Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) employment indicators

Activities that entail raising awareness of the MDG employment-related indicators and offering country-level support to ensure that the indicators are used in national and international labour market monitoring systems.

Recognizing that decent and productive work for all is central to addressing poverty and hunger, MDG 1 includes a new target and indicators agreed upon in 2008:

New MDG Target (1B): Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people


In 2007, the Secretary-General of the United Nations initiated a two-year effort in the Commission for Social Development on the priority theme of promoting full, productive employment and decent work for all. Resolutions that were adopted guided the work of the members of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Indicators in their efforts to expand the MDGs. The result, in 2008, was the inclusion of the new MDG target relating to employment (listed above) and the following four employment indicators intended to monitor progress toward the new target :

  • 1.4 Growth rate of labour productivity (GDP per person employed)
  • 1.5 Employment-to-population ratio
  • 1.6 Proportion of employed people living below the poverty line (working poor)
  • 1.7 Proportion of own-account and contributing family workers in total employment (vulnerable employment rate)

An additional employment-related indicator falls under MDG Goal 3, Promote gender equality and empower women. This is:

  • 3.2 Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

The ILO’s role and activities

  • The ILO, as the lead UN agency promoting full, productive employment and decent work for all, has central responsibility for ensuring that the new employment indicators are used in national and international labour market monitoring systems. In 2009, the ILO released the Guide to the new Millennium Development Goals Employment indicators : including the full decent work indicator set . The Guide provides concepts, definitions, and formulas for each of the new employment indicators and is part of the ILO’s wider support to strengthen national level labour market information and analysis to inform decision makers.
  • The new target and indicators were introduced in the ILO Key Indicators of the Labour Market, 5th Edition. To access the document, click here.
  • A section of the KILM 6th Edition is also dedicated to promoting the application of the MDG employment indicators. Section C, “MDG employment indicators: Country examples” demonstrates how to put all four MDG employment indicators together for a basic analysis of progress at the country level. The section looks at the latest available data for Botswana, Pakistan and Ukraine, countries of diverging economic and social contexts, with the aim of demonstrating how the MDG employment indicators can be used as a starting point for a fuller labour market analysis based on a broader set of indicators. To access the document, click here.
  • The book “Towards Decent Work in Sub-Saharan Africa: Monitoring MDG Employment Indicators” demonstrates how the new MDG employment indicators can be used as a basis for improved labour market and poverty monitoring as well as improved employment policy development in sub-Saharan Africa. It draws on broad regional labour market analyses and country case studies on the United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

The ILO organizes workshops to support country-level analysis of the indicators and highlight the linkages between the MDG employment indicators and the broader set of decent work indicators that is being discussed in the ILO.

Additional analyses relating to the MDG employment indictors include:

Pakistan Employment Trends Report, 2008: Achieving MDG Target 1B-“Full and productive employment and decent work for all”

World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011

UN, Millennium Development Goals Reports

Links for additional information: