Statistics in Focus: Official Statistics and Vulnerable Groups in Trinidad and Tobago

Thursday 27th May, 2021
Source: Thursday Business Guardian
Author: Central Statistical Office

Vulnerable groups are defined as those groups or communities which experience social exclusion, discrimination, inequality and marginalization. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are founded on the principles of universality, social justice, and equity for all; targeted attention must be paid to the most vulnerable and excluded in order to ensure a life of dignity for all. Vulnerable groups include but are not limited to women, children, the youth, and persons with disabilities. Official statistics can provide key insights into the lives of these groups in order to understand and address the areas which hamper their holistic development and limits their total participation in society.

On the 13th December 2006, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was adopted. As the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century, it is intended to be used as a human rights instrument with a specific social development dimension. Approximately 15% of the world’s 7 billion global population are individuals with an intellectual, hearing, visual, learning, or physical disability or a combination of these. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that there are 1. 3 million persons in the Caribbean living with some form of disability. A 2011 Central Statistical Office (CSO) report noted that there are 52,244 persons with disabilities representing 3.93% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago. 

As a signatory of the Convention, Trinidad and Tobago established a Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, Equality, and Diversity and presented a revised National Policy on Persons with Disabilities to the House of Representatives and Senate in 2019. A broad classification for disabled persons was used to include “...those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” In addition to the UNCRPD, Trinidad and Tobago has signed several other international treaties related to persons with disabilities including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1994 UNESCO Salamanca Statement. These international treaties hold all signatory countries to their mandate of providing equal access to opportunities for persons with disabilities. 

Another vulnerable group that can be served through the use of official statistics are women and children. Internationally comparable data regarding the social and economic situation of women and children in T&T has been gathered using the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by the CSO. It also measures key indicators towards the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) and monitors progress towards other international commitments. These commitments have been laid out in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the World Fit for Children Declaration and Plan of Action as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 

The MICS is used to provide the following statistical information:

● An assessment of the lived realities of women and children in Trinidad and Tobago,

● An identification of specific inequalities and disparities which is then used for evidence-based policy making,

● A validation of information derived from other sources and social interventions, as well as, 

● A measurement of the progress being made towards goals established in a number of human rights mechanisms.

It consists of three surveys; a general household survey, a questionnaire for all women in the household between the ages of 15-49 years old, and an under-5 survey that is taken by the mothers or caretakers in the household for all children under five years of age. Data compiled by the CSO is used as part of the requirements for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), two UN treaties signed and ratified by T&T. 

On December 7th 2020, the CSO announced that it will begin conducting surveys involving households across the islands. The Continuous Sample Survey of the Population (CSSP) is the largest survey undertaken after the national census; it collects data on a quarterly and annual basis in order to produce labour force statistics. This data is used to analyse certain elements of the labour force such as employment status by age, sex, occupational group, educational attainment, and type of worker. 

Understanding why some persons without jobs are not actively seeking employment is one of the social issues that can be explained using the CSSP. An Inter-American Development Bank report which analysed unemployment in T&T was able to determine that the high rates of unemployment among the youth population was due to structural factors such as the mismatch between the education system and the needs of the labour market. It also highlighted the plight of the nation’s educated but unskilled and uncertified young male population. This leads to a higher prevalence of discouraged workers: those who were unemployed and interested in working yet were not actively seeking jobs. The importance of official statistics to vulnerable groups cannot be understated; it highlights the need to develop inclusive accessible social interventions for these marginalised populations toward the creation of an equitable society.