Classifications form the basis for data collection and data dissemination in every area of statistics.They provide standardized concepts used to describe phenomena such as economic activity, productsand expenditure. They are useful in determining similarities in these phenomena within and acrosscountries and geographical regions. International reference classifications set standards forinternationally comparable classifications, which serve as models for the development of corresponding national, multinational and regional statistical classifications and form the basis forinternationally comparable data. They are tools that are used by national statistical organizations,international agencies, academia and other users, including the legal community.
Classifications in UNSD
Within UNSD, the development of classificationshas been an integral part of its work programmefrom the beginning. The first session of theStatistical Commission after its inaugural meetingsaw a Committee on Industrial Classificationselected to formulate proposals for an internationalstandard classification of industry. The StatisticalCommission has accorded constant attention to thisarea, recognizing that an “essential requisite for anyreal comparability is the greatest possible extent of uniformity of definitions and classifications”. TheExpert Group on International Economic and SocialClassifications, with UNSD functioning as secretariat,provides global leadership in this area of statistics.
Why adopt classifications standards?
International reference classifications function as“international languages” for communicating instatistics. If you wish your national data to beunderstood, appreciated, used or quoted widely,international reference classifications are animportant tool.
They facilitate international comparability byproviding standardized sets of categories which canbe assigned to specific variables. These categories’definitions are widely accepted and understood.
International reference classifications for whichUNSD is custodian, such as the InternationalStandard Industrial Classification of All EconomicActivities (ISIC) and the Central ProductClassification (CPC) are updated or revisedperiodically to ensure their relevance to currenteconomic structures.
Attention is paid to new trends in technology anddiffering economic structures over time. For example, anew section on Information and communication hasbeen introduced into the latest version of ISIC thatincludes: the production and distribution of informationand cultural products; the provisions and means totransmit these products; as well as informationtechnology, data processing and other informationservice activities. Additionally, since services areabsorbing an ever larger share of economic activity, thishas been reflected in ISIC and the CPC throughincreasing their visibility - a larger part of the structureand more detailed categories have been committed totheir representation.
These classifications are designed to be used in their original state or can be adapted to national specifics.Using them instead of developing a nationalclassification from scratch, saves national statisticaloffices financial and technical resources.
Where does your country stand?
Classifications are an essential mechanism for harmonizationand coordination of data compilations. As a result, theyfacilitate a country’s inclusion in global statistical activities.When international reference standards are not employed,national statistical offices risk their data not being comparablewith those of other countries and miss out on opportunities tosee how their statistical indicators compare with overall worlddevelopment. They forego the opportunity to promote their data, and subsequently their country, when their data cannotbe published within the internationally recognizableframeworks. Classifications remain an important aspect of collaboration and coordination efforts in the presentation of data.