C., Wikiprogress and Wikiprogress América Latina 

 invite you to join this online discussion

from 1 April 09:00 until 16 April 22:00 (GMT)

This discussion will be a unique opportunity to reflect and exchange best practices, research and experiences on the topic. 

Leading Questions:

  • In Latin America, what community programmes and civil society activities are held in order to promote well-being?
  • How is the impact of well-being programmes being evaluated?
  • What factors and attributes contribute to the success of the programs identified?
  • What are the main lessons learned from these programmes? What recommendations could be made ​​from these experiences?
  • What are some obstacles faced in Latin America for the implementation and effectiveness of programmes that seek to promote well-being?

We invite you to leave your comments in Spanish, Portuguese, English or French in the section entitled “Contribuye” of the discussion webpage. To participate, click here

Here is the link to the page: and the hashtag in Twitter is #SociedadCivilYAcciones 

We will also be joining with the parallel event of the “International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding” held during the First High Level Meeting on Global Partnership for Effective Cooperation. Join the event and contribute!
  1. How can civil society use the New Deal to hold governments accountable to citizens?
  2. How can the New Deal Peace and state building goals (PSGs) be made applicable to middle income countries in Latin America?
If you would like to join the discussion use the hashtag #newdeal on Twitter.

For more information we invite you to contact us at:

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

India’s high fertility: The myths and the reality

This article by Shailaja Chandra attempts to uncover widespread assumptions about women’s fertility, contraception and the role that religion plays in birth control. The good news is that 44 per cent of the population living in 21 states and union territories of India has already achieved replacement levels of fertility. Kerala and Tamil Nadu achieved this more than a score of years ago. This post is part of the Wikiprogress series on measuring progress on gender equality.

Population stabilisation efforts in the rest of the country are of relatively recent origin but none-the-less commendable. The added good news is that the increase in contraceptive prevalence has been larger and faster among illiterate and uneducated women than those with schooling.

According to the International Institute of Population Sciences (EPW Arokiasamy 2009), more than two fifths of the reduction in Total Fertility Rate country-wide is attributable to illiterate women. The study calls it “remarkable demographic behaviour which has given significant direct health benefits to women and children — almost equal to what educational improvement has done for progress in human development.”

Now some disappointments: States which continue to lag behind are the same — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan — some 284 problem districts account for nearly half India’s population and 60 per cent of the yearly births countrywide.

Among 18 to 24-year-old couples the contraceptive prevalence rate is not even 19 per cent. In many districts it is as low as 10 per cent. According to NFHS -3 and the latest Annual Health Survey, in Bihar more than half the women in the child bearing group are not using any family planning method.

Ideally one should wait for the unravelling of the 2011 Census data and the results of NFHS- 4 to see the extent of improvement but both reports are expected only in a year or two.

Even so, lessons that existing reports provide will only get updated — certainly not set aside.

In India, female sterilisation continues to be the most dominant method of birth control even though women overwhelmingly favour non-invasive options. In the absence of tools that do not depend on partner-co-operation (condoms) or adherence to rigid regimens (pills), a poor woman confronts the prospect of an unwanted pregnancies every month, until somebody agrees to escort her for an operation. The policy question is whether by facilitating more acceptable birth control options one can accelerate fertility regulation and in the process improve health outcomes for women (and newborns).

That brings one to a widespread myth relating to the practice of contraception by religion. Professor P.M. Kulkarni at JNU who has researched differentials in population growth among Hindus and Muslims (using NFHS data) says that all religious communities have experienced substantial fertility decline and contraceptive practice has been well accepted by all. Within religious faiths, 85 per cent of Hindu women would like to limit the family to two children whereas in the case of Muslim women, the figure is 66 per cent.

Even so, fertility levels among the poor, be it Hindus or Muslims are not so widely different and have in fact narrowed considerably. he difference in births boils down to less than one child per woman. “This,” says Kulkarni “belies the general belief that Muslim women are barred from using contraceptives.” The belief that religion and religious fiats discourage contraception among Muslims is not borne out by statistics.

An even more significant aspect of his analysis of NFHS data shows that the unmet need for family planning is one and a half times more among Muslim women than Hindu women.

In terms of contraceptive use, Muslim women’s use of the pill is almost twice that of Hindu women and the use of IUD is also higher compared to Hindu women. Two things can be concluded:

First that among the rural poor, the difference in fertility between Hindus and Muslims is not as marked as is usually supposed.

Second: there is a perceptible difference in the preferred method of contraception: Muslim women seem to be more open to the use of it.

This leads one to ask what might be the trends in Muslim dominated countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Iran which have achieved high levels of contraceptive use.

According to the UN Economic & Social Affairs Population Division’s Contraceptive Use by Method (2012,) in Bangladesh the use of the pill is more than 25 per cent. Women also use IUDs and injectables in sizeable measure. In the case of Indonesia injectables are the preferred choice, followed by pill use. The use of condoms is comparatively small. Iranian women seem to rely hugely on the pill but they also use IUDs in high proportion.

To sum up, the focus of the reproductive health programme has appropriately been on the laggard districts -  mostly in the Hindi belt. But reduction in fertility has to be pursued by meeting the unmet demand for specific contraceptive choices and not by depending predominantly on sterilizing women. This requires three approaches: first by encouraging spacing among 18 to 24-year-olds; second improving access to contraceptive choices for women who are averse to sterilization. Finally what other countries have done to great advantage needs a re-look. In China, 40 per cent of the women rely on IUCDs. In India more and more women with children have begun opting for IUDs but access needs to increase manifold because the device gives a 3 to 10 year protection against pregnancy and can be reversed at will. Finally, latest research on the safety of injectables needs to be investigated afresh, looking at international best practices.

Instead of lamenting over irresponsible parenthood, the focus needs to target the unmet needs of specific population cohorts to empower women with what they need the most - liberty to decide when to have the next child or not to have one. Without being subjected to an operation.

Religion is not the issue --- women’s freedom to decide about pregnancy and childbirth is.
This blog originally appeared on Shailaja Chandra's blog, here

Monday, 24 March 2014

What are the barriers for using Beyond-GDP indicators?

This blog, written by Dora Almassy, is about the current BRAINPOol project and the barriers the project has found in trying to establish alternative indicators beyond GDP. The post is a part of the Wikiprogress series on Data and Statistics.

The final conference of the BRAINPOol (Bringing Alternative Indicators into Policy) project takes place today, on 24th March 2014, in the premises of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Conference Centre in Paris. (Click here for the event programme.) Given the increasingly important role of Beyond GDP indicators in the economic policy debate, the event aimed to catalyse the adoption of new measures of progress, bringing together representatives from the spheres of politics, academics and civil society. During the conference, the project’s key findings and recommendations were also presented. 

The BRAINPOol project, funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme, aims to summarise existing knowledge of alternative indicators and to promote their use in policy-making processes. In the framework of the project, Beyond-GDP indicators were first reviewed and categorised, then characterised by demand for these indicators.

Most recently, the BRAINPOol project published a report on barriers to the use of alternative indicators in policy-making and discussed how these barriers can be overcome. The barriers were identified by studying seven case studies, carried out for Germany (German National Welfare Index), the UK (British Business Bank and Welsh Government Sustainable Indicator Set), Midi-Pyrenees in France, Rotterdam (Sustainability Profile), Chrudim in the Czech Republic (Healthy City Indicators) and at the OECD. 


From the case studies, twelve different types of barriers were identified and grouped under five categories: resources; resistance; communication; complexity; organisation. 

Resource constraints

Under this category, two main barriers were identified. Firstly, many countries, regions and cities face budget limitations when it comes to statistics and introducing alternative indicators. Secondly, data is not available in many cases, or it is limited to a certain timeframe or geographical coverage. 


The project found a passive resistance to the use of alternative indicators in many of the studied areas, due to perceived norms, habits and risk aversion. For example, many policy-makers, who in theory would support the use of alternative indicators, take a more conservative view. This is due to the fact that the existing traditional models are considered more robust and well-established. As a result, Beyond-GDP indicators are often considered redundant by politicians and business organisations. 


Since there is no agreed practical consensus on Beyond-GDP indicators, the variety of options results in divergence or sometimes even in contrasting ideas. Thus, there is confusion about the concepts and terminologies used among different stakeholders. Sometimes, this also means that incorrect assumptions are associated with alternative indicators, from either politicians or businesses. In addition, the project found that a strong narrative for engaging the public is also often missing.


The lack of a single Beyond-GDP indicator not only results in communication barriers,but also makes it difficult to replicate the simple headlines, which are currently linked to GDP measures. Similarly, while GDP indicators can offer a simple narrative, the variety of Beyond-GDP measures makes it more complicated to describe and analyse progress towards well-being.


Lastly, several constraints were identified by the project in terms of institutional take-up. The potential users of alternative indicators are reluctant and sceptical in many cases. Due to the complexities of the well-being topic, interlinkages must be considered, inducing the need for working across departments and organisations. A lack of inter-institutional human capacity was also identified as a potential barrier. 

Overcoming the barriers

In order to overcome some of the aforementioned barriers, the BRAINPOol project suggests: to demonstrate how Beyond-GDP indicators can result in more informed policy choices; to promote these indicators at different fora; to develop a database of such indicators; to identify potential users and tailor the indicators to their needs; to develop facilitation mechanisms for internal and inter-organisational co-operation; and lastly, to invest in human resources.

The project also suggests that, first, two key barriers should be tackled head-on: We need to create a strong narrative for alternative indicators and new techniques for integrated policy analysis.

The full report is available at the project website: Barriers to the use of alternative (‘beyond GDP’) indicators in policy making and how they are being overcome and can be overcome 

- Dora Almassy

See Also:

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

One day a year for happiness?

This blog, by Wikichild co-ordinator Melinda George, celebrates the second anniversary of the UN's International Day of Happiness. It provides background for the day as well as several initiatives to measure happiness and well-being in the UK and the EU. The post is a part of the Wikiprogress series on Happiness.

“When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.” – Ban Ki-moon, 1st annual International Day of Happiness 

The 20th March 2014, is the 2nd annual UN International Day of Happiness. This day was launched as a result of the UN resolution 65/309 which invites its member states “to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies.” 

The focus on happiness is a result of a movement towards a more holistic approach to development and progress. This happiness and well-being approach looks further into various areas of life such as good governance, protection and preservation of the environment, the promotion of global cultures, and fair and equitable economic development. 

See this quote from the World Happiness Report
But it is not just wealth that makes people happy: Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries. At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.
In line with International Day of Happiness, the United Kingdom Office of National Statistics released a report on Tuesday entitled “Measuring National Well-being, Life in the UK, 2014”. This report provides a snapshot of well-being in the UK regarding 10 domains, along with European comparisons. These domains include both objective and subjective data. Overall, a large majority (77%) are satisfied with their life in the UK. Alongside the report, an interactive wheel and adjustable graphs by region are available to revel in the data a little longer.

The European Union’s Eurostat released a similar online report on Wednesday in light of this UN day. The report “Quality of life indicators” provides data about well-being using its “8+1” quality of indicators framework. Eight of these dimensions concern the functional capabilities citizens should have available to effectively pursue their self-defined well-being, according to their own values and priorities. The last dimension refers to the personal achievement of life satisfaction and well-being. The report discusses trends over time and differences between countries, demographic groups and age. 

Overall EU life Satisfaction, 2011

There are many ways in which you can become involved in this UN Day of Happiness. For instance, share a photo to your social media channel using the hashtag #happinessday, and it will be added to the happiness wall here. After all, we have so much to be happy about! 

Wikichild co-ordinator

See also:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Educational inequalities in life satisfaction among teens – what do we know? A closer look at the role of health behaviour and gender differences

This post, written by HBSC's Irene Moor and Joseph Hancock, discusses a newly released study on life satisfaction among German adolescents. It also presents the health behaviour inequalities among German girls and boys following different education tracks. The blog is a part of Wikichild's series on Health.

       Research has identified a clear link between people’s social position and their health. Mackenbach (2006) found health inequalities among people with higher and lower socio-economic status in all European countries and, furthermore, a widening of some of these inequalities during the last decades. In some countries, differences in life expectancy amount to 10 years or more due to these inequalities in educational level, occupational class and income inequalities. In addition to social status, we know that gender also substantially affects an individual's health. In general, the social gradient in health is more pronounced among men than women. However, these gender differences vary by age, health outcome, and also social status. In a birth cohort from 1958, for instance, Matthews et al. (1999) found greater social inequalities among men in their 30’s for long-standing illness but greater inequalities among women for psychological distress at the same age.

      Previously, studies focusing on gender differences in health inequalities have looked almost exclusively at adults. There is now a growing body of work suggesting that inequalities in health and health behaviours are already well-established by the time of transition from adolescent to adult, resulting from the social experiences and living conditions that young people experience during this formative period. For example, behavioural factors such as smoking, physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, or illegal drug use have been shown to be socially patterned behaviours, ingrained during the teenage years. Understanding the mechanisms which link the social position and health of adolescents is essential if we want develop effective strategies that help place socially disadvantaged teens on healthier, happier trajectories into adult life.

      Previous international research from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC) revealed that life satisfaction, a multi-factorial psychological concept of well-being, is unequally distributed among different social groups. Adolescents from families with high social positions were found to have higher levels of life satisfaction than adolescents from families with lower social positions. These socially determined inequalities appear in nearly all countries across Europe and North America, in both boys and girls, and are stronger for life satisfaction than other subjective health indicators among teens.

      Using data from over 5,000 school children, members of the German HBSC national team investigated the role of health behaviour in explaining educational inequalities in adolescent life satisfaction nationally.

In particular they looked at:

  1. The significance of differences in life satisfaction by educational track, in boys and girls. 
  2. The presence of gender differences in terms of how behavioural factors impact life satisfaction. 
  3. The different patterns of health behaviours among adolescents on different educational tracks.  
  4. The extent to which educational inequalities in life satisfaction can be explained by behavioural factors.

The main results can be summarised as follows:

1. Significant inequalities in life satisfaction by educational track were found for both genders. The higher the educational track, the more likely it is that an adolescent would report high levels of life satisfaction. This effect was found to be stronger among boys than girls.

2. Several behavioural factors were found to be associated with low life satisfaction in both boys and girls. Such as not eating breakfast every day and drinking soft drinks daily. However, gender differences in the effect of behavioural factors on life satisfaction were also found. For example, the association between low life satisfaction and not having breakfast every school day was much stronger for girls than boys. Other behaviours such as smoking regularly, drinking alcohol, having been drunk, both watching TV and eating fruits daily were associated with lower life satisfaction in girls but not in boys. Whereas lower levels of physical activity were more strongly related to lower life satisfaction in boys than girls.

3. Regular smoking, having been drunk, watching TV, drinking soft drinks and eating breakfast less than daily were more prevalent among boys and girls from lower education tracks. Whereas frequent alcohol drinking, fruit consumption (less than daily) and daily sweet consumption were associated with lower education tracks only in girls, and physical activity only in boys.

4. In boys, three indicators were significantly linked to life satisfaction as well as to their educational track, including physical activity levels, eating breakfast and the consumption of soft drinks. Whereas a total of seven indicators, including smoking, drinking alcohol, having been drunk, watching TV, eating breakfast, fruits, and the consumption of soft drinks, were significantly linked to life satisfaction in girls. Altogether, up to 40% of educational inequalities in life satisfaction among girls were explained by behavioural determinants, which is nearly twice the figure for boys.
      The study's findings confirm that educational inequalities in life satisfaction are already established by adolescence. These findings also indicate that behavioural factors are an important mediating force, acting upon educational inequalities in adolescent life satisfaction for both boys and girls, but to a much greater extent among girls. In order to tackle inequalities in adolescent health, targeting health behaviours among teens from lower educational tracks, with a gender specific perspective, looks like a promising approach. 

More information on the analysis
Moor I, Lampert T, Rathmann K, Kuntz B, Kolip P, Spallek J, Richter M (2013): Explaining educational inequalities in adolescent life satisfaction: do health behaviour and gender matter? International Journal of Public Health. DOI 10.1007/s00038-013-0531-9

About the HBSC Study

      The HBSC research network is an alliance of researchers who collaborate to collect data on the health, well-being, health behaviours, social environments and economic contexts of adolescents. The HBSC study is currently conducted in 44 countries across Europe and North America, and the network includes over 450 experts from a wide range of disciplines. Members of the HBSC network collaborate to develop a standardized questionnaire, which is used to survey nationally representative samples of school-aged children in each participating country.

      HBSC's research themes currently include: chronic conditions, eating and dieting, electronic media, family culture, gender, medicine-use, peer culture, physical activity, positive health, puberty, risk behaviours, school, sexual health, social inequality, and violence and injuries.

For more information visit

See also:

World inequalities in the Human Development Index (1980-2012) - Time Distance View

This blog, by Pavle Sicherl, is about a Gaptimer measure, which helps perceive inequalities using time distance methodology, and presents the Gaptimer Report No. 1. This post is a part of the Wikiprogress series on Inequalities.

Inequalities in the world, between and within countries, are - together with the environment - the critical issues for the 21st century. Official data from the 2013 UNDP Report for 187 countries are here analysed and presented by the novel generic time distance methodology. The main proposition is that people compare over many dimensions and over time. The time distance perspective can thus contribute a useful piece of the mosaic in building up an internationally supported methodology to measure and assess the overall “position” and “progress” among and within countries. It offers a new view of data that is exceptionally easy to understand and communicate, and it allows for developing and exploring new hypotheses and perspectives. The analysis deals mostly with the first part of the statement of Aristotle, “Let us first understand the facts, and then we may seek the cause”.

Much effort has been invested in building statistical databases at a national and international levels, and in the notionally related field of Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Measurement is costly and it is important to exploit existing data efficiently for building knowledge and for policy debate.

Describing and perceiving inequalities in terms of percentages and ranks is not enough. Development processes take place in time and to get additional insights from existing data we complement the static measures of inequality by measuring the gap in time when two compared countries achieved the same level of the indicator (i.e., the HDI level of 0.55 was attained in China in 1996 and in India in 2011, showing S-time-distance lag of 15 years behind Sweden). For life expectancy the static difference for China against Sweden was less than 10 percent (which may appear to be small) while the time distance was around 50 years (which gives a very different perception of the magnitude of the gap, the life expectancy in China in 2012 was attained in Sweden in 1964).

Gaptimer measure gives the perception of larger inequality in HDI than percentages

The time distance methodology applied to Human Development Index opens new dynamic vistas of inequalities in the world. Empirically, when comparing across indicators and across time, static and time distance measures can give different perceptions of the order of magnitude of inequality within and between countries, so both dimensions matter. Gaptimer Report No. 1 ‘World Inequalities in Human Development Index (1980-2012)’ presents a new way of understanding and discussing development and world inequalities in a new dynamic framework.

In the study, Chapter 2 presents the time distance methodology on the example of inequalities in life expectancy. Chapters 3 and 4 analyse trends in HDI and its components over the three decades (1980-2012) for four human development groups. The time matrix table-graph below is an innovative way of added presentation of time series data over many units and over time (descriptors are units and levels of the indicator and the values in the field of the table are times when such levels were attained). Further details can be attained in the presentation on by groups

S-time-matrix: The world view over 4 HD groups and 4 indices (trends 1980-2012)
SOURCE: Own calculations based on data from Human Development Report 2013.

Chapter 5 presents S-time-distance estimates for HDI inequalities within the four groups for 187 countries. Further details on time matrices for HDI, S-time-step as a measure of dynamics, and time distance inequalities within HD groups can be obtained in the presentation matrices by countries. For interested users the time matrices for countries can be obtained in the Excel format at Telling new stories in Chapters 6, 7, and 8 includes inequalities within EU27, BRICS countries, and Gulf Coordination Council countries, respectively.


Gaptimer approach is a new way of seeing the past reality revealing new stories and options how to treat and interpret inter-temporal distances and dynamic changes in composite indicators.

S-time-distance gives a rough perception of the magnitude of world inequality expressed as gap in time that can be rather different from the respective percentage measure.   The time distance between the HD groups (or countries) measured in years (or even decades) are relevant statistical descriptive measures of the situation easily understandable by everyone, balancing the static view. It indicates both the challenge of the starting point in the post-2015 agenda and the urgency to tackle inequalities between and within countries.

Potential users of this methodology and results are very many at various levels: international and national organisations, NGOs, experts, businesses, managers, educators, students, interest groups, media, and the general public. It can be used for other types of units like gender, regions, poverty groups, or inequality adjusted HDI, if data would be available.

Pavle Sicherl is Founder of Sicenter (Socio-economic Indicators Center) and professor of economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

See Also:
Time Distance Progress Chart of MDG implementation
Gaptimer Progress Chart of MDG implementation 2013