Rural Labour Statistics

ILO Initiative to develop rural labour statistics for rural development and decent work

The ILO Rural Labour Statistics Dataset [or .pdf] and indicators for women, men and children in rural areas help to describe and understand the types of work performed in both farm and non-farm jobs and their rural labour-related characteristics. In 2010 the Department of STATISTICS, which is responsible to compile and disseminate the full range of labour statistics produced in ILO member States, began an examination of international repositories of official labour statistics covering rural and urban areas, for the availability of data and definitions. This ILO Rural Initiative produced 3 outcomes for the 80 countries presented here: dataset, metadata and analysis. Documented rural labour statistics are a requisite tool to support national development plans to ensure that economies (both developing and industrialised) progress in a sound, more geographically balanced manner.

Beyond the agricultural sector, rural labour statistics cover more than the conventional presentation by sector of economic activity, which distinguishes agricultural activities from other activities. The agricultural sector has long served as an approximation for rural labour. However, labour statistics that cover all types of work activities, including agriculture, according to their urban or rural location better help to assess the full contribution of rural areas and rural workers to national development. They also better reflect the rural dimensions needed for decent work, and can lead to improving rural labour markets and the lives of rural workers. Some challenges for producing rural labour statistics that have emerged regard the need to define the concept of “rural” for statistical purposes. This is to ensure that countries collect relevant data, and that rural labour statistics become mainstreamed and comparable.

Rural Decent Work, helping to ensure the spread of Decent Work to rural areas and rural workers, relies on rural labour statistics compiled, produced and analysed regularly. These will provide a better tool for constituents to design, implement, monitor and assess rural development programmes - as an integral part of national development plans. This ILO Initiative is a step towards a comprehensive “stocktaking of the nature, magnitude and changing patterns of rural employment in the world, with a particular focus on developing countries” called for by ILO member States and reflected in the ILO's Rural Employment and Decent Work Programme.

Future activities

Develop and build capacity for labour force surveys to disaggregate by rural-urban, through the Department of Statistics’ technical cooperation and training activities. This will assist countries to enhance their capacity to collect relevant rural and urban labour statistics that account for all of the rural specificities to support the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national policies and programmes for rural development.

Carry on developmental research to define “rural area” for statistical measurement purposes. The different criteria used to classify areas as rural or urban may be based on population, on infrastructural characteristics or other variables. Also, capacity building for a multi-facetted development goes beyond monitoring the concept of rural employment, to monitoring all rural work. The concept of total work includes the production carried out as unpaid household service work and as volunteer work inside the General Boundary of the System of National Accounts, beyond the economic activities measured by the concept of employment: Employment in relation to boundaries in the System of National Accounts.

Rural Analysis

Rural / Urban Data

The ILO Rural Labour Statistics Dataset [or .pdf] covers 80 countries and territories. It includes employment, unemployment and economically active population (EAP) statistics for rural and urban areas – by continent, country, sex, age group, for (various) years. The statistics were harvested mainly from international repositories and from some Internet websites of countries that provide official labour statistics with the rural dimension (as defined nationally).

This Excel data file displays the topics: Urban EAP, Rural EAP; Urban Employment, Rural Employment, Urban Unemployment, and Rural Unemployment. The CSV spreadsheet format is read-only but can be saved as a copy for exploration and analysis.
It is possible to perform comparisons, table designs and print outs.

Rural / Urban Metadata

The ILO Rural Labour Statistics Metadata is a technical inventory that gives the metadata or key methodological characteristics for each national data series contained in the Rural Labour Statistics Dataset covering: the data source, coverage and definitions of the statistics, for each country. This stock-taking of international data availability provides background information to understanding current data collection practices in some 80 member States that compiled statistics with the rural dimension.

The Metadata presents for each country the available following variables:
  • Economically active population, rural/urban
  • Employment, rural/urban
  • Unemployment, rural/urban
  • Sex
  • Age group
  • Years
  • Statistical source
  • International repository
  • Definitional criteria to classify rural/urban.