European Neighbourhood Policy - South - indicators for sustainable development goals

Data extracted in December 2019.

Planned article update: March 2021.


The fall in infant mortality rates across the European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries was generally larger than in the EU, with Morocco recording the most rapid reduction.

Israel’s youth unemployment rate stood at 7.2 % in 2018, less than half the rate recorded in the EU-28; the most recent rates in the other European Neighbourhood Policy-South countries ranged from 24.8 % in Egypt to 46.7 % in Palestine.

Unemployment rate by sex, 2018
(% of persons aged 15-74 years)
Source: Eurostat (une_rt_a)

This article is part of an online publication and presents a set of indicators in relation to sustainable development; it focuses on information for seven of the countries that form the European Neighbourhood Policy-South (ENP-South) region — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine [1] and Tunisia; no recent data are available for Lebanon, Libya or Syria.

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 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. The UN global indicator set was initially adopted in 2017 and subsequently refined in the two following years, it includes 232 different indicators covering all of the 169 targets in the 2030 Agenda. The EU SDGs indicator set has been aligned — as far as appropriate — with the UN list of global indicators, it does not intend to cover all aspects of the SDGs or to fully reproduce the UN global list. Instead, it includes indicators relevant to the EU, which allow SDGs to be monitored in the context of long-term EU policies.

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

Full article

Sustainable development goals

SDG banner.png

This article follows a descriptive approach, presenting a statistical picture of the situation for a limited number of SDGs that have been selected primarily on the basis of data availability; as such, the article covers only 3 of the 17 SDGs. It provides a brief description of the targets developed by the UN for each of these three goals and presents specific indicators — among those selected by the UN — to measure progress being made towards achieving these goals.

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being

SDG 3.png

SDG 3 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 newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1 000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 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 1 shows the EU-28 infant mortality rate fell from 4.2 per 1 000 live births in 2008 to 3.6 per 1 000 live births in 2017.The fall in infant mortality rates across the ENP-South countries was generally larger than that in the EU-28 where the infant mortality rate was already quite low in 2008. The most rapid reduction in infant mortality rates among the ENP-South countries — subject to data availability — was recorded in Morocco (2010-2018). Israel was the only ENP-South country to record an infant mortality rate (3.0 per 1 000 live births in 2018) that was lower than the average for the whole of the EU-28; indeed, the Israeli rate was lower than that for the EU-28 throughout the period 2008-2017.

Figure 1: Infant mortality rate, 2008-2018
(per 1 000 live births)
Source: Eurostat (demo_minfind)

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

SDG 7.png

The second example relates to SDG 7 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) 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 2 shows that energy intensity in the EU-28 fell gradually over the period 2007-2017, suggesting that the economy was becoming more energy efficient. Among the ENP-South countries a long time series is only available for Palestine, while a shorter series is available for Israel. Although quite irregular in its annual developments, the energy intensity indicator for Palestine displayed a strong downward development between 2007 and 2012, despite an increase in intensity in 2011. This ratio was similar in 2017 to that in 2012, as increases in 2013, 2014 and 2016 were balanced by decreases in 2015 and 2017. The short time series for Israel reflects a relatively stable level of energy consumption relative to economic output between 2013 and 2016 with a considerable decrease in energy intensity in 2018; during all five years for which data are available, Israel’s energy intensity was below that recorded in the EU-28.

Figure 2: Energy intensity, 2007-2017
(kg of oil equivalent per 1 000 EUR)
Source: Eurostat (nrg_bal_s) and (nama_10_gdp)

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

SDG 8.png

SDG 8 aims to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. One of the related targets is to sustain economic growth per inhabitant 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 as a thermometer to measure the 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 3 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 increased by 0.1 % in the EU-28 in 2013 and by 1.8 % in 2018. In 2013, there were higher rates of GDP growth in two of the four ENP-South countries for which data are available while the other two reported a fall in this ratio. By 2018 the situation had changed slightly: only Jordan recorded a fall in this ratio (down 0.4 %; 2016 data), while Palestine (2017 data) and Israel recorded lower growth (0.9 % and 1.4 % respectively) than that in the EU-28; Morocco had marginally higher growth (1.9 %).

Figure 3: Real rate of change in GDP per capita, 2013 and 2018
(annual rate of change, %)
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_pc)

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-South countries on unemployment conforms to internationally agreed definitions, based on the methodology of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Although the EU 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 6.6 % for men and at 7.1 % for women in 2018 (see Figure 4). Within the ENP-South countries there was quite a wide range in unemployment rates, although these were generally higher than in the EU-28, especially when looking at the latest rates for women. In 2018, the highest unemployment rates both for men and for women among the six ENP-South countries for which data are available were recorded in Palestine (25.1 % for men and 51.2 % for women), while the lowest rates for both sexes were recorded in Israel (4.1 % for men and 4.0 % for women).

Figure 4: Unemployment rate by sex, 2018
(% of persons aged 15-74 years)
Source: Eurostat (une_rt_a)

The gender gap in unemployment rates can be measured as the difference in percentage points between the unemployment rates for men and women. In 2018, the unemployment rate for women in the EU-28 was 0.5 percentage points higher than the rate for men. This pattern of higher rates for women was repeated in all but one of the ENP-South countries, although the gap was usually much wider: in fact, Israel was the only country where unemployment rates for men and women were of a similar magnitude to each other, the rate for men being marginally above that for women. At the other end of the range, the largest gender gaps were recorded in Egypt (where the unemployment rate for women was 14.7 percentage points higher) and Palestine (where the gap peaked at 26.1 points).

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).

Just over one in seven (15.2 %) of all young people (those aged 15-24 years) who were economically active (either employed or unemployed) in the EU-28 in 2018 were unemployed; this marked a reduction of 1.7 percentage points in comparison with the previous year and 8.6 points compared with the relative peak of 23.8 % recorded in 2013 (see Figure 5). Israel was the only ENP-South country for which data are available to report a lower youth unemployment rate than the EU-28 (note the latest period available varies among the ENP-South countries). Israel’s youth unemployment rate stood at 7.2 % in 2018, less than half the rate recorded in the EU-28. The most recent rates in the other ENP-South countries ranged from 24.8 % in Egypt (2018 data) to 34.4 % in Tunisia (2019 data) with the 46.7 % rate in Palestine (2018 data) above this range.

Figure 5: Youth unemployment rate, 2008-2018
(% of persons aged 15-24 years)
Source: Eurostat (une_rt_a)

Data sources

The data presented in this article for ENP-South 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. No recent data are available from Lebanon, Libya or Syria. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of additional indicators for ENP-South 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.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 builds on the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in 2012, the follow-up of the 2002 Monterrey Financing for Development Conference and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approved by the UN in 2000. During 15 years, the MDG initiative contributed to more than one billion fewer people facing extreme poverty.

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:

  1. no poverty;
  2. zero hunger;
  3. good health and well-being;
  4. quality education;
  5. gender equality;
  6. clean water and sanitation;
  7. affordable and clean energy;
  8. decent work and economic growth;
  9. industry, innovation and infrastructure;
  10. reduced inequalities;
  11. sustainable cities and communities;
  12. responsible consumption and production;
  13. climate action;
  14. life below water;
  15. life on land;
  16. peace, justice and strong institutions;
  17. 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).

The list has been refined in subsequent years and as of March 2019 it included 244 indicators on which general agreement had been reached (nine of which are repeated for different targets). 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. The UN releases regular updates (four times a year) of its global database for SDG indicators and this is also available online.

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.


  1. This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
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