Working with the United Nations to improve data on Ageing

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) works closely with the United Nations (UN) on a number of international projects to improve statistics around the world. With older populations often having suffered the worst impacts from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, awareness of the need for better evidence on the impact of ageing populations has increased. Here Rich Pereira explains why the ONS is leading international work to develop a standard approach to producing improved statistics on an issue of increasing global significance.

By 2050, there are projected to be 2.1 billion people aged 60 or over in the world – around double the estimated number in 2020. People are living longer, which is to be celebrated, but ageing populations and increasing numbers of older people bring both opportunities and challenges and the need to understand the wider implications for society, the economy and older people themselves.

We recently hosted the third annual technical meeting of the United Nations Titchfield City Group on Ageing and Age-disaggregated data (TCGA). A group of countries consisting of including Mexico, South Korea, Denmark, Kenya and Pakistan to name a few, alongside UN groups such as UN Women, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Help Age International and academic experts.

The three-day event took place on 29 and 30 June and 1 July 2021.

What is the TCGA?

We, at the ONS, are delighted to lead the TCGA. The purpose of the group is to contribute to identifying evidence gaps and establish international standards and methods for the compilation of statistics and data on the major of dimensions related to ageing and age-disaggregated data across the life course. We are encouraging other countries to adopt these by playing a leading role in the dissemination of good practices across the world and facilitating better collaboration.

The meeting was well timed with the start of the UN decade of action to deliver the Strategic Development Global Goals (SDGs). There has never been a more important time to improve data disaggregation across all age groups and the availability of statistics about older people to support the ‘Leave No One Behind’ 2030 Agenda. This sets out a universal plan of action to achieve the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner. It seeks to realise the human rights of all people of all ages, which means shining a light for each SDG through the lens of every segment of society, including overlooked population groups and vulnerable sub-groups. In many instances these groups comprise older people.

In the meeting we reviewed the progress of the work made so far, including the impact of the pandemic on the work strands. The core of the meeting focused on the assessment of the available data to monitor the SDG pledge to ‘leave no one behind’ in relation to older people. The emphasis was on the three priority work strands of the TCGA work programme; assessment of current evidence and identifying gaps, conceptual and analytical framework for comprehensive information on older adults, and standardisation and harmonisation guidelines.

What next?

The next few weeks will see NSO’s compiling evidence in relation to older persons including, case studies on SDG indicators, completing a data gaps analysis for the priority SDG indicators, and sharing current practices on data collection, definitions and dissemination methods.

Later this year work formally begins on the three remaining work strands, horizon scanning for future needs of data users, age-disaggregation and ageing-related statistics for the SDG indicator framework and development of a platform for sharing information and good practice. Members of the TCGA at the technical meeting noted that the inter-connectivity of the work to date means we have already made good progress on these.

Our next steps are to complete the official report of the third technical meeting we have just held. Then in Autumn this year we will be producing a joint TCGA/WHO report based on NSO case studies on reporting of selected SDG indicators. We will also formally report on the progress of the TCGA to the UN Statistical Commission.

This is just one of the many UN initiatives ONS takes a lead in. Our team dedicated to reporting the UK’s SDG data built an open source, free-to-reuse platform for publishing SDG’s data, in collaboration with the US government, the nonprofit Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE) and members of the Open SDG community, which is now being used by countries around the world. We also chair the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe task force on measuring social exclusion.

The TCGA programme runs to 2023.  If you want to know more, please email

Rich Pereira is the Deputy Director, Centre for Ageing and Demography