European Neighbourhood Policy - East - indicators for sustainable development goals

Data extracted in November 2018.

Planned article update: January 2020.


The fall in infant mortality rates between 2006 and 2016 was generally larger across the European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries than it was in the EU where the infant mortality rate had already been quite low in 2006; the most rapid reduction was recorded in Georgia.

Contrary to the situation in the EU (where the female unemployment rate was higher), in 2017 the unemployment rate for women was lower than the rate for men in five European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries, the exception being Azerbaijan.

Half of the European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries reported a higher youth unemployment rate than in the EU (16.8 %) in 2017 and half a lower rate. This rate peaked in Armenia (38.4 %) and Georgia (28.9 %) while it was lowest in Moldova (11.8 %) and Belarus (9.3 %).

Youth unemployment rate, 2007-2017
(% of persons aged 15-24)
Source: Eurostat

This article is part of an online publication and presents a set of indicators in relation to sustainable development; it focuses on information for the six countries that together form the European Neighbourhood Policy-East (ENP-East) region: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Note that data shown in this article for Georgia exclude the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia over which the government of Georgia does not exercise effective control and data for Moldova exclude Transnistria. The latest data for Ukraine may refer to a number of different geographical areas (see specific footnotes for precise coverage).

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Sustainable development goals

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In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted an agenda titled Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. In order to keep track of progress for delivering this 2030 agenda in a systematic and transparent way, Eurostat, together with other services of the European Commission (EC), seeks to highlight, through the release of a wide range of official statistics for the European Union (EU), the progress being made and the challenges being faced with respect to 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Both the UN and the EU have established detailed indicator lists for regular monitoring of the SDGs. This article presents ad-hoc information for ENP-East countries and is based on indicators that currently form part of Eurostat’s regular data collection exercise for ENP-East countries, rather than a specific data collection exercise related to SDGs; the data can be found on Eurostat’s online database (Eurobase).

This article follows a descriptive approach, presenting a statistical picture of the situation for a number of SDGs that have been selected primarily on the basis of data availability; as such, the article covers only 5 of the 17 SDGs. It provides a summary of the targets developed by the UN for each of these five goals and presents specific indicators — among those selected by the UN — to measure progress being made towards achieving these goals.

Ending poverty in all of its forms across the world

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The first SDG is concerned with ‘ending poverty in all of its forms across the world’. One of the targets to measure progress in this area concerns reducing by at least half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages who are living in poverty according to national definitions by 2030 (Target 1.2). To do so, the UN has defined Indicator 1.2.1 as the proportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age.

The data presented in Figure 1 shows the proportion of the population considered to be at-risk-of-poverty before social transfers; this share is calculated in relation to those living with an income that is inferior to 60 % of the national median equivalised income (the most commonly used definition for the poverty line). Poverty rates measure the proportion of the population who are living below the poverty line. They are a relative measure because they are calculated separately for each country; someone who is below the poverty line in one country might be above it in another country (given they have the same income).

Figure 1: At-risk-of-poverty rate before social transfers, 2012 and 2017
Source: Eurostat

The data shown in Figure 1 are presented before any redistribution of income, in other words before social transfers. In the EU-28 the share of the population that was living at risk of poverty in 2017 amounted to 43.9 % before transfers but only 16.9 % after social transfers were taken into account. Among the ENP-East countries for which data are available, the risk of poverty before social transfers ranged from 30.6 % in Armenia (2016 data) down to 17.3 % in Belarus. These relatively low figures before transfers could be an indication that the distribution of income before transfers was more equitable in the ENP-East countries for which data are available than in the EU-28. Note that the indicator shown relates only to monetary poverty or distribution of income. It takes no account of needs, living expenses, savings, properties, wealth or debt. The risk of poverty and social exclusion is a broader indicator, based upon two additional criteria, namely, material deprivation and low work intensity.

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being

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The third SDG seeks to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being’. Within this context, Target 3.2 is focused on child mortality, including ending preventable deaths of new-born children by 2030, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to 12 deaths or fewer per 1 000 live births.

Traditionally, official statistics have measured the infant mortality rate based on the number of newly born children dying before their first birthday. Figure 2 shows the EU-28 infant mortality rate fell from 4.6 per 1 000 live births in 2006 to 3.6 per 1 000 live births in 2016. The fall in infant mortality rates across the ENP-East countries was generally larger than that in the EU-28 where the infant mortality rate had already been quite low in 2006. The most rapid reduction was recorded in Georgia where the infant mortality rate fell from 15.8 per 1 000 live births in 2006 to 9.0 per 1 000 live births in 2016. Azerbaijan was the only ENP-East country to record an infant mortality rate in 2016 (10.4) that was higher than in 2006 (10.1), while Belarus was the only ENP-East country to record an infant mortality rate in 2016 (3.2) that was lower than the average for the whole of the EU-28; in fact, in all other ENP-East countries the rate was at least double the EU-28 average.

Figure 2: Infant mortality rate, 2006-2016
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat

Some of the indicators used to monitor the SDGs have been developed outside the scope of official statistics or taking account of potential future developments for official statistics. While the standard definition that tends to be applied for the infant mortality rate refers to infant deaths up to the age of one year, the UN has agreed upon the use of Indicator 3.2.2 to focus on deaths of new-borns during the first 28 days of life — the neonatal mortality rate. As with the infant mortality rate, the results for the neonatal mortality rate are expressed per 1 000 live births.

Data for neonatal mortality rates — as presented in Figure 3 — are not available for the EU-28 aggregate which has been replaced in this figure with data for a selection of individual EU Member States showing the highest and lowest rates. In keeping with the data for infant mortality rates, the countries for which data are presented in Figure 3 — EU Member States and the ENP-East countries — generally reported a fall in their neonatal mortality rates between the years shown: exceptions were Malta where the rate is quite volatile due to the small population size and Sweden where the rate was already very low in 2011 and was only marginally higher in 2016. Among the ENP-East countries the fall was most notable in Georgia, down from 8.6 in 2011 to 6.3 deaths per 1 000 live births by 2016. All of the ENP-East countries and EU Member States that are shown in Figure 3 had neonatal mortality rates that were well below the UN target for Indicator 3.2.2 (a rate of no more than 12 deaths per 1 000 live births), with the highest rate, 6.5 per 1 000 live births, reported in Malta and Moldova.

Figure 3: Neonatal mortality rate, 2011 and 2016
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

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The third example relates to the seventh SDG which seeks to ‘ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’. One of the targets that has been defined in relation to this goal concerns doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 (Target 7.3). In order to measure progress in this domain, the UN has agreed upon the use of Indicator 7.3.1 as a measure of energy intensity.

Energy intensity is used as a proxy for energy efficiency: it can be affected by a number of factors, such as climate or the structure of an economy. This indicator is defined as the gross inland consumption of energy in relation to constant price (or volume) gross domestic product (GDP), in other words, the energy supplied to the economy per unit of economic output; if the ratio declines over time this indicates that less energy is required, thereby confirming that the economy concerned has made progress in relation to energy efficiency gains.

Figure 4 shows that energy intensity in the EU-28 fell gradually over the period 2007-2015, suggesting that the EU economy was becoming more energy efficient. Among the ENP-East countries data are available for Azerbaijan for all years and for Georgia for a relatively short time series. In the former, Azerbaijan, there was a rapid reduction in the amount of energy required to produce a unit of GDP, as the ratio fell by 25 % between 2007 and 2010. However, thereafter there was a slight increase in the energy intensity of the Azerbaijan economy followed by a sustained period of relative stability for this indicator. In 2017, the ratio for energy intensity in Azerbaijan was 15 % lower than it had been a decade earlier (in 2007). For Georgia this indicator increased 24 % between 2013 and 2016.

Figure 4: Energy intensity, 2007-2017
(kg of oil equivalent per 1 000 EUR)
Source: Eurostat

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

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The eighth SDG aims to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. As part of this, one target is to sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 % growth per annum in the least developed countries (Target 8.1). To measure progress towards this target, the UN has agreed upon Indicator 8.1.1, which is defined as the annual growth rate of real GDP per capita; this indicator is often used as a proxy for living standards or to measure the overall health of an economy. Although frequently used as a key economic indicator, GDP is often criticised in discussions concerning sustainable development insofar as one of its main limitations is that it fails to capture social and environmental costs of production.

The information shown in Figure 5 relates to year-on-year changes in GDP per capita in constant price (or volume) terms (therefore taking account of inflation); note that the data presented are based on series in national currency terms. GDP per capita fell by 0.6 % per annum in the EU-28 in 2012 and increased by 2.2 % in 2017. In 2012, all three ENP-East countries for which data are available reported higher rates of growth than in the EU-28, with a moderate increase of 1.8 % in Belarus and increases of just over 7 % in Georgia and Armenia. A similar situation was observed in 2017, with Belarus’ increase (2.4 %) just above the increase observed for the EU-28, with Georgia (5.0 %) and Armenia (8.0 %) reporting notably higher increases.

Figure 5: Real rate of change in GDP per capita, 2012 and 2017
(annual rate of change, %)
Source: Eurostat

The eighth SDG also promotes ‘higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high value added and labour-intensive sectors’ (Target 8.2). While GDP per capita captures overall changes in living standards for the whole population, restricting the denominator to only people who are in employment provides a measure of labour productivity, namely GDP per employed person; the UN has agreed upon the use of an indicator that measures the annual change in labour productivity, derived using constant price GDP (Indicator 8.2.1).

A comparison of the results shown in Figure 5 and Table 1 can be used to analyse the efficiency and quality of human capital, as economic growth may be attributed to either an increased amount of labour input or more effective work by those who are in employment. GDP per person employed rose by 0.8 % in constant price terms in 2017 in the EU-28. Armenia, Georgia and Belarus reported higher annual rates of change for labour productivity, with gains of 6.9 %, 5.6 % and 3.6 % respectively. For Armenia this maintained a pattern of strong growth since 2011, whereas for Georgia this was the second consecutive annual increase in the growth rate and for Belarus a return to a positive rate of change after a fall of 0.5 % in 2016. By contrast, in 2017 labour productivity fell by 1.2 % in Azerbaijan, the third consecutive year of falling labour productivity. For Moldova and Ukraine the latest data are for 2016 and both show a return to labour productivity growth after a fall in 2015; for Ukraine this was the first increase since 2011.

Table 1: Annual growth of labour productivity, 2007-2017
Source: Eurostat

Target 8.5 concerns ‘achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value by 2030’. In order to monitor these developments, the UN has agreed to monitor unemployment rates by sex and age and for persons with disabilities (Indicator 8.5.2).

The unemployment rate is defined as the share of unemployed persons in the labour force and provides a useful proxy for the underutilisation of labour; it may be used as a measure of the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of labour markets. The data for the EU Member States and for the ENP-East countries on unemployment mainly conform to internationally agreed definitions, based on the methodology of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Although the Member States are generally characterised by highly developed social protection and welfare systems, there are many developing countries that suffer from an absence of these structures, which may imply that additional data needs to be sought in order to assess the underutilisation of labour in these countries comprehensively.

EU-28 unemployment rates stood at 7.4 % for men and at 7.9 % for women in 2017 (see Figure 6). Within the ENP-East countries there was quite a wide range in unemployment rates, with the highest rates for both men and women recorded in Armenia and the lowest rate for men in Azerbaijan and for women in Moldova. In 2017, the unemployment rate for men stood at 18.1 % in Armenia, while the corresponding rate for women was 0.5 percentage points lower. The unemployment rate for men in Azerbaijan was 4.1 %, while the corresponding rate for women in Moldova was 3.4 %. Contrary to the situation in the EU (where the female unemployment rate was higher), across the six ENP-East countries (as shown in Figure 6), the unemployment rate for women was lower than the rate for men in five cases, the exception being Azerbaijan.

Figure 6: Unemployment rate by sex, 2017
(% of persons aged 15-74)
Source: Eurostat

Indicator 8.5.2 also covers an analysis of unemployment rates by age: policymakers tend to focus their attention on both ends of working life, analysing employment opportunities for the young and the retention of older members of the workforce up to and beyond the official retirement age (if one exists).

Unemployment accounted for one sixth (16.8 %) of all young people (those aged 15-24 years) who were economically active (either employed or unemployed) in the EU-28 in 2017; this marked a reduction of 7.0 percentage points in comparison with the relative peak of 23.8 % recorded in 2013 (see Figure 7). Half of the ENP-East countries reported a higher youth unemployment rate than in the EU-28 in 2017 and half a lower rate. This rate peaked in Armenia (38.4 %) and Georgia (28.9 %) while it was lowest in Moldova (11.8 %) and Belarus (9.3 %).

Figure 7: Youth unemployment rate, 2007-2017
(% of persons aged 15-24)
Source: Eurostat

The final indicator presented for the eighth SDG is linked to Target 8.6, which seeks to ‘substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020’. To measure progress towards this target the UN has agreed to monitor the share of young persons (aged 15-24 years) who are neither in employment nor in education and training, otherwise referred to as the NEET rate (Indicator 8.6.1). Note that this ratio is calculated as a share of all young persons, excluding only those for whom it is unknown whether they remain within the educational system or not.

In 2017, the NEET rate was higher in most of the ENP-East countries (no data for Azerbaijan) than in the EU-28 where it stood at 10.9 %, the only exception being Belarus (see Figure 8). The highest NEET rate among the ENP-East countries was recorded in Moldova, where almost 3 in 10 (29.2 %) young people were without work and not in education or training in 2017, while the NEET rate was over one quarter in Armenia (26.1 %; 2015 data), just under one quarter in Georgia (24.8 %) and somewhat lower (15.9 %) in Ukraine. The lowest NEET rate, among the ENP-East countries for which data are available, was recorded in Belarus (7.3 %).

Figure 8: Young people neither in employment nor in education and training (NEETs), 2017
(% of persons aged 15-24 excluding those respondents for whom it is unknown whether they remain within the educational system or not)
Source: Eurostat

Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development

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In recent decades, the internet has become an increasingly important tool for providing access to information: it can help foster access to science, technology and innovation, and share knowledge. The 17th and final SDG has the goal of ‘strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development’. As part of this, Target 17.6 aims to ‘enhance north-south, south-south and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge-sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism’. The UN has agreed that one specific means of monitoring progress within this domain may be provided by Indicator 17.6.2 which concerns the measurement of the number of fixed internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

The number of fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the EU-28 increased by two thirds from 20 in 2007 to 34 in 2017 — see Figure 9. The adoption of fixed broadband services in the three ENP-East countries for which data are available rose at a much faster pace over the period under consideration. In Azerbaijan the ratio of subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased from 4 to 73 (note that the Azerbaijani data refer to fixed and mobile broadband penetration), while in Belarus the increase was from 2 to 33 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, in other words reaching a level similar to that observed in the EU-28. In Moldova (17 per 100 inhabitants) and Ukraine (12 per 100 inhabitants) the ratios were half the level in the EU-28 or less.

Figure 9: Ratio of fixed broadband subscriptions relative to population size, 2007, 2012 and 2017
(per 100 inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat and the International Telecommunications Union

Data sources

The data presented in this article for ENP-East countries are supplied by and under the responsibility of the national statistical authorities of each country on a voluntary basis. The data result from an annual data collection cycle that has been established by Eurostat. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of additional indicators for ENP-East countries covering most socio-economic topics.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available, confidential or unreliable value;
not applicable.


Sustainable development is a global concern that is linked to a wide range of economic, social and environmental challenges present within the world. However, sustainable development also provides opportunities, such as the potential to eliminate extreme poverty or measures that are designed to stimulate a sustainable path to economic growth.

In 2000, the UN approved a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a special focus on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. During the next 15 years, this initiative contributed to more than one billion fewer people facing extreme poverty. As the timeframe for the MDGs came towards its end, the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development in June 2012 provided the way forward with a new agenda for sustainable development. In September 2015, an important milestone was reached, as the UN adopted a new agenda titled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development’.

UN indicators for measuring sustainable development

The UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development is a long-term policy designed to bring about a systemic change in the way that economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection go hand in hand. It addresses both poverty eradication and the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, underpinned by good governance.

The agenda covers a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) — each designed to address a range of global challenges:

  • no poverty;
  • zero hunger;
  • good health and well-being;
  • quality education;
  • gender equality;
  • clean water and sanitation;
  • affordable and clean energy;
  • decent work and economic growth;
  • industry, innovation and infrastructure;
  • reduced inequalities;
  • sustainable cities and communities;
  • responsible consumption and production;
  • climate action;
  • life below water;
  • life on land;
  • peace, justice and strong institutions;
  • partnerships for the goals.

In March 2016, the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) agreed on a global list of 241 SDG indicators as a practical starting point to monitor the 17 SDGs and 169 targets at a global level (of these, nine indicators are repeated for different targets). At the time of writing, data are not available for all of these indicators.

The monitoring of SDGs is based on different levels of analyses (referred to by the UN as ‘tiers’). Only indicators in the first of these three tiers have an agreed concept, an established methodology and the regular release of data; the other two tiers suffer either from a lack of regular data collection (tier 2 indicators) or from the lack of established concepts, definitions, methodologies or standards (tier 3 indicators). Indeed, the UN continues to work on defining the scope and coverage of Tier 3 indicators. Note also that there is the potential for the UN indicator list to be revised over time, with substantive changes and revisions foreseen in 2020 and 2025.

For more information on work being conducted in this area and the approach adopted by UN for the development of SDG indicators, please refer to UN’s website.

Sustainable development — what role for the European Union?

Sustainable development is a fundamental and overarching objective of the EU. Indeed, it is enshrined in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union. The EU has committed to implementing the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development, both in its internal and external policies. In November 2016, the European Commission made a proposal for a new European consensus on development — our world, our dignity, our future (COM(2016) 740 final) which highlighted the possibilities available for developing a new framework for achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication. This proposal states that the 2030 agenda should be used to guide EU actions with neighbouring countries, including those covered by the revised European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Furthermore, the Communication also proposes that the EU should seek to boost the statistical capacity of developing countries, including: strengthened capacity for the production and analysis of data (disaggregated where possible by income, gender, age and other factors); information on marginalised, vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups; inclusive governance; investment in stronger statistical institutions at national and regional level; the promotion and use of new technologies and data sources.

In November 2016, the European Commission also adopted a Communication titled Next steps for a sustainable European future — European action for sustainability (COM(2016) 739 final), identifying that the EU’s global strategy on foreign and security policy had clear links with the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development, whereby links and benefits for the EU could be achieved by promoting security and prosperity in surrounding regions, including enlargement and ENP countries. Furthermore, the Communication foresees the development of an SDG indicator framework, whereby the European Commission will ‘seek to carry out more detailed regular monitoring of the SDGs in an EU context’ which should draw on work already being carried out by the European Commission and its agencies, as well as the European External Action Service.

As the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat may consider that there are a number of UN indicators which lie outside the scope of official statistics, for example, indicators on governance. Furthermore, in developed economies, some of the indicators from the UN indicator list for monitoring SDGs may be considered as being of little or no relevance, as they refer to issues that are more pertinent for analysing developing countries (for example, indicators measuring the share of the population that is living within close proximity of a paved road, or the availability of modern methods for family planning).

With this in mind, and following the Communication on European action for sustainability, European Commission services have developed an EU-specific indicator list, designed to measure progress in relation to sustainable development issues. The EU’s monitoring framework for SDGs is based largely on data that are already available for the EU Member States (the ‘acquis’); this divergence in approach (to that adopted by the UN) reflects the considerable differences in economic, social and environmental developments across the different continents, regions and countries of the world and the (lack of) relevance for some UN indicators with respect to measuring progress on sustainable development issues in the EU.

For more information on work already conducted in this area and the approach adopted by Eurostat, please refer to Eurostat’s website.

European Neighbourhood Policy

On 18 November 2015, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission jointly presented a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (SWD(2015) 500 final) which underlined a new approach for the EU in relation to its eastern and southern neighbours, based on stabilising the region in political, economic, and security-related terms.

In cooperation with its ENP partners, Eurostat has the responsibility ‘to promote and implement the use of European and internationally recognised standards and methodology for the production of statistics, necessary for developing and monitoring policy achievements in all policy areas’. Eurostat undertakes the task of coordinating EU efforts to increase the statistical capacity of the ENP countries. Additional information on the policy context of the ENP is provided here.

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