Income Statistics Program

Consultation summary

This document contains excerpts from the 2009 Quadrennial Program Report for the Income Statistics Program, covering the 2005/06 – 2008/09 reference period. Statistics Canada has established an integrated program evaluation and reporting system. In that system, statistical programs undergo a full program evaluation every four years. A major component of the evaluation is the extent to which existing statistical products and services continue to meet the evolving needs of clients.

Results

The Income Statistics Division (ISD) conducted a Client Satisfaction Survey in September 2009. The main purpose of the survey was to seek client feedback on the quality of our products and services so that we could better understand our clients' needs and priorities going forward. The survey achieved a 33% response rate.

Overall, the results indicate that clients were from 'generally' to 'very satisfied' with the division's products and services. First concerning our products, on a scale of 1 to 5, our products typically scored 4 out of 5 or higher. Our Income Trends in Canada HTML product, our publications, our public use microdata files (PUMFs), our Standard Tables, our CANSIM data, and our other website products all received high scores from our clients in terms of relevance, accessibility, and interpretability. Those clients who bought custom data tables from us were also very satisfied with the outputs they received.

With respect to service (i.e. the promptness of initial response to client requests, accessibility, and overall quality of service delivery), clients were again generally satisfied to very satisfied. Ease of access, quality of information received, ability to receive service in their language of choice, the existence of knowledgeable and competent staff, and the perception that clients received fair treatment were all elements that received high satisfaction scores.

Three main issues were raised through our client satisfaction survey, including timeliness, level of estimates and the need for ongoing wealth data. First, concerning timeliness of our products and survey results, there is not a lot that can be done in some cases because of our dependence on tax files from Canada Revenue Agency that arrive about 10 months after the reference year. However, it is clear that some effort will have to be expended to determine what can be done to release in a more timely fashion, going forward. Second, a number of clients would like to have income and expenditure estimates at lower levels of geography, including all census metropolitan areas. In the case of wealth, it was mentioned that a minimum of provincial level estimates was required given that the 2005 Survey of Financial Security was on a reduced sample. Finally, it was obvious through the survey results that clients require regular information on the wealth holdings of Canadians — which is clearly a major gap in our program. Also, given the current fiscal climate and the question of Canadian's readiness for retirement, many comments were received regarding pensions data, emphasizing that an increasing number of users have a need for these data.

The survey also confirmed and supports the direction the Division has taken concerning increasing access to our products and data; the most recent initiative being free PUMFs, in addition to many already free products (e.g. Income Trends in Canada).

Relevance

In addition to our Client Satisfaction Survey, the relevance of our programs, products and services is evaluated regularly through consultation with both our internal and external clients and stakeholders. Key internal clients from both the social and economic areas depend on the Division's products in creation of their own products and services of both microdata and aggregate estimates. Specifically the System of National Accounts and Prices Division rely on data from our surveys for the accounts and the basket weights for the Consumer Price Index. Analytical divisions also make significant use of ISD data, including Labour and Household Survey Analysis Division, Business and Labour Market Analysis (BLMA) and Socio-economic Analysis and Modelling Division. Including our own 44 articles published in the Income Research Paper Series, the Expenditures Research Paper Series and the Pension and Wealth Research Paper Series, 9 papers from BLMA, 31 articles in Perspectives on Labour and Income and 2 in Canadian Social Trends also relied heavily on our data.

Our diverse external clients require information on what Canadians earn, spend and save so they can engage in political debate, undertake policy analysis, describe social or economic conditions of families and individuals, or conduct fundamental research to clarify and improve our collective understanding. External clients come from federal departments, provincial ministries, and crown corporations, as well as non-governmental organizations, lobby groups, the media and academics.

Timeliness

The Client Satisfaction Survey revealed that timeliness of ISD products was an important issue. The timeliness of the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) release is constrained by the fact that data from the T1 file for respondents who give tax permission is not available to Statistics Canada until ten months after the tax year. During the review period, the SLID release occurred between 15 to 17 months after the end of the reference period.

The Survey of Household Spending (SHS) release occurs approximately 11.5 months after the reference period. In 2007, the SHS was released 14 months after the end of the reference period due to a need for increased analysis related to the use of the computer-assisted personal interview application for the first time.

Information from the Quarterly Survey of Trusteed Pension Funds is regularly released 26 to 27 weeks after the quarter-end. While improvements were made to the follow-up procedures for the Census of Trusteed Pension funds, its 2006 release was delayed to allow transition and knowledge transfer to new team members following the retirement of three key members. For the Pension Plans in Canada program, required administrative data from federal and provincial pension authorities is sometimes not received until 15 months after the reference date of January 1st, each year. Although we have been working with the jurisdictions to improve timeliness, it is a challenge to release earlier than May of the following year.

Action plan

In the next four years, the Division will continue its activities with a view to fulfilling its mandate which is to provide information on the economic well-being of Canadians, including the production of annual estimates on income, spending, assets and debts. To do this the Division will focus on the strategic elements in order to ensure the ongoing relevance and quality of our income, expenditure and pension/wealth data.

Statistics Canada thanks participants for their participation in this consultation. Their insights guide the Agency's web development and ensure that the final products meet users' expectations.

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