In 2018, New Zealand financed, via a fund dedicated to innovation, the piloting of a new method of collecting data related to household income and expenditure. The experience, which took place in the Marshall Islands, would open up new development prospects for the entire Pacific region.
This story is part of a series dedicated to the collaboration between the Pacific Community (SPC) and New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), as part of the renewal of their multi-year partnership.
The demand for timely, reliable and disaggregated development statistics is greater than ever before, especially as countries around the world strive to monitor their progress towards Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Household consumption and expenditure data is a key building block in meeting these demands and informing economic and social policy.
According to Kristen Himelein Kastelic, a Senior Statistician at the World Bank: “The global community considers ending extreme poverty to be such an important objective that it is the first Sustainable Development Goal, but without high quality data, we will never know how close we are to achieving this objective. At the national level, high quality data is essential to ensuring that programmes and services have sufficient resources and are properly targeted.”
Critical data on the economic welfare of Pacific households is collected through a Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). For many years, the Pacific Community (SPC) has provided technical support to its member countries and territories to conduct this survey at the national level, using a rigorous method which, obtained excellent data but was tedious for the people being surveyed.
Michael Sharp, an Economic Statistics and Microdata Specialist with the Statistics for Development Division (SDD) of SPC remembers the difficulties in driving the HIES using the old method.
“The previous method was very intense for the respondents,” he explained. “They had to fill in a diary for 14 days to strictly record what kind of food they were consuming, buying or harvesting from their garden. After a while, we started facing serious issues with the quality of the survey because people would get tired of filling the diary. We would often notice that the number of items on day one was higher than the number of items on day 14. That is what we call respondent fatigue.”