|dc.description.abstract||Economic policy-making has long been more integrated than social policy-making in part
because the statistics and much of the analysis that supports economic policy are based on a
common conceptual framework – the system of national accounts. People interested in
economic analysis and economic policy share a common language of communication, one that
includes both concepts and numbers.
This paper examines early attempts to develop a system of social statistics that would mirror
the system of national accounts, particular the work on the development of social accounts
that took place mainly in the 60s and 70s. It explores the reasons why these early initiatives
failed but argues that the preconditions now exist to develop a new conceptual framework to
support integrated social statistics – and hence a more coherent, effective social policy.
Optimism is warranted for two reasons. First, we can make use of the radical transformation
that has taken place in information technology both in processing data and in providing wide
access to the knowledge that can flow from the data. Second, the conditions exist to begin to
shift away from the straight jacket of government-centric social statistics, with its implicit
assumption that governments must be the primary actors in finding solutions to social
problems. By supporting the decision-making of all the players (particularly individual citizens)
who affect social trends and outcomes, we can start to move beyond the sterile, ideological
discussions that have dominated much social discourse in the past and begin to build social
systems and structures that evolve, almost automatically, based on empirical evidence of ‘what
works best for whom’.
The paper describes a Canadian approach to developing a framework, or common language, to
support the evolution of an integrated, citizen-centric system of social statistics and social
analysis. This language supports the traditional social policy that we have today; nothing is lost.
However, it also supports a quite different social policy world, one where individual citizens
and families (not governments) are seen as the central players – a more empirically-driven
world that we have referred to as the ‘enabling society’.||en