Questions and Answers
Should I participate? What am I expected to do?
All staff members in the P1 to P5, D1, L1 to L6, FS 6 and FS7 categories are expected to complete the questionnaire and submit it promptly, in accordance with the instructions provided.
What is the out-of-area component?
The out-of-area component is a unique feature of cost-of-living measurement that is designed to reflect the international and dynamic character of the population of staff members of the United Nations common system. In particular, it reflects the fact that some portion of the remuneration of international staff is spent outside the area of the duty station, on such items as goods imported directly because of limitations of the local market (certain food and clothing items), the expense of private travel outside the country of the duty station (home leave, vacations), fees for education and support of dependants abroad, and upkeep of a residence in the home country.
The out-of-area index measures price movements and exchange fluctuations in a chosen set of countries with the objective of providing an estimate of inflation in United States dollars for expenditures made outside the country of assignment. The countries are chosen to represent a world price level indexed to the United States dollar. In post adjustment calculations, it is assumed that this “world price level” is the same for all staff.
Why an Out-of-area Survey?
The out-of-area survey seeks to identify countries where UN common system staff members incur expenditures outside of the country of their duty station. In view of the importance of the out-of-area index in the calculation of post adjustments, the ICSC decided at its sixty-third session that a survey of staff should be conducted every five years to maintain the relevance of the list of countries included. (See the ICSC 2008 Annual report A/63/30, paragraph 136(f) for more details)
The out-of-area index was first incorporated as a component of the post adjustment index in 1987. At that time it was based on a basket of consumer price indices and exchange rates of 21 countries, established by the ICSC. The list of countries was selected on the basis of convertible or hardcurrency economies. It included countries in the European Currency Units (ECU), as well as Austria, Hong Kong, Japan, Scandinavian countries, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Following the out-of-area survey conducted in 2007 the list of countries was updated to include 26 countries in total, including 15 hosting group 1 duty stations and 11 hosting group 2 duty stations.
How will the survey affect me?
In order to keep up with the evolution of out-of-area expenditure patterns of UN staff, driven by changes in lifestyles and the existence of duty stations classified as “non-family”, administrative places of assignment or rest and recuperation destinations, among other factors, the provision of accurate data about where such expenditures are incurred is vital. The results of this survey will be used to update the list of countries included in the out-of-area index, to be incorporated in the Post Adjustment Index (PAI) for all duty stations as part of the 2015 cost-of-living survey round.
The accuracy of the results depends directly on your participation. A more precise measurement of this component, based on a large volume of completed questionnaires from eligible staff members, will lead to a more accurate PAI.
Why a survey of purchases of organic and biological produce?
In order to keep pace with the changing purchasing habits of UN staff members from time to time it is necessary to update the ICSC basket of goods and services, used to compare prices in New York with those other duty stations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that organic/biological products account for an increasing proportion of staff members’ expenditures. The survey aims to determine the relative importance of such organic/biological brands relative to the regular brands of the same items in the overall expenditure pattern of UN staff members.