20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians

Landmark ILO Conference sets standards to measure new and invisible forms of work

International Conference of Labour Statisticians adopts unique statistical roadmap to measure progress on UN’s 2030 Agenda and help policy makers create better policies on the future of work.

Press release | 19 October 2018
GENEVA (ILO News) – The 20th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) has agreed a major revision and extension of labour and decent work statistics.

The Conference agreed on new job classifications that take account of the blurred boundaries between dependent work – in a traditional employment relationship with one single employer – and self-employment, more individualized forms of work, and new forms of employment such as platforms, on-demand work, crowd-work, temporary employment and agency work. The Conference also took a detailed look at the issue of informality and ways better provide related policy advice.

“These new classifications you have agreed on will now cover all forms of work and provide national statisticians with much-needed alternative ways to make visible the emerging new forms of employment. This is going to allow better and more effective policies at the country level and will have a direct impact – and this is most important - on well-being for many people,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said at the closing session.

Delegates also discussed the role of domestic work and how domestic workers could be included in the proposed new classifications of work relationships.

The Conference also addressed the role of women in the world of work by launching new tools that will support the use of the innovative statistical definitions and indicators adopted by the ICLS in 2013. It also agreed the first statistical definition of work that goes beyond the narrow definition of “employment” as work performed only for pay or profit. The new definition includes own-use production, unpaid work and volunteer work. These tools will help countries apply the new concepts in their labour force surveys, creating a basis for better-informed policy decisions.

Delegates discussed the issue of attributing economic value to unpaid work. The need to include workers who have until now been invisible in statistical terms – for example women doing unpaid household work or volunteers such as community or care workers – was also discussed in detail.

Measuring progress on the 2030 Agenda

The statisticians provided milestone indicators to measure progress on the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by agreeing on methodologies to measure labour rights and monitor progress on youth employment programmes. Both indicators will be produced globally and the ILO, as the custodian agency, is expected to report regularly on progress in these areas.

New guidelines on labour migration, forced labour, cooperatives, and skills mismatches will help statisticians capture more information on key trends and challenges in the world of work. In addition, a resolution updating ways of measuring the extent of child labour was adopted.

The future of labour statistics

A high-level panel discussed the future of labour statistics. Speakers addressed a number of emerging issues including new statistical sources such as big data, the openness of data, funding, and changes to the methods used to deliver information to policy makers. They also discussed the challenges arising from the SDG global indicator framework, approved by the UN General Assembly in 2017.

“The latest session of the ICLS answered the call by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for a “data revolution” looking for new ways to collect data and making them more accessible. It will also inform the ILO’s Future of Work Initiative by defining ways of capturing the new forms of work that are expected to continue to grow, grasping better the role of women at work, focusing on rural areas and vulnerable groups like labour migrants and providing new and timelier data on how rapid changes in labour demand match skills requirements,” said Rafael Diez de Medina, the ILO’s Chief Statistician.

First held in 1923, the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) is the world’s recognized standard-setting body in the area of labour statistics. It meets every five years. Around 360 participants from all regions of the world attended, including experts from governments, mostly representing labour ministries and national statistical offices, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and international and regional organizations.

For more information please contact newsroom@ilo.org.