Archived – Program activity 2: Social statistics

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Program activity description Footnote 1

The Social Statistics program's purpose is to provide integrated information and relevant analysis on the social and socio-economic characteristics of individuals, families and households and on the major factors that affect their well-being in order to: inform public debate on socio-economic issues; support social policy development, implementation and evaluation; and guide public and private decision making. It is the primary source for assessing the impact of changing social and economic circumstances on Canadians. Federal departments such as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Industry Canada, Justice Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canadian Heritage, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada, as well as provincial governments extensively use its information to evaluate and cost economic and social policy options and alternatives. Objective statistical information is essential in an open and democratic society and this information allows Canadians to participate knowledgeably in debates on topics of interest to them. It supports statistical requirements specified by legislation or regulations such as in areas of labour, immigration and employment equity. The program also provides information, analysis and measures on publicly funded facilities, agencies and systems designed to meet the socio-economic and physical needs of Canadians, on the characteristics of the individual Canadians and families they serve, and on the outcomes of the services they provide, such as justice, health, and education, as well as on cultural institutions and industries.

Table 1 2011-–2012 Financial resources ($ thousands)
Planned spending Total authorities Footnote 1 Actual spending Footnote 1
138,951 140,301 125,388
Table 2 2011-–2012 Human resources (full-time equivalents [FTEs])
Planned Actual Difference
1,565 1,410 155
Table 3 Performance indicators for social statistics
Expected results Performance indicators Footnote 1 Targets Actual results
Statistics produced by Statistics Canada are available through a wide range of easily accessible media formats and venues. Page views of electronic publications—number and annual percentage change Annual increase exceeds 5% Page views in 2011–2012 were up 5% from 2010–2011. The increase in 2011–2012 is mainly attributable to the continued popularity of specific publications such as Perspectives on Labour and Income, Canadian Social Trends, Health Fact Sheets, Juristat and Health Reports.

Page views ('000), fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 3,210
  • 2008–2009: 3,962
  • 2009–2010: 4,304
  • 2010–2011: 5,424
  • 2011–2012: 5,719
Percentage changes, fiscal years 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 7
  • 2008–2009: 23
  • 2009–2010: 9
  • 2010–2011: 26
  • 2011–2012: 5
Success in finding information on the Statistics Canada website 65% of visitors surveyed found what they were looking for 69% of visitors surveyed found what they were looking for.
  • 2010–2011: 60%
  • 2011–2012: 69%
Ease of finding information on the Statistics Canada website 70% of visitors surveyed would say they were satisfied 75% of visitors surveyed indicated it was somewhat or very easy to find the information sought.
  • 2010–2011: 67%
  • 2011–2012: 75%
Satisfaction with website New indicator 67% of visitors surveyed who were seeking social statistics information were satisfied or very satisfied with the website
Canadians are aware of the availability of these statistics and of their high quality, and of the professionalism and non-partisanship of Statistics Canada. Data series downloaded from the CANSIM online database—number and annual percentage change Annual increase exceeds 5% Indicators are not available as Statistics Canada is in a transition year moving to free CANSIM.
Percentage of statistical outputs that meet set levels of accuracy 95.0% The sampling accuracy of 99.7% of major statistical outputs from the Social Statistics program was within set objectives.

Sampling accuracy within set objectives, 2007–2008 to 2011–2012:
  • 2007–2008: 98.6
  • 2008–2009: 99.1
  • 2009–2010: 99.7
  • 2010–2011: 99.7
  • 2011–2012: 99.7

Performance summary and analysis of program activity

Demographic trends will have a profound effect on labour markets, on demand for government services such as health, education and justice, as well as on incomes and life paths. A robust, comprehensive program of social statistics is essential to anticipating and meeting these challenges.

In 2011–2012, the Social Statistics program activity continued to deliver high-quality social and economic data and sustained its renewal activities.

The target growth rate for electronic page views by clients was met. All major statistical outputs from the Social Statistics program activity were released on time, adhering to the pre-established release schedule, and in accordance with accuracy targets.

In 2011–2012, the Social Statistics program made significant progress in streamlining and integrating its business processes to improve efficiency. For example, the Social Survey Processing Environment provides a suite of generic tools and utilities related to the processing of social survey and administrative data. Most of the tools have been designed. The transition to the new environment was completed for two surveys and started for two others. Sixteen more surveys are projected to complete the transition in 2012–2013.

Lessons learned

What worked well

A suite of common tools and utilities meets the business needs of most survey programs. Only a limited set of additional functionalities will need to be developed—mainly for processing administrative data, which was initially out of the project's scope. The Labour Force Survey was also initially out of scope for the use of common tools because of the complexity and the highly integrated sets of processes that are needed to release the information on a very tight schedule. However, preliminary work suggests that, with some new functionality added, the generic processes can likely be used for the Labour Force Survey. This would reduce the costs of the system redesign, which is typically done every 20 years.

Wealth measurement was identified as a significant data gap. Using the generic tools, a new wave of the Survey of Financial Security was developed in 2011–2012. Collection will be completed in 2012–2013; data should be released in December 2013. A major new cost-recovery project was started in 2011–2012, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. The project was conducted as part of a 20-country OECD initiative. The project was funded by a consortium of partners from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Collection started in the fall of 2011 and was to be completed by June 2012.

The Social Statistics program's Microdata Access Division is contributing significantly to making Statistics Canada data holdings more available. The remote microdata access application, Real Time Remote Access, has been used by federal researchers for a year. It is now being enhanced with new functions, and consultations are underway to offer academics access to this tool. In 2011–2012, approximately 70 data librarians from postsecondary institutions were trained to use public-use microdata files released through Statistics Canada's Data Liberation Initiative partnership program. In addition, the Canadian Research Data Centres Network now has over 1,400 active researchers conducting approved research projects at 25 centres across the country.

A new occupational classification system was made available. It will be used in the household survey program, including the National Household Survey. This classification is the result of last year's agreement between Statistics Canada and its partner, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, to harmonize the two major occupational classifications into a single national classification. This consolidation was a major step toward coherent occupational statistics across the Government of Canada.

What could be improved and what we are doing about it

To yield higher response rates for social surveys, the General Social Survey (GSS) is being redesigned to introduce both a multimode, Internet option and a new sampling frame. In 2011–2012, the GSS developed an Internet application, enabling respondents to complete its caregiving survey cycle online. This application is now being field-tested. The GSS also tested a prototype of a new sampling frame that included cellphones. A second pilot, the GSS cycle on social identity, is being designed to test a fully integrated mixed-mode survey in combination with the new sampling frame. This second pilot is planned for fall 2012 and will be fully operational for 2013.


Footnote 1

A more detailed description of this program activity and planned release dates are available at Statistics Canada's program activity architecture and Release dates for major economic indicators.

Return to footnote 1 referrer