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Towards a European System of Social Reporting and Welfare Measurement (EUREPORTING)

Franz Kraus

The following contribution informs on the EU-funded project EUREPORTING which aims at the long-term establishment of a science-based system of socio-economic reporting on Europe. The basic goal of this project is to assess the data situation and to develop a problem-oriented system of European social indicators. One part of the outcome will be a new system of European social indicators and information systems, which will provide meta-information on science-generated and on official microdata in Europe that can be queried via the Internet.

The recent years have seen a growing interest in social indicators and in social reporting. After Maastricht, the statistical office of the European Union insisted that regular social reporting was one of her duties. The scientific community launched several initiatives aimed at the establishment of a politically independent, science-based system of social reporting. Initiated by W. Zapf and R. Habich (Social Science Centre Berlin) and H.-H. Noll (ZUMA, Mannheim), in 1996 a network of international scientific experts met twice in Berlin to develop some basic ideas of how to improve the theory, concepts and data infrastructure in order to meet the requirements of a more problem-oriented system of social reporting and welfare measurement. Within its EUREPORTING proposal, the initiative suggested the following steps:

  • to advance existing and to develop new and innovative concepts, methodological approaches and empirical tools;
  • to better utilize existing databases and to develop new ones where necessary;
  • to apply those concepts, tools and databases to urgent problems of social exclusion and socio-economic inequality;
  • to establish a network of co-operating research teams.

In the same year, on occasion of the Treaty of Amsterdam, an international group of scientists stressed the need for social reporting again. Then an international group of social scientists and economists, initiated by P. Flora (MZES) and G. Schaber (CEPS), submitted a memorandum "Towards a Science-based System of socio-economic Reporting on Europe" (cp. Eurodata Newsletter, No. 5, Spring 1997) to the European Commission, arguing for a strengthening of traditional social reporting and the development of new dimensions of social reporting.

Since March 1988, the European Commission, within its TSER programme, has been funding the EUREPORTING project. It consists of three subprojects which are primarily concerned with infrastructural issues (indicators, data). Although the project has been launched in the context of the Berlin initiative, it also covers some of the activities recommended by the Mannheim memorandum (concept formation, access to microdata, infrastructural support for their enhanced use).

EUREPORTING is funded for three years (March 1998 to Febraury 2001) and is subdivided into three subprojects, which focus on the following topics: (1) developing a European system of social indicators, (2) stock-taking of comparative databases in social science-based survey research, and (3) stocktaking of offical social surveys and conditions of access to data at the level of individual units. Research is carried out by the Centre for Survey Research, Methods and Analyses (ZUMA, Mannheim) and associates, by the Paul Lazersfeld Society for Social Research (PLG, Vienna) and associates, and by the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES, Mannheim) together with the Centre for Population, Poverty and Public Policy Studies (CEPS, Luxembourg). The responsibility for the overall project co-ordination rests with H.-H. Noll (Social Indicator Department of ZUMA), and the project's home page is located at eurepwww.htm.

In this newsletter, only a short description is given for each of the subprojects. More detailed information will be provided in future editions of the EURODATA Newsletter and through the project's common home-page at ZUMA.

1. Developing a European System of Social Indicators (EUSI)

The overall objective of this subproject is to develop a system of social indicators at the European level. As a result of research within this subproject, the scientific community, policy makers as well as other potential users will be provided with a theoretically as well as methodologically well-grounded selection of measurement dimensions and indicators, which can be used as an instrument to continuously observe and analyse the development of welfare and quality of life as well as changes in the social structure at the European level.

Important aspects this subproject will have to take into account will be:

  • coverage of the 'European dimension' (identity, cohesion);
  • incorporation of such new dimensions of welfare and social change as social exclusion and sustainability;
  • searching for new and better indicators within life domains covered;
  • exploiting the best available databases and ensuring comparability across national societies.

Research is carried out by H.-H. Noll (ZUMA) in close cooperation with W. Adamski (Polish Academy of Sciences), D. Charalambis/L. Alipranti (National Centre for Social Research, Greece), S. del Campo (Universidad Complutense, Madrid), B. Marin (European Centre, Vienna), A. Martinelli (University of Milano), Z. Spéder (University of Budapest), C. Suter (ETH-Zentrum, Zürich), W. Zapf/R. Habich (Social Science Centre Berlin).

Deliverables will comprise working papers, a computer-based system of information on social indicators, a web-page and a comprehensive final report 'Towards a European System of Social Indicators'.

2. Stock-taking of Comparative Databases in Survey Research

This subproject has the objective to develop and establish a dynamic information centre, which provides the European Commission on the one hand and the scientific community on the other hand with a retrievable database with survey data and survey questions regarding social reporting and social welfare.

This work will comprise:

  • stock-taking of existing survey databases outside official statistics (content, accessibility);
  • research on cross-national comparability of major surveys;
  • assessment of their adequacy for socio-economic reporting on Europe;
  • assessment of comparability of surveys in the post-communist countries and their adequacy for the monitoring of socio-economic change;
  • development of an interactive system for dynamic information retrieval via the Internet.

Research is carried out by W. Haerpfner (Paul Lazarsfeld-Society for Social Research, PLG in Vienna) in close cooperation with L. Chauvel (OFCE, Paris), W. Schulz (Vienna University), R. Rose (Strathclyde University), H. Müller (Institute for Adavanced Studies, Vienna), R. Veenhoven (Erasmus University) and J. Vecernik (Czech Academy of Sciences).

Deliverables will comprise working papers, the creation of a web-page, the creation of a 'Dynamic Information Centre on Social Reporting' and a comprehensive final report 'Towards a European System of Social Reporting in Surveys'.

3. Access to Official Microdata in Europe

This subproject aims at improving the knowledge about availability, content and comparability of major official surveys that are relevant for science-based social reports on Europe and at servicing interested users via the Internet in an efficient way.

This work will cover the following topics:

  • describing the evolution of the current survey systems in the field of social statistics at the national and the EU level (directory of surveys);
  • documenting the profiles of major surveys and censuses (including questionnaires) which are relevant for socio-economic reporting on Europe and the conditions of access to the microdata since the 1990s;
  • providing references to related literature;
  • assessing the suitability of major national and EU surveys for analytically-oriented systems of comparative social reporting;
  • reviewing the legal situation and current practices regarding the access to and dissemination of official microdata at the national and the EU level, including the role of scientific infrastructural organisations as mediators between statistical offices and the academia.

Research is carried out jointly by P. Flora and F. Kraus (MZES/EURO-DATA) and G. Schmaus (CEPS/ PACO). It is part of an ongoing co-operation between the two research centres to achieve the establishment of a European infrastructure for research on Europe and on European integration.

Deliverables comprise working papers (source assessment reports for each country covered), a conference on 'Official Microdata for European Comparisons', a related reader, and dynamic meta-databases on the Internet with information on major social surveys and data-producing agencies.

Franz Kraus
D-68131 Mannheim

Tel.: 0049(0)621-292-1894
Fax: 0049(0)0621-292-1723
E-mail: Franz.Kraus@mzes.

Franz Kraus holds a degree in economics. He is managing director of EURODATA