International Conference of Labour Statisticians

The International Conference of Labour Statisticians meets roughly every five years. Participants include experts from governments, mostly appointed from ministries responsible for labour and national statistical offices, as well as from employer’s and worker’s organizations. Observers come from regional and international organizations and other interest groups.

Activities of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians

The International Conference of Labour Statisticians is invited to make recommendations on selected topics of labour statistics in the form of resolutions and guidelines, which are then approved by the Governing Body of the ILO before becoming part of the set of international standards on labour statistics. These standards usually relate to concepts, definitions, classifications and other methodological procedures which are agreed as representing ‘best practice’ in the respective areas, and which, when used by national producers, will increase the likelihood of having internationally comparable labour statistics as well as comparability across time within a country. Standards currently in force as well as the labour statistics Convention and Recommendation are found in the publication Current International Recommendations on Labour Statistics.

Each International Conference of Labour Statisticians provides a rare opportunity for labour statisticians from the different regions to meet each other and exchange views and experiences. Many participants also take advantage of their presence in Geneva to take up individual matters of concern with staff of the Department.

Agenda of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians

The agenda of an International Conference of Labour Statisticians is decided by the ILO's Governing Body following proposals by the Department of Statistics. The topics to be considered are identified on the basis of the recommendations of earlier International Conference of Labour Statisticians, the work of the Department in a particular field, through other ILO programmes or signals received from users, national producers and regional and international organizations. For example for the 17 th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, the topics consumer price indices and household income and expenditure statistics were identified through discussions at international meetings, labour under-utilization through discussions with some member States; union density and social security from the work of some ILO units; working time from the 16th International Conference of Labour Statisticians and decent work indicators and informal economy from the policy needs of the ILO.

The main items on the agenda of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians, usually no more than three, are those being considered for standard-setting while others are for discussion with a view to having guidance on the future work programme of the Department, including future development, updating of standards or guidelines.

How the standard setting process works

The work of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians is carried out on the basis of reports prepared by the Department, one each for the main items and a general report for the others. The report on a subject contains proposals for adraft resolution, the first version of which in most instances would have been submitted to a Meeting of Experts for review and advice. Subsequent to the Meeting, the Department continues its research and consultation activities to improve the draft proposals taking into consideration the discussions and recommendations of the Meeting. The report prepared for the International Conference of Labour Statisticians thus reflects detailed methodological research and analysis that are often of help to national statistics offices.

The reports are first briefly presented at a plenary session of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians and then discussed in detail and amended, if necessary, by Committees that meet during the Conference. The resulting proposals from the Committees are then further debated at a plenary session before being adopted as amended (or rejected) by the Conference. The tradition is that decisions at the International Conference of Labour Statisticians are taken on the basis of consensus with only occasional voting on particular points of a resolution. As much as possible the standards adopted by the International Conference of Labour Statisticians reflect “best practice” but they are not prescriptive, because of the differences that exist in statistical development, resources and infrastructure in the countries in which they are to be implemented. Changes in the world of work and practices in official statistics, improvements in technology, methodological advances and new insights from experience make it necessary to re-visit the same topics and review their existing standards over several International Conference of Labour Statisticians. A wide range of subjects have been discussed at the International Conference of Labour Statisticians with some appearing on the agenda several times. The most frequent subjects are wages and hours of work (discussed at nearly all the International Conference of Labour Statisticians), the classification of occupations, occupational injuries and unemployment.