Social Sciences and use of statistical Data
The use of statistical data has become widespread among social scientists due to adoption of empirical method in Social Science research. As a result, research scholars are required to attain ‘Statistical literacy’ for the conduct of their research. Statistical literacy is defined as the ability to understand and critically evaluate statistical results that are relevant to one’s professional work coupled with the ability to identify and appreciate the statistical sources which can be used for research and decision making process.
The articles published by the contemporary social scientists in learned periodicals in the fields of economics, political science, sociology, education etc. would reveal that use of statistical data has become common particularly in studies based on surveys/field investigations. In fact, raw data, graphs, charts, rates, percentages, probabilities, averages, forecasts and trend reports are an inescapable part of our everyday lives. They affect decisions on resource allocation for planning in areas like health, agriculture, industry, employment, and many other matters. Apart from social-scientists, informed citizens should understand the data in areas like consumer price indices and unemployment rates etc. Social science data or data used for studies in economics, sociology, geography, political science etc. are mostly generated through government run statistical agencies and also by research organization as results local surveys. It has been said that In older days people derived their understanding of society from history, literature and personal experiences. Now they base their conclusions on numerical evidence provided by statistical agencies and research groups. One can say that economists have become more econometric, political scientists more numerate and sociologists more systematic.
1. Indian Statistical System
India has a well developed statistical system. The apex body for the system is Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI). India has a federal structure of government with a division of responsibility for administration between the central government and the states. As a result of this, in most of the cases, statistical data collection programmes are organized at state level and national statistics (i.e. macro level data) are built up from below. The statistical data produced under the government run system is popularly referred to as official statistics.
The Government of India’s Allocation of Business Rules’ has given a list of the activities or programmes to be undertaken by the MOSPI. In total, there are seventeen activities under its purview. Major activities that are undertaken by MOSPI include:-
a. Acting as the nodal agency for planned and integrated development of the statistical system in the country.
b. Coordination of statistical work with a view to identifying gaps in data availability or duplication of statistical work in respect of Departments of Government of India and the State Statistical Bureaus (SSBs) and to suggest necessary remedial measures.
c. Laying down and maintenance of norms and standards in the field of statistics, evolving concepts, definition and methodology of data collection, processing of data and dissemination of results.
d. Advising the Departments of the Government of India on statistical methodology and on analysis of statistical data.
e. Dissemination of statistical information through a number of regular and ad-hoc publications to Government, semi-government or private data users and agencies; and dissemination of data on request to united Notions agencies like United Nations Statistics Division, International Labour Organization, UNESCO, World Bank and other relevant international agencies.
Apart from these MOSPI has the responsibility to undertake certain important data collection and dissemination programmes that are implemented through two specialized agencies i.e. a) Central Statistical Office (CSO) and b) National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). These two agencies are under direct control of the MOSPI.
There are quite a few others agencies responsible for creating and maintaining data on certain important socio-economic variables. These agencies work under various Departments/Ministries of the Government of India. For example: Registrar General of India, responsible for conducting population consensus work under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Similarly, Labour Bureau, responsible for labour and employment related data collection functions under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. In fact, coordination is a major function of the MOSPI. A close relation among various agencies at national and state level that produce official statistics is a key to establish and maintain credibility of national statistical system. The apex body i.e. MOSPI has to ensure that there is no duplication of each other’s efforts, using common classification, working together to educate the data users and decision makers in the government establishments about importance of quality statistics.
2. Sources of Statistical Data
Macro level statistics on Indian society and economy which are available at national, state and district levels on different subjects mostly have their origin in Government run statistical agencies. These data are generated through four major processes.
2.1 Collection on repetitive basis by official statistical agencies through censuses and sample surveys (e.g. Population Census, Sample Surveys on employment, housing conditions etc.)
2.2 Collection on continuing basis by regulatory agencies for administrative uses using statistical returns (e.g. Income Tax Statistics, Foreign Trade Statistics etc.)
2.3 routine accumulation of data as by-product of administrative activities of the Government (e.g. Statistics of Customs and Excise Collections)
2.4 Ad-hoc collection of data through surveys for specific purposes on the basis of demand received from the users’ groups. (i.e. data collection programme on the basis of requests from the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India.
3. Statistical Agencies
Data are now collected in a wide variety of subjects such as population, national income, industry, agriculture, education, price, trade, environment etc. The responsibility of collection, processing and tabulation of statistical data and their dissemination lies with statistical agencies. Following are the major agencies at national level.
3.1 Central Statistical Office (CSO) is the apex body which coordinates statistical activities of central, state and international agencies. It ensures adoption of statistical standards on a uniform basis minimizes duplication of efforts and promotes up-gradation of quality and timely release of data. Other major responsibilities of CSO are:-
a). Preparation of National Accounts Statistics which presents a unified statistical picture of the country’s economy with details of inter-relations among sectors, among various types of economic activities and among regions.
b). Compilation and publication of industrial statistics on the basis of data collected under Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) and
c). Preparation of index to industrial production. Data collected under ASI relates to value added, capital, employment, emoluments, output consumption of raw materials, fuel etc. and other characteristics of factories and industrial establishments.
d). Conduct of economic census and survey in order to develop a sound and reliable database on unorganized non-agricultural economic sectors. The scheme ‘Economic Census and Surveys’ was launched in 1976. Economic Census provides basic details about all economic enterprises in the country. The follow up surveys provide detailed information on various segments.
e). Compilation of price statistics of Cost of Living Index for Urban Non-Manual Employees.
f). Compilation of human development statistics and environment statistics.
Apart from these, CSO also compiles and releases certain secondary data compendia that are used extensively as general purpose reference book. They are:-
a. Statistical Abstract
b. Women and Men in India
c. Monthly Abstract of Statics
d. Compendium of Environment Statistics.
3.2 National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) came into existence in 1950 for the purpose of conducting multi-subject household enquiries in randomly selected villages and urban blocks spread all over the country. At present, NSSO covers in each round of its survey a sample of about 12000 to 14000 villages and block at all India level in its central sample and independent sample of about 14000 to 16000 villages and blocks at all India level through state samples (covered by various states and UT). The field work for the sample is undertaken by a team of investigators of ‘Field Operations Division’ of NSSO. The data collected by NSSO on socio-economic issues are regularly released through the quarterly publication Sarvekshana. A limited number of printed reports are also released for priority uses. NSSO conducts surveys on a number of subjects which include:-
a). Household Consumption:
It provides data on levels of living of the Indian population. All India household consumer expenditure survey started in the first round (1950-51) of NSS providing all India (rural picture of levels and patterns of household consumption.
b) Employment and Unemployment:
It provides data on volume and structure of employment and unemployment. The first survey was conducted during 1955-56, (9th Round). The conceptual frame work of this survey was later improved in 1970 on the recommendations of Dantwala Committee Report.
c) Manufacturing and Trade:
Statistics on entire manufacturing activity of the country both organized and unorganized sectors are collected through a survey. NSSO collects data through Annual survey of Industries for CSO. In fact CSO is responsible for design of this survey.
NSSO conducted household survey of land holdings in 1954-55 which provided valuable information for land reform legislation. Land and livestock holdings survey provide data on changes on distribution of land. At present, crop area estimates and yield estimates data are collected by states under the supervision of NSSO
e) Social Sector:
NSSO provides periodic estimates on certain social indicators like i) literacy ii) school enrolment iii) utilization of educational services iv) morbidity v) maternity and child vi) medical services vii) disability and viii) utilization of public distribution systems.
f) Housing Condition:
Surveys on housing conditions providing data on dwelling units and their basic amenities were first done in 1953-54; followed by comprehensive surveys on the subject during 1977-74, 1988-89 and 1993. Information on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are also collected by NSSO.
Retail and wholesale prices time series data are available in India. Retail prices are collected by NSSO from rural and urban centers. These are used by Labour Bureau and CSO for the purpose of constructing; a) Consumer Price Index (CPI) Numbers for Agricultural labourers and b) CPI Numbers for Non-Manual Workers. NSSO also collects data under the programme. All India Rural Credit Survey as a part of its land holding survey.
Apart from NSSO, there are other private agencies such as NEAER, FICCI, ASSOCHAM etc. who conduct sample surveys. However, information about scope, coverage and adequacy of sample size and methodology etc. who are to be collected to ascertain the reliability and quality of data published by these agencies
3.3 Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) is responsible for a) Population Census and b) Vital Statistics. Census of India is the most prominent example of information generation and dissemination by a govt. agency in India. It is not restricted to the publication of the enumeration of population alone; its scope covers publication of data in all its varied forms which include classification of persons by age and sex, marital status, rural/urban residence, educational standard, economic activity etc.
The census is the main apparatus for the collection of data. During the last four dour decades several changes have been introduced in the census schedule to reflect socio-economic changes. New schedules have been introduced and tabulation programmes have been expanded correspondingly.
In India, census data were released for users primarily through printed tables that constitute the census volumes. The volumes were designed by RGI at the centre and Director of Census Operations in states, depending on geographical coverage and demographic features. Certain basic data are released soon after the census is over in the form of Provisional Population Totals and Primary Census Abstract. The volumes containing special purpose tables, research studies etc. are released under the descriptor ‘paper number’ or ‘ occasional paper number’ in a calendar year. In fact, the most intrinsic characteristic of a census volume is the coverage in terms of administrative region. As a first level of classification, the mainstream census volumes are released in different series specified in Indo-Arabic numerals each representing an administrative region. In the second level of classification, census volumes are released in different parts containing data on a demographic feature such as economic condition, literary status etc.
Classification of Census Volumes
Classification Bibliographical Descriptor used for Identification
a) Special area surveys
b) Language survey reports
c) Post enumeration check reports
d) Age tables
e) Life tables etc.
Census publications can also be grouped by the level of presentation of data. There are three levels: all India tables, states and U T tables and district census handbooks. All India reports present data at the national, state, and sometimes district level, the state reports provide information at the state, district and tehsil/taluka level, and the district census handbooks contain important details for each revenue village for the rural population and block or sub-division level for urban population.
The data series pertaining to vital events (i.e. Births and deaths) are released through two publications: – Vital Statistics of India and Sample Registration System. Vital Statistics are collected through a Vital Registration System (VRS) in which local authorities register all births and deaths. In order to overcome the problem of under registration of vital events, Sample Registration System (SRS) has been introduced as a dual record system. Vital events are recorded by a local registrar as they occur and a survey is conducted every six months in all households in a sample of villages and urban blocks. The data are matched and all unmatched events are re-verified in the field to obtain an unduplicated count of all events.
3.4 Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) is primarily responsible for foreign trade statistics. Trade statistics are, in fact obtained as a by-product of administrative activity. Statistics of India’s external trade are recorded according to the general system. Under this system, all goods entering the custom area by land, sea or air, whether for home consumption or for subsequent re-exportation are called imports. All goods which are the produce of the country and which leave the customs frontiers are called exports. Goods which are previously imported and are subsequently exported are‘re-exports’.
Major publications containing foreign trade data are:-
a) Monthly Statistics of Foreign Trade of India Vol.1 (Exports and Re-exports) and Vol.2 (Imports)
b) Statistics of Foreign Trade of India by Countries (Monthly) Vol.1(Exports and Re-exports) and Vol.2 (Imports).
DGCIS is using mainly three methods for the dissemination of foreign trade data. They are: a) selling of printed publications; b) providing data sheet on computer print-outs of statistical details to users free of cost; and c) providing data in the form of user prescribed questionnaire received particularly from government and international bodies. Out of these three, first one is losing popularity due to time-lag. The second and the third are more popular. Recently, time-lag in foreign trade data has been reduced considerably as a result of creation of electronic database.
3.5 Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES), Ministry of Agriculture is the apex body for agricultural statistics in India. Though agricultural statistics is primarily the responsibility of states, DES is the coordinating agency for collection, compilation and publication of results. The primary data relate to land utilization, area under crops and crop production in the country. Agricultural census conducted by DES provides data on land holdings i.e. number and area of operational holdings according to various size, classes, irrigation status, tenancy status and area under different crops. Major publications in the area of agricultural statistics include; a. Indian Agricultural Statistics (Annual) b. Estimates of Area and production of Principal Crops in India (Annual) and C. Indian Agriculture in Brief
3.6 Labour Bureau is mainly responsible for compilation and publication of labour statistics. Most of the employment related data are collected by Labour Bureau as by product of administrative procedure oradministration of labour laws operating in different sectors. Data on employment and unemployment of agricultural labour is collected through rural labour enquiries in collaboration with the NSSO. Other sources of labour statistics are population census, employment market survey programme under the Directorate General of Employment and Training, Directorate General of Mines safety etc.Regular publications of the Labour Bureau are; 1 Indian Labour Yearbook 2 Indian Labour Statistics 3 Pocketbook of Labour Statistics etc.
3.7 Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is primarily responsible for the compilation and publication of banking
statistics. According to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 every banking company is required to submit
a monthly return to the RBI showing overall assets and liabilities as well as data pertaining to their
business operations. Apart from this, RBI conducts ad hoc surveys on banking business and in the
process collects additional data. Major publications released by the RBI include 1 Reserve Bank of
India Bulletin(Monthly) 2 Report on Currency and Finance 3 Statistical Tables Relating to
Banks in India and Reserve bank of India Annual Report.
3.8 Ministry of Human Resource Development is responsible for publication of education statistics in the
country at all India level. The principal sources of data are Directorate of education in the states, reports prepared by the University Grants Commission and all India education surveys conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).Some of the important publication containing education statistics are 1. Selected Educational Statistics 2. Education in India.
In India, only practical way to retrieve and use statistical data was to locate the relevant data series in printed reports. Most of the statistical agencies disseminated data through their printed publications in the form of serials and ad-hoc reports which were made available at subsidized rates or free of cost and sometimes on noprofit no-loss basis. The situation has changed considerably during the past four or five years. Many statistical agencies have now stopped publishing printed reports. Electronic versions of the reports are now put on the website of the agency. As a result, most of the mainstream publications are available on the website in digital form.
Apart from the above mentioned major statistical agencies and Departments/Ministries of Government of India, almost all other government departments and public sector organizations have their own arrangement for collection of statistics and their maintenance or dissemination. In states and Union Territories, there are State Statistical Bureaus (SSB). In certain states, there are also district statistical offices. One can say that in India, we have a network of statistical agencies at central, state, district and institutional level.
After independence, the demand for new and varied type of data on different socio-economic variables at macro (all India) as well as micro level (i.e. district or block level) were felt for socio-economic planning. Many states now publish Statistical Abstract on yearly basis. District Statistical handbook and Estimates of State Domestic Product, Economic Survey is popular data serials that are released by States. Recently, Government of India has started India Statistical Strengthening Project (ISSP) which is primarily designed to strengthen and improve the state statistical offices so that they can collect, compile and disseminate reliable official statistics pertaining to the following twenty statistical variables/indicators i) State Domestic Product ii) Capital Formation and Savings iii) District Domestic Product iv) Contribution of Local Bodies v) Data on Fiscal Variables vi) Annual Survey of Industries vii) Index of Industrial Production viii) Crop Area and Production ix) Wholesale Price Index x) Consumer Price Index xi) Health Statistics xiii) Education and Literacy xiii) Labour and Employment xiv) Housing xv) Birth and Death Registration and Population xvi) Electricity Production and Distribution xvii) Environment and Forest xviii) Sample Survey xix) Transport and xx) Local Area Planning. It is evident that al important indicators have been covered under this project. The participating states and UTS are required to prepare their own strategic plans for the strengthening and improvement of their statistical systems.
There are certain Departments/Ministries who are processing their own statistical data as by-products of administration. Examples are; i) Offices of Income Tax Department ii) Central Board of Revenue iii) Ministry of Railways iv) Department of Posts etc. Also, there are agencies set up for the purpose of production and distribution of services/items which are in short supply or their supply is required to be regulated. These agencies also maintain statistics for the use of government and public. Examples are; i) Textile Commission Office ii) Central Excise Commission Office iii) Office of the University Grants’ Commission.
In fact, statistical data are produced in India in a distributed manner by different agencies. There are private bodies, trade associations and autonomous research organizations involved in this work. The purpose of private of non-profit autonomous bodies like i) Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy ii) Confederation of Indian Industry or iii) Centre for Science and Environment is to catch the growing market for tailor-made user-specific business or commercial information products and services.
International agencies such as United Nations, UNESCO, OECD, World Bank etc. also publish statistical compendia on a regular basis. U.N. Statistical Year Book is widely used in libraries.
4 Users’ Handbooks and Catalogue of Publications.
Statistical agencies such CSO, NSSO, Labour Bureau, Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), Registrar General of India (RGI) etc. have compiled and published users’ guides/key to literature which provide a detailed account of titles of serials published, their scope and source of data contained in them. The limitation of data, concepts and definitions associated with the data etc. are also explained in these publications. These guidebooks are not released on regular basis. Most of them are un-priced reports available for official use only.
One of the mandates of the CSO is to formulate norms and standards for statistical operations. Keeping this in view CSO has prepared statistical manuals on several subjects and put them on the website of the MOSPI. They are comprehensive reference books for the users’ of data.
Guide to Official Statistics, published under the aegis of CSO in 2001 has become outdated. The revised version is not available. Similarly, publication like Directory of Statistics, 1990 by CSO and Directory of Social Statistics as well as Statistical System in India, 1989 have also become outdated. Another publication Census of India: Tabulation Plan, 2001 was also useful for the user of population statistics.
There is no regular catalogue for statistical serials. Earlier statistical agencies used to publicize their serials/reports through their own annual reports, newsletter and other means like periodicals i.e. Sarvekshana, Indian Labour Journal, Monthly Abstract of Statistics etc. In recent years the trend is to publish the titles of serials on the websites at various agencies. The Annual Report (2012-13) of MOSPI provides a list of publications brought out by various divisions of CSO and NSSO. The Annual Report (2012-13) also says that all the reports brought out by various divisions of the MOSPI are now uploaded in the website and made available to users free of cost. the address of the website is http://www_mospi.gov.in A brief statistics of the use of this website is also given in the Annual Report.
a. Total number of Report/Publication downloaded during the period, April, 2012 –November 2012 = 63898
b. Total number of users registered during, April 2012 –November 2012 = 6989
Lists of statistical publications in print form available for sale is also given in the website of Controller of Publications, Government of India The list is incomplete and it does not provide a catalogue (subject-wise) of serials/reports released by different agencies.
5 Data Dissemination on Demand.
Statistical data on various socio-economic indicators are maintained by the computer centre for the MOSPI to meet the demands of special users. These data are generated through various data collection programme like socio-economic surveys, Enterprise Survey, Economic Census, Annual Survey of Industries and price data. This practice has been adopted in pursuance of National Policy on Dissemination of Statistical Data. A large number of national and international users from Universities, government and private organizations and individuals are user of these data series. Technical guidance for the use of basic data and their processing are also provided to all categories of users.
6 National Databank on Socio-Religious Categories
On the basis of recommendation of Sachar Committee, MOSPI has been made responsible for creation of a National Data Bank where all relevant data pertaining to various socio-religious categories would be maintained. Recently, National Data Bank webpage has been created by the MOSPI on its website. As a preliminary step, the website has been populated with some data on socio-religious groups. There is a plan to collect historical and current data on various groups on the basis of outcome indicators from the published reports of various Central Ministries and State Governments. These datasets will be further consolidated with the help of Management Information System (MIS) of certain national flagship programme run by the Central Ministries of Rural Development Human Resource Development and Health Family Welfare. This information will be compiled as a database and placed on the webpage of the National Data Bank.
In a similar way, CSO has developed indicator based Dev Info Data System in collaboration with UNICEF, India. The purpose is to promote common accessibility of data and knowledge on the key development outcomes in India in order to enhance effective planning and monitoring of development activities. So far, more than 130 countries have brought out country specific report on Dev Info. In India, CSO has released Dev Info India version 3-0 in December, 2011.
7 Concluding Remarks
India’s national statistical system produces data on a wide variety of subjects. A number of statistical agencies – both at centre and in states are involved. Even private agencies which include trade associations and autonomous research institutions produces data serials and reports on a regular basis. Data are made available to the user in electronic form as well as in the form of printed publications.
Major sources of data are census and survey results. Another source is statistical returns submitted to regulatory agencies. Administrative records are also used to compile statistical tables. Normally, sample surveys are conducted as a part of the programmes of data collection undertaken by the NSSO. They are also conducted in conjunction with another data collection method such as a census. In certain cases, surveys are conducted together special information about a particular subject or region.
The practice of publishing detailed statistical reports in print form has been discontinued. Most of the statistical agencies maintain their database in electronic form. Data sets are supplied to the users’ group through CD-ROM or other means. Mainstream statistical publications are put on the websites of the statistical agencies. Only a limited number of print copies are released.
Major statistical agencies are CSO, NSSO, RGI, DGCIS, DES, RBI and State Statistical Bureaus. Their compilations are used frequently by the decision makers and researchers. They bring out ‘guidebooks’ or ‘key to statistics’ to acquaint the users group with content and structure of their data serials. The purpose is also to familiarize the user with the Indian statistical system.
India’s National Statistical System produces data on wide variety of subjects. A number of statistical agencies both at centre and in states are involved. Even private agencies which include trade associations and autonomous research institutions produce data serials and reports on a regular basis. Major sources of data are census and survey. Another source is statistical reports submitted to regulatory agencies.
Administration records are also used to compile statistical tables. Normally, sample surveys are conducted as a part of the programmes of data collection undertaken by the NSSO which have field offices all over the country.
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