Multidimensional Social Cohesion Survey as a new element in the system of information on quality of life in Poland

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1 1 Multidimensional Social Cohesion Survey as a new element in the system of information on quality of life in Poland Anna Szukiełojć-Bieńkuńska, Social Surveys and Living Conditions Statistics Department, Central Statistical Office of Poland Abstract Recently, due to new philosophy of sustainable social and economic progress and big dynamics of social and economic phenomena, among other things, the activities aimed at social statistics development became particularly important. To a large extent this refers to the need to improve the methods of quality of life measuring and analysing. The paper discusses the scope of subject and examples of directions that the forecasted analyses of the outcomes of the multi-aspect quality of life and social cohesion survey performed in 2011 by Central Statistical Office shall take. The innovative character of this survey consists first of all in integration of information regarding all most important aspects of broadly conceived quality of life at the level of individual data (both in their objective and subjective dimensions). It is expected that the survey's outcomes shall significantly extend the information basis and allow to perform comprehensive and reliable assessment of the social situation in Poland and, if repeated periodically, this survey will make it possible to monitor the changes in social progress and assess the effectiveness of undertaken actions aimed at counteracting the poverty, enhancing social integration and development of human and social capital. 1. Introduction The meaning of statistical information as a tool necessary for making and assessing decisions in economic and social life as well as for better understanding of the nature of social and economic phenomena, both in individual countries and in the world as a whole, is increasing. The necessity to improve the degree to which various groups of users' needs for statistical data are met determines the frames of public statistics development and requires such improvement as to make statistics play the role of a leading diagnostic and monitoring tool in every area of social and economic life.

2 2 In recent years, the priority of public statistics has been the refinement of methods allowing measurement and analysis of various aspects of social progress. As regards social progress monitoring, one of top roles is played by quality of life and social inequalities measurement. That is because recently the quality of life category has become increasingly interesting not only for academics but also for public opinion and, first of all, for decision makers. Improvement of quality of life and limitation of excessive disproportions in social progress of various groups (both in social and spatial dimension) are the basic target of current social and economic progress concepts. Smoothing disproportions in broadly conceived standards of life and eliminating social exclusion are also the priorities of European Union social policy and, thus, an important task for individual states, Poland included Definition of quality of life and adopted concept of its measurement. Quality of life is a category with difficult to determine scope of subject and of the interdisciplinary nature. Like in many other categories in social sciences, one can apply to it more than one definition. For the needs of the research and analytical work carried out by CSO, it was assumed that the term 'quality of life' covers objective assessment of material and non-material dimensions of life and social situation of individual people and groups as well as their subjective assessment of life satisfaction in the context of their needs and capabilities. Statistical measurement of a given phenomenon requires precise description of a researched subject. It is necessary to set forth the subject areas, select qualities to be observed as well as describe ways of obtaining data, elaborating and presenting the results. It was assumed that in the quality of life measurement, CSO will try to consider the broadest possible scope of information regarding, among other things, such domains as material living conditions of life (including income, level of material well-being described by e.g. housing conditions, equipment with durable goods, consumption, deprivation of needs), health, education, economic activity, leisure activities, social inclusion and social participation, subjective well-being 2. 1 See, i.a.: J.Witkowski, Statystyka Społeczna Dokąd zmierzamy?, /xbcr/gus/poz_sds_statystyka_spoleczna_dokad_zmierzamy.pdf [obtained on ] 2 The scope of subject in Social Cohesion Survey refers to the recommendations regarding a multidimensional framework proposed in the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi commission report on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.

3 3 The basic condition for multi-dimensional assessment of quality of life (determining the level, describing conditions and consequences) is the need to integrate the knowledge of various dimensions of life. This goal can be obtained in two ways: - through the implementation of multi-aspect questionnaire surveys of population's quality of life; - through combining information obtained from many sources: various questionnaire surveys, census data, statistical reporting and administrative sources. Taking into account both limitations and positive aspects of those solutions, the Central Statistical Office makes efforts to apply simultaneously both above-mentioned approaches. 3. System of household surveys performed by CSO In social progress monitoring in Poland, a special role is played by household surveys. At present, these surveys constitute a system comprising three types of surveys: permanent, performed on annual basis, which provide information on the most basic and dynamic elements of living conditions and socio-economic situation of households (Household Budgets Survey (HBS), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), Labour Force Survey (LFS), Consumer Climate Survey, cyclical, performed once in several years on independent samples and systematically repeated in order to capture long-term trends of changes in some aspects of life (Health Survey - every five years, Time Use Survey - every ten or so years), modular (one-off or repeated in several year periods), taking up issues important for current social policy or increasing knowledge on factors and consequences of selected social life aspects. They are the subject-specific surveys carried out on sub-samples for permanent surveys (starting from the 1980s they are carried out as supplementary to the household budgets ones, from 1990s also on the occasion of Labour Force Surveys, and from 2005 they also accompany EU-SILC surveys). Among subjects of modular surveys performed by CSO for domestic needs are: education, health protection, culture, tourism, leisure and sports activities, situation of selected groups of population (e.g. the elderly, the disabled). To this list we should also add modular surveys performed as obligatory for several years now under the European system of social surveys. Despite their rather broad scope, the surveys performed in recent years by CSO have not fully allowed the implementation of adopted concept of multidimensional measurement of quality of life. Although the combining of information from various surveys made

4 4 it possible to assess the quality of life at the level of the whole society or defined subpopulations, it mainly referred to individual areas, with particular attention being paid to material living conditions. The possibilities to analyse in depth interdependences and correlations among individual aspects of quality of life, as well as to assess the level of accumulation of both positive and negative symptoms that decide on objective as well as subjective life well-being were limited which is especially important in analysing social inequalities. It resulted from limited possibilities to combine information on individual level (micro data) and this refers both to the scope of subject and often different reference periods of information taken from various sources. Therefore, in the light of the abovementioned limitations and growing demand for in-depth integrated analyses of the level as well as diversification of quality of life in Poland (both in objective and subjective dimension), the public statistics system was enriched with multi-aspect questionnaire survey of quality of life and social cohesion 3 4. Social Cohesion Survey's scope of subject 4 Compared to the formerly performed surveys, the quality of life and social cohesion survey: - extends the scope of the surveys' subject with new or formerly inadequately taken into consideration aspects of quality of life, - introduces, on a broader scale, subjective variables (both as regards the assessment of material situation and level of satisfaction with various spheres of life as well as the perception of various social phenomena). As a consequence, this survey contains a set of basic questions referring to the key aspects of the quality of respondent's life. At the household level, the main focus was on collecting information that allows a comprehensive assessment of material condition, including: - financial situation (income sources and level, savings, indebtedness); - housing conditions (including quality of dwelling and environment); - equipment with durable goods (including access to Information and Communications Technologies); 3 Included into the Public Statistical Surveys Programme for 2011 as the Social Cohesion Survey. 4 Social Cohesion Survey has been prepared in consultation with experts from the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). The pilot survey was carried out by CSO in The proper survey was conducted in February and March Social Cohesion Survey is a sampling questionnaire survey of households, carried out by the technique of direct interview. The unit of survey was a household and one of its members, randomly selected from these at least 16 years old.

5 5 - deprivation of basic needs (taking into consideration the needs of children and adults) with regard to food, clothing and footwear, health care, education, leisure; - aid received and offered (sources and forms of aid, assessment of the significance of received aid, addressees of aid offered) ; - subjective assessment of various aspects of material living conditions (including assessment of changes over time and reasons of these changes) Based on this information, a set of both simple and complex indicators will be developed that will allow to assess the economic well-being. 5 The extensive set of social and demographic characteristics of household members 6 will make it possible to analyse the social inequalities of material living conditions as well as the impact of various factors on material living conditions. This approach will be applied also to the analysis of information included in the individual questionnaire. The individual questionnaire, addressed to persons at the age of 16 or older, contains questions referring to: - level of education and other important skills (foreign languages, computer skills, driving license); - health (self-assessment of general health, disability, positive and negative symptoms of psychical condition); - economic activity (occupational status currently and in the past, unemployment, job searching, sources of supporting themselves, working abroad); - important events in the respondent's childhood and his/her family situation - type, frequency and quality of social connections (with family, neighbours, friends), - social participation and sense of inclusion (at the place of residence, membership in associations, voluntary work etc.); - forms of leisure time activities; - respondents' opinions on various aspects of social life (including social inequalities, poverty, social exclusion, discrimination etc); - subjective well-being (sense of general life satisfaction as well as satisfaction with particular aspects of life). 5 A bad living conditions indicator will be developed, among other things. While elaborating the results of the pilot survey, such indicator was calculated based on 46 variables referring to various dimensions of material living conditions. 6 Within the scope of so-called obligatory variables in all social surveys, including the age, country of origin, citizenship, education, occupational status as well as additional information that is important from a perspective of social cohesion issues, such as legal or biological disability.

6 6 5. Examples of directions in social cohesion surveys analyses 7 As already mentioned, it is the social coherence survey s comprehensiveness that distinguishes it from other surveys conducted by CSO in recent years. This opens broad analytical possibilities. There is no doubt that the "value added" in case of such survey is the possibility to carry out a joint analysis of objective and subjective aspects of living conditions. Studying their mutual relations is deeply justified, both in theory and social practice. It will be possible, for example, to analyse the extent to what the perceived quality of life and the subjective assessments of its individual dimensions are connected/correlated with the objective quality of life criteria. It is also planned to carry out an in-depth analysis of the subjective wellbeing. This analysis will take into consideration both global quality of life indicator (whose measure is deemed to be the level of general life standard satisfaction) as well as complex/aggregate indicator which is the sum of satisfaction with particular dimensions of life'. Also, it is planned to perform the analysis of factors which determine the assessment of perceived quality of life (including, i.a.: psychical condition, material living conditions, social and occupational status and social bonds strength - including social isolation). One of the main aims of the discussed survey (at the stage of developing its concept) was opening the possibility to perform an in-depth analysis of poverty and social exclusion. The following three forms of poverty will be analysed: monetary (income) poverty, poverty assessed based on bad living conditions and subjective poverty. It will be possible to analyse to what extent and in which social groups the various forms of poverty overlap. The assessment of the inclusion of the at-risk-of- poverty groups into the social aid network will be performed as well as the analysis whether and, if yes, then to what extent they use forms of aid other than institutional (e.g. family support). It will be possible to analyse whether and, if yes, than to what extent poverty is connected with social isolation, which ultimately leads to social exclusion 8. Additionally, the survey allowed collecting information regarding social perception of poverty. The respondents were not only asked 7 The publication of preliminary results has been scheduled for approximately six months after the end of conducting the survey in the field, i.e. September / October The full analytical-methodological report, containing a comprehensive analysis of issues included in the survey, will be published in This type of approach to poverty analysis has been applied to the elaboration of the results of the pilot Social Cohesion Survey. See: A. Szukiełojć-Bieńkuńska, D. Verger, S. Merceron, M. Fall, Ubóstwo i Wykluczenie Społeczne. Koncepcja pomiaru, Wiadomości Statystyczne nr 12, 2010, GUS.

7 7 to assess the extent of this phenomenon in Poland and whether they believe that poverty is a reason for discrimination in Poland but also to name the groups that they believe are most at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and what forms of aid poor people need most. We will learn what are the opinions on this issue of both poor and relatively affluent people. Social cohesion survey contains also an extensive set of information that allows to analyse social capital perceived as increasingly important component of Polish society's life standard. This refers both to social capital forms which involve the participation in formalised structures of public life (so-called bridging social capital) and social capital based on informal relations (family, neighbourly, friendship bonds i.e. bonding social capital). *** Public statistics development directions stem from the analysis of information needs voiced by various types of statistical data users and they take into consideration the national and international obligations in this respect. A new multi-aspect quality of life and social cohesion survey was included into Polish public statistics in response to a growing demand, voiced by a broad group of users, for comprehensive assessment of the social situation, including the assessment of quality of life and social inequalities. The scope of subjects included in the survey allows to analyse the quality of life (its various aspects and conditions) from an individual person s perspective. Moreover, it permits to consider the quality of life measurement concept in the context of quality of societies, distribution of welfare and social relations within societies. It is assumed that the possibility to obtain such comprehensive information at the same time will have not only its academic and diagnostic value but also will be of great practical importance for social policy. Periodically performed (it is planned to carry it out every five years), this survey will allow to monitor the changes in social progress taking place in Poland.

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