Role of women to gain recognition

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A NEW international standard for measuring economic life to be launched this week will for the first time take account of the role of women and the impact of growth on the environment. It will also attempt to catch up with the explosive growth of global production, finance and trade in the past 10 years.

The new System of National Accounts will be launched tomorrow after a decade of work on compiling new global standards for measuring all aspects of national and international economic activity. It will establish methods for integrationg national income accounts with global data on investment, finance and trade.

The SNA attempts to meet the criticism that national statistics have failed to measure unpaid work by women, account for the informal or underground economy or capture a true picture of poverty - partly by employing new statistical tools such as the social accounting matrix and by improving the collection of data.

Compiled by the United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the SNA was prepared with the help of key countries from West and East, which points to more accurate measurement of activity in Russia and China.

It will integrate measurement of national output with other national accounts on capital investment, finance and balance of payments and more clearly link measurement of national data with international statistics, helping to overcome present incomplete measurement of global production and trade in goods and services.

The SNA also forges links with environmental accounting and lays the groundwork for measuring informal activity such as the contribution of women in the household. It provides a foundation for measuring household income distribution and poverty.

It attempts to meet the challenges to measuring activity posed by the prospect of a surge in global trade with the completion of the Uruguay Round, the globalisation of production and the emergence of new economic giants.

The SNA introduces the concept of 'actual consumption', which in addition to final consumption includes education and health and allows a much broader analysis of household consumption than merely expenditure.

Gavyn Davies, page 25