|The criteria for the selection of commonly agreed indicators build on the methodological principles agreed in 2001 for the Laeken portfolio  . Single indicators are formulated and defined in accordance with a number of methodological principles.
The criteria for the selection of commonly agreed indicators build on the methodological principles agreed in 2001 for the Laeken portfolio  . Single indicators are formulated and defined in accordance with a number of methodological principles. More in particular, an indicator should meet the following criteria:
“An indicator should capture the essence of the problem and have a clear and accepted normative interpretation”. This implies that an upward or downward trend must be generally perceived as an unambiguously positive or negative development.
“An indicator should be robust and statistically validated”. This means that past trends of the indicator should be interpretable, and not be unduly influenced by e.g. sample fluctuations.
“An indicator should provide a sufficient level of cross-country comparability, as far as practicable with the use of internationally applied definitions and data collection standards”. In practice this criterion implies that EU-wide comparable surveys must be used, in particular the European Union Labour Force Survey and the Community Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, or alternatively, administrative data which have been collected following internationally agreed definitions and procedures.
“An indicator should be built on available underlying data, and be timely and susceptible to revision”. Timeliness, in particular, is a demanding condition, as survey data in particular take considerable time to process. However, it is clear that the usefulness of an indicator declines very quickly with age.
“An indicator should be responsive to policy interventions but not subject to manipulation”. Some indicators measure unambiguously positive phenomena or trends, but are unresponsive to policy, at least in the short or medium term. An example is ‘life expectancy’. While the development of the welfare state has undoubtedly contributed to the increase in life expectancy in many countries, the effect of any change in policies on this variable will only be seen after many decades. For the purposes of the OMC, this indicator therefore has to be complemented by other indicators of health. On the other hand, changes in policy should not influence only the indicator, while leaving the actual social problem behind it unaffected, e.g by changing administrative definitions.
The current set of indicators departs from the initial framework in two ways. First, the choice of indicators is not limited to outcome indicators, in order to better reflect the action and impact of policies. Also, some flexibility is introduced as how strictly the criteria are applied, allowing for the inclusion of some “commonly agreed national indicators”. These are based on commonly agreed definitions and assumptions but, contrary to the “commonly agreed EU indicators”, they do not satisfactorily fulfill all the criteria for the selection of EU indicators (especially the comparability and/or normative value requirements). This flexibility has allowed some indicators to be included which were seen as covering important social dimensions but for which no “robust” EU indicators could be built – for instance, because of lack of comparable data, diverging concepts used in different Member States, etc.)
 Atkinson, T., Cantillon, B., Marlier, E. & Nolan, B. (2002). Social Indicators. The EU and Social Inclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.