Aspirations, Opportunities and Challenges of Working in International Statistics: Views of a Younger Statistician
Elisa Benes
Department of Statistics, International Labour Office, Switzerland

A career objective shared by many persons working in international organizations is that of contributing to equitable social and economic development in countries worldwide. For those building careers as international statisticians, like myself, this objective means working in a wide range of activities aimed at supporting the development of well-functioning national, regional and international statistical systems. As a result, we, international statisticians must be capable of addressing basic needs to build countries' statistical capacity in terms, for example, of statistical planning or primary data collection. We must also be capable of promoting new ways of thinking and using statistics in support of society, for example, through the development of novel measurement and monitoring frameworks, the setting of common statistical standards, and the compilation, exchange and dissemination of data and metadata. While many similarities exist with national statisticians' work, roles and responsibilities, international statistical work has to address a wider range of issues on a broader scale and take into account the rich cultural diversity of countries around the world as well as the wide gaps in resources.

The opportunities and rewards of building a career as an international statistician are many, yet so are the challenges. As society becomes increasingly globalized and the approach to development more evidence-based; the relevance of international statisticians is only likely to increase. Today already the resources allocated to international statistics are no longer commensurate with the growing demand for quality statistics. Without increased understanding and recognition of the profession it will be harder to adequately support the move towards evidence-based social and economic development. Not only are adequate technical and financial resources needed, novel institutional and organizational arrangements are also necessary.

Based on the experiences of a “younger” practitioner, this presentation will shed light on some of the aspirations, opportunities and rewards of building a career as an international statistician. It will also provide insight into some of the current challenges faced by those working in international statistics, particularly those entering the profession early in their careers. The presentation will end with some suggestions on how to promote the development of international statistics as an up and coming profession.