Complex Indicators in Socio-Economic Studies: Advantages and Disadvantages

Keywords: socio-economic development, measurement procedures, complex indicators, point indices, Global Peace Index, Global Competitiveness Index, traditional statistical indicators


The article is devoted to an important problem — to critical analysis of procedures for measuring complex socio-economic processes. Indicators, methods, approaches to measuring socio-economic dynamics require constant improvement of procedures and are the subject of numerous studies by scientists from different countries of the world and by the leading international organizations. This issue has become particularly relevant in recent decades with the advent of so-called complex indicators (CI), which, according to their authors, generalize certain aspects of socio-economic development. This opens the way to move from an array of indicators that have different dimensions to more acceptable «one-dimensional» indicators, which are more acceptable for high-ranking managers. Over the past two decades, the number of such comprehensive indicators has steadily increased and reached several hundred. The purpose of the article is to identify trends in approaches to assessing socio-economic development based on the utilisation of complex indicators, analyze their advantages and disadvantages in comparison with «traditional» approaches, and provide recommendations for a possible combination of these approaches. Research methods: meaningful retrospective analysis of the use of various development indicators, generalization of scientific sources of information, synthesis and comparison of «individual» indicators used in complex indicators. Source base: data on the use of comprehensive indicators for different countries of the world, regulatory framework for evaluating scientific institutions, publications of domestic and foreign specialists and international organizations. Four problem areas that cause the emergence of objective difficulties are identified: the choice and presentation of primary indicators that become the basis for building CI; the issues of reliability and the possibility of comparing data (different definitions for similar phenomena or different content of the same concepts when used in different countries); the use of methods of convolution and calculation of points; analysis of the stability of the results obtained. Based on the analysis of specific complex indicators, it is shown that emerging problems are not always solved rationally. In fact, composition of some CIs leads to manipulation with the final results in the interests of certain political organizations and (or) individual countries. Conclusions are drawn about specific bias in the procedures for forming individual CI. To «correct» the data obtained with CI implementation, it is proposed to use traditional statistical indicators along with complex indicators, as these ‘traditional’ indicators have certain advantages over CI in many cases. It is also recommended to pay more attention to the processes of CI formation in order to reduce opportunities for manipulation and obtain more objective results.


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