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The Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat)

The Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat) is the body responsible for official statistics of Catalonia. Created in December 1989 (Decree 241/1989 of 11 December), it is a regional administrative body with legal personality, administrative and financial autonomy, and full capacity to act within its areas of competence, in accordance with Law 23/1998, on statistics in Catalonia. At present it comes under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

1. Mission

The mission of the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat) is to provide high-quality and relevant statistical information, with professional independence, and to coordinate the Statistical System of Catalonia, with the aim of contributing to the decision making, research and improvement to public policies.

2. Vision

The availability and good management of statistical information is essential for a country. Idescat must ensure the coordination of the Statistical System of Catalonia with the following aims:

  • To facilitate maximum efficiency in the planning, management, execution and evaluation of public policies.
  • To favour transparency in public management and, consequently, improve democratic control of public powers, and to promote the trust of citizens in the governing powers.
  • To stimulate social and economic development.
  • To allow social sciences researchers access to relevant information (ensuring the confidentiality of the same) thus helping to make sure their contributions improve public policies.

3. Objectives

Idescat, as a specialized statistics organisation associated with the Generalitat de Catalunya, has the following objectives:

  • Plan, produce and disseminate official statistics in accordance with European and International standards, and in particular, the European Statistics Code of Practice.
  • Coordinate and ensure the quality of the statistics produced by all the organisations that form part of the Statistical System of Catalonia.
  • Support administrations in the assessment of policies and in the development and use of suitable information systems for their monitoring and control.
  • Strengthen the continuous improvement of quality in the production and dissemination of the statistics and in the management of processes.
  • Promote the use of the statistical information for research aimed at improving the efficiency of public policies, respecting the ethical aspects and confidential use of data.
  • Promote training in the use and interpretation of the data in political areas, and by public managers, administrators, and also by citizens.

4. Origins

The origin of the present Statistical Institute of Catalonia dates back to the 1930s, with the foundation of the Institut d'Investigacions Econòmiques (Institute of Economic Research), a body created in 1931 by the Barcelona Provincial Council in conjunction with some of the city's most important economic corporations to study the economic situation. The aim of the Institute was to complete and unify the varying economic statistics and to ensure that the numerical series, suitably refined, were published regularly, in accordance with the scientific methods of the time. In carrying out these functions, the Institute compiled extensive statistical material and produced more than 60 monthly series. It also set up the Statistical Preparation Laboratory with the aim of training specialists in statistics.

In 1934, when the Institute of Economic Research had already been integrated into the Generalitat de Catalunya, the same Generalitat established by decree the first official statistics body: Servei Central d'Estadística (Central Statistical Service), which took on the Institute's task of completing and unifying Catalan economic statistics and ensuring their regular publication. The Service also continued to publish the "Butlletí mensual d'estadística" (Monthly Statistics Bulletin), which was launched by the Institute in January 1934 and included demographic, social, meteorological and economic statistics. Likewise, the Central Statistical Service assumed the role of centralising and orientating the official statistics of Catalonia, in accordance with the aforementioned Decree: "It will be in charge of directing and gathering all the statistical work that can be carried out by the different official bodies that operate under the Generalitat de Catalunya; it will be in charge of the publications of a statistical nature that the Presidency deems necessary to carry out; it will resolve the different consultations that the various Government bodies may put forth regarding statistical issues". It also stressed the need for contact with other similar bodies around the world: "it will maintain the necessary data exchange relationship with the statistical bodies of the Spanish State and foreign countries" (Decree of 19 June 1934, through which the Central Statistical Service of the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya was created).

The Central Statistical Service published statistical documents of great importance regarding the Catalan demography and economy, including the first population census produced in Catalonia, carried out at the height of the Civil War, with data from 30 April 1936. The Central Statistical Service, which was also known as the Secció d'Estadística (Statistical Section) between 1934 and 1935 and the Servei General d'Estadística (General Statistical Service) between 1935 and 1936, was disbanded in 1939, following the abolition of the Generalitat as a result of the establishment of Franco's dictatorship.

It took more than 30 years, in 1973, for the Consorci d'Informació i Documentació de Catalunya (Information and Documentation Consortium of Catalonia) to be born, which was created from the Comissió Mixta de Coordinació Estadística de Barcelona (Barcelona Joint Statistical Coordination Committee), founded in 1969 by the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Comissió d'Urbanisme i Serveis Comuns de Barcelona (Barcelona Urban Planning and Public Services Committee) and the Cambra de Comerç, Indústria i Navegació de Barcelona (Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation). The Consortium was expanded to a national level in 1977, with the incorporation of the Girona, Lleida and Tarragona Chambers of Commerce.

The Central Statistical Service was reinstated in 1978 following the reestablishment of the Generalitat, becoming the Institut Central d'Estadística i Documentació (Central Institute of Statistics and Documentation). However, as the Generalitat had also incorporated the Information and Documentation Consortium of Catalonia (to which it provided most of the budget allocated to statistics), and in order to avoid any overlapping, the Central Institute of Statistics and Documentation was discontinued in 1983 and its functions were taken over by the Information and Documentation Consortium of Catalonia, which pioneered the introduction of computer technology applied to documentation. Among its achievements was the creation of the databases ECOCAT (Economy of Catalonia), ESPAN (Statistics of Spain) and BEMCAT (Bank of County and Municipal Statistics of Catalonia), which compiles statistics on Catalan municipalities and is the predecessor of Idescat's current "El municipi en xifres" (The Municipality in Figures). In 1985 it also published for the first time the "Anuari Estadístic de Catalunya" (Statistical Annual of Catalonia) and the bulletin "Xifres de Catalunya" (Figures of Catalonia), two publications that are still in ongoing and that are a point of reference in the dissemination of basic statistics in Catalonia.

In 1987, Law 14/1987, of 9 July 1987, on statistics, stipulated the creation of an official statistics body (referred to in the text as the statistical body of the Generalitat) that would take charge of "preparing and formulating the standards for the statistics of the Generalitat and the territorial entities and the technical characteristics that these statistics must adhere to". Other noteworthy aspects of this Law were, firstly, the definition of the Statistical Plan as an instrument for organising the statistics of the Generalitat. In addition, it introduced the principles of objectivity and technical correctness, the obligation of citizen collaboration and, reciprocally, statistical confidentiality. It also obliged the public dissemination of statistical results. Finally, in 1989, Decree 341/1989, of 11 December 1989, was published, which established the Statistical Institute of Catalonia as an autonomous body, attached to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, with its own legal personality, which was followed by other provisions that completed and updated its organisation and functioning. The Information and Documentation Consortium of Catalonia was dissolved and its staff, resources and services were transferred mainly to the Statistical Institute of Catalonia.