Few issues are as important to so many people as the income they receive. And yet few issues are as complex to illustrate, using official statistics, in ways that are understandable.

Understanding trends in levels of income and earnings in society is an essential factor in understanding trends in living standards and being able to develop policy in an informed way. Parliament, the opposition and media all require good quality statistics on income and earnings to shed light on the direction in which living standards are moving.

The aim of this piece of work is to review the way in which official statistics about incomeand earnings, and their components, are presented. The particular focus will be on:

  • Coherence – the extent to which official statistics drawn from different sources, and about different components of income, complement one another; also, whether there are any significant gaps in the statistical picture of income.
  • Accessibility – the extent to which users and potential users of official statistics on income are able to find, and understand, the statistics; also whether related statistics are presented in ways that help the user to understand the interrelationships.

The focus of this piece of work is to identify ways in which the coherence and accessibility of official statistics about people’s income might be enhanced in ways that meet users’ needs. Meeting users’ needs, in this respect, goes well beyond meeting their requirement for good quality statistics on income and earnings, but whether they have the full range of coherent statistics to carry out an in depth analysis of factors that affect trends in incomes, earnings and living standards over time and for different sectors of society.