Rural Labour Statistics

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

The ILO Rural Labour Statistics Collection on ILOSTAT, which includes indicators for women and men in rural areas, helps 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. As a result of this ILO Rural Initiative and more extensive data collection under the ILO’s area of critical importance (ACI) on the promotion of decent work in the rural economy, the statistical activities completed to date are: 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.

The ACI on the promotion of decent work in the rural economy aims at providing decent work for all towards sustainable, inclusive and thriving rural economies. 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 help develop the capacity of constituents and other stakeholders to promote full and productive employment and decent work that fosters sustainability and inclusiveness in rural economies and empower rural communities to realize their aspirations. These statistics provide a better foundation to design, implement, monitor and assess rural development programmes - as an integral part of national development plans. Developing and disseminating rural statistics is a necessary 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” as 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.

Rural / Urban Data

The ILO Rural Labour Statistics Collection covers over 100 countries and can be accessed through the ILOSTAT Database, with the following indicators available:

In the section "Yearly indicators" (indicators now collected on a yearly basis by the Department of Statistics)
  • Working-age population
  • Labour force and labour force participation rate
  • Employment and employment-to-population ratio
  • Unemployment and unemployment rate
In section "Special collections" (indicators collected on a one-time or irregular basis)
  • Estimates and projections of the total population
  • Poverty gap at national poverty line and at rural poverty line
  • Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty line and rural poverty headcount ratio at rural poverty line
  • Share of active contributors to an old age contributory scheme (% of employment)
  • Share of population above statutory pensionable age receiving a contributory old age pension
  • Average weekly hours actually worked per employed person
  • Average hourly earnings of employees
The metadata is disseminated alongside the data to indicate the data source, coverage and definitions, including the criteria used to define rural/urban areas. Statistics were harvested from National Statistical Offices' website as well as international repositories.