Persons in employment
or the employed population comprise all those of working age who, in a short reference period, were engaged in any activity to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit.
The notion of pay or profit refers to work carried out in exchange for remuneration payable in cash or in kind. It includes remuneration in the form of wages or salaries for time worked or for work done or in the form of profits derived from the goods and services produced for sale or barter. In accordance with the international guidelines on employment-related income, this includes remuneration, whether actually received or not, payable directly to the person performing the work or indirectly to a household or family member.
The employed population is measured in relation to a short reference period of one week or seven days, so as to produce a snap-shot picture of employment at a given point in time. When statistics on the employed population are collected at frequent intervals, these can serve to monitor changes over time in the levels, structure and characteristics of employment in countries.
The employed population comprises two main groups:
  • persons employed, at work —i.e. who worked for at least one hour for pay or profit in the short reference period.
  • persons employed, not at work —i.e. who had a job but did not work in the short reference period due to temporary absence from the job, for example due to sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, etcetera, or due the nature of their working time arrangement, such as shift work, compensatory leave for over time, flexitime.
For operational reasons, to identify persons employed, at work in the short reference period, a criterion of “one hour” of work for pay or profit is used. This “one-hour criterion” ensures that all types of jobs, including part-time, temporary or casual, are taken into account in employment statistics so as to support the monitoring of working conditions of all employed persons. It is also essential in order to fully measure the contribution of employment to production, and thus to national accounts. Likewise, it enables employment and unemployment statistics to refer to mutually exclusive groups of the population, which when added together comprise the labour force.

Current international guidelines

The latest international recommendations on the measurement of employment are contained in the Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization adopted by the 19th ICLS in 2013. This resolution recognizes employment as the form of work that serves as basis to produce labour market statistics. It provides reference concepts, operational definitions and guidelines to support countries in establishing their national programmes on work and labour market statistics.

This new resolution has introduced important changes to the statistical definition and measurement of employment. Compared to the previous international statistical standards, the following productive activities are no longer to be counted as employment. Instead, participation in these activities will be measured separately, through the forms of work: own-use production work, volunteer work, and unpaid trainee work:
  • Production of goods when intended mainly or exclusively for own final use by the household or family (e.g. production and processing of goods from agriculture, fishing, and hunting and gathering; fetching water, collecting firewood, manufacture of other goods (textiles, ceramics, furniture, etc.), construction or major repair of own dwelling)
  • Volunteer work for organizations
  • Volunteer work producing goods for other households
  • Unpaid work as trainee, intern or apprentice

These changes will also impact the measurement of unemployment and other measures of labour underutilization, as persons engaged in the above activities, who do not have a job for pay or profit will become eligible for assessment of their labour market attachment.

Read more about the history of the international statistical standards on this topic.