Figures and Statistics on Labour Inspection Systems

Resource list | 02 June 2010


This document1is designed to capture the results, trends and methodological difficulties found in the collection and consolidation of figures on the Labour Inspection System (LIS). For this study we followed the guidelines of the ILO Convention No.81, particularly those enacted in Articles 8 and 21, and placed a greater emphasis on those countries that have formally ratified the convention2.

Elements to consider

The LIS is an essential component of the labour administration system, as it ensures compliance with labour laws. LI services, inspired by the tradition of Continental Europe, have gained worldwide recognition and increasing support in labour relations3. However, despite the importance of labour inspection, it still needs quantitative data that allows for the development of deeper comparative approaches between the different regions and a full-length inter-temporal analysis of the changes in variables that are relevant to LIS.

It is pertinent to note that the scope of this work is not conclusive; on the contrary, it forms a preliminary basis for further quantitative and qualitative advances for the benefit of the ILO’s member states and social partners.

Methodology and Limitations

To conduct statistical analysis related to LIS, there is no a general and harmonized methodology. The available information on labour inspection for most countries is taken from official sources and administrative records4, which do not specify a particular method for processing statistics. The ministries, labour inspectorates or governmental agencies in charge of obtaining and publishing this information have their own “action criteria”, complicating the research trends for countries and variables as well as the interpretation of the figures.

In addition to the above-mentioned methodological problem, the following theoretical and technical restrictions exist:

  • Many countries do not provide relevant data for the analysis and do not show interest or lack the means to statistically express the condition of the LIS. Examples of this include several African countries, which have not collected a good amount of statistical information5.
  • Governments have different parameters to prepare their reports on LI and to implement the Convention No. 81. This creates a strong information asymmetry as some countries are more concerned about gathering data and figures than others.
  • Sources are not quite precise in defining the variables that are significant for the study. In this regard, we have noticed that:
  • •In general, countries do not distinguish between companies and establishments or between industries and workplaces. This situation could generate ambiguities when analysing data (e.g. occurrences of this phenomenon have been observed in Argentina, Estonia, Guatemala and other countries).
  • •Several sources do not distinguish conceptually between the number of visits and the number of inspections6 and between work-related accidents and occupational injuries. Terms such as number of inspections, work-related accidents and occupational injuries are contested, which could lead to systematic errors when using this information.
  • Most records do not specify what type of visits are been carried out. Usually, the total number of visits is found with no background and details on the manner in which this data was calculated. This has been noted in reports made by the governments of Colombia, Estonia and Poland.
  • The existence of some documents, reports and/or websites that publish different figures and information for the same country should be noted. This happens often due to the use of non-uniform methods for data collection, human and technical mistakes, and conceptual divergences.
  • Some countries such as Sweden and Switzerland present their number of inspectors in FTE (Full Time Equivalent Employment). The FTE is defined as: “total hours worked divided by the average annual number of hours worked in full-time jobs within the economic territory”7. This method facilitates international comparisons with countries which can only determine full-time equivalent employment. However, the consulted sources for this work do not offer a proper explanation of how they acquire these figures, taking into account that the FTE definition itself does not necessarily describe how the concept is estimated8.
  • The figures on the LI are continuously revised and updated, which means that the information that has been acquired may not be the same in the future.
  • For The figures on the LIS are continuously revised and updated9, which means that the information that has been acquired may not be the same in the future.
  • For countries like Australia and Germany, it has been particularly difficult to find consolidated statistics on LIS because of the federal nature of their governance, which brings certain drawbacks when making a national aggregate as a consequence of the specificities and dispositions inherent in each region or state.

Trends on LI

Despite the limitations that were previously mentioned, we will present several regional trends on labour inspection with the current compiled statistics. It must be clarified that the information is heterogeneous and not as detailed as we would like; however the data is a valuable resource for future studies in the field of labour inspection.

This section will discuss six regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Oceania10.


Information is available for eight countries: Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania.

What is observed is that none of the countries in this region have managed data for the number of LIS-covered and registered workplaces that were inspected, the amount of money imposed in sanctions or fines11, the number of occupational injuries and diseases. All of these components would provide a better idea of the status of LIS, considering that six of the eight countries have information on the total number of inspectors for specified periods12.

With the current information in this region, a comparative study cannot be conducted because the eight countries have “scattered figures” for different years on the total of visits made by inspectors, inspections, the amount of infractions and work-related accidents.


The three countries analysed are: Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Republic of Korea. For all of these countries, the information obtained was the type of industry/establishment inspected and the total number of inspectors. We note that Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea specify whether their labour inspectors are men or women, a situation of great interest from the standpoint of gender, and as defined in the Convention No.81.

Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea have the number of workplaces registered in their labour inspectorates and those actually inspected, although for different years. In this region, Bangladesh is the only country in which an inter-temporal comparison of the number of registered workplaces in the LIS (24,229 in 2006 and 25,608 in 2008) and of the number of inspectors (78 in 2006, 110 in 2007 and 78 in 2008) is possible.

Concerning the total number of visits, total amount of infractions/violations, sanctions imposed and occupational diseases, data is available only for Kazakhstan in the year 2008. On work-related accidents, we extracted figures for 2007 (90,147 accidents) and 2008 (79,456 accidents) in the Republic of Korea, thus revealing a declining trend over these years.


Europe has the most data. Thirty-seven countries have information on labour inspection. In 20 countries, data on the number of workplaces that were inspected exists. Ten countries (Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Finland, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey) had an increase in the inspected workplaces over the past two years for which information was obtained . In Estonia, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and Ukraine the number of workplaces inspected went down.

As for the workplaces covered by LIS, few countries provide data. Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Latvia and Lithuania have good information on this item for two years or more. The only countries that present a reduction in this variable from one period to another are Denmark (from 289,000 in 2005 to 175,665 in 2007) and Latvia (from 135,027 in 2006 to 89,732 in 2007).

In relation to the number of inspectors, most have this data revealing an increasing trend of this variable in 16 countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Spain and Ukraine.

There are nine countries that distinguish between women inspectors and men inspectors, giving us a general idea of how Article 8 of Convention No. 81 is being implemented by governments. In this respect, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Ukraine have a greater number of female inspection staff. Armenia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have recorded more male staff.

The following table provides us with greater clarity on the gender issue:

Table 1. Number of women inspectors vs. number of men inspectors in Europe.13



Number of men inspectors

Number of women inspectors


% men inspectors/Total

% women inspectors/Total


















































The FYR of Macedonia














Other variables that are significant for our research include:

- Number of Visits: Not many countries have this information for two or more years, impeding a general trends study of this variable. Nevertheless, we can say that in countries such as Belgium, France, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova (which maintained a constant staff of inspectors for 2007 and 2008), Romania and Spain, the number of visits made to workplaces went up in the last two years considered.

- Inspections: This variable has had an irregular pattern in the region. Although the amount of inspectors has increased in recent years in countries such as Cyprus and Greece, the total number of inspections has decreased. The opposite has happened in Slovenia and Turkey where there was a decrease in the total number of labour inspectors (from 84 to 83 and from 603 to 591, respectively) and that have reported an increase in the inspection figures.

Six countries (Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Slovenia and Turkey) had, in absolute numbers, a growth in the number of inspections while six other countries (Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had reductions in this variable.

Other countries such as Armenia Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Norway have data on inspections made within their territory, but those are figures only for one year, which do not allow for the observation of evolution on this matter.

-Violations and sanctions: fifteen countries have data in both the amount of infractions / violations registered as the amount of the sanctions imposed.

In total, 18 countries have figures on the number of infractions/violations, which is considered quite acceptable in view of the limited information collected in regions such as Africa and Asia on this variable. In addressing specific issues, attention has been given to countries like Estonia and Spain that kept a downward trend in the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 regarding registered infractions. However, the general inclination is the increase of violations and sanctions in European countries (e.g. Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, France, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Republic of Moldova and Switzerland).

-Work-related accidents, occupational injuries and diseases: Data on work-related accidents were found in 30 countries. Taking into account the most recent years (the last two), trends are divided. Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Norway, Spain and Switzerland registered a decrease on this topic, while Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey show an increase14.

In addition, it is evident that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Great Britain, Malta, Sweden and Turkey present a reduction in the number of occupational injuries for the last two periods studied.

Regarding occupational diseases, figures have been found for 14 countries. In Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland occupational disease decreased. On the other hand, this variable in Cyprus, France, Latvia and Poland has increased.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Statistics were taken from 13 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua,Panama,Paraguay,Peru and Uruguay,

The following are some of the findings in this region:

-Only Brazil and Argentina have complete figures for the number of workplaces inspected.

Brazil has faced a reduction in the number of inspected enterprises. Of the 357,788 enterprises inspected in 2007, it registered 299,013 in 2008 and then 282,377 in 2009. For its part, Argentina went from 100,718 in 2005 to 109,401 in 2009, with an increasing trend, except for the year 2008 in which the number of companies inspected declined to 90,563.

-There are no statistics on the number of workplaces covered by the LIS of the countries.

-Most countries, except for Panama and Peru, have figures on the total number of labour inspectors.  Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay have increased the amount of inspection staff, stressing in particular, the rise that took place in Argentina, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in recent years15. El Salvador and Guatemala show a declining trend, although in the latter the number of inspectors has been stable since 2008.

In only 3 countries (Argentina, El Salvador and Paraguay) has the gender of the labour inspectors been specified thus revealing a male dominance in the composition of the staff. Unfortunately, the over-time progress of the number of women and men employed cannot be appreciated as this information exists just for one year.

Table 2. Number of women inspectors vs. Number of men inspectors in Latin America and the Caribbean



Number of men inspectors

Number of women inspectors


% men inspectors/Total

% women inspectors/Total








El Salvador














-It has been observed that Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru have a growing trend in terms of the number of visits for the examined years.

-The Central American countries are those with more information on the variable amount of infractions / violations against labour law. Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua presented a marked upward trend since 2005. The other countries of the region have limited data on this subject.

-With regard to the sanctions and fines imposed, seven countries (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay) have figures for some years.

-For the officially registered work-related accidents, there is not enough data to give a better verdict. However, according to the information that has been collected, there was an increase in this item in Argentina, Nicaragua and Peru for the years more recently studied; Brazil, El Salvador and Uruguay report a downward trend.

-About the occupational injuries, data are available only for Uruguay in 2007 and 2008 when they fell from 126 to 120 according to the official figures.

Middle East

We have data for six countries: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. Only Jordan has information for workplaces that were inspected and it refers to the year 2006 (101,190 enterprises were inspected). Concerning the number of inspectors, all the countries provide this information. The total number of visits made by inspectors is also present in four countries: Israel, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. Nevertheless, the visits carried out in Yemen (21 in 2007 and 62 in 2008) correspond to the oil industry. The penalties imposed also corresponded to the oil industry.

Jordan and Yemen have recent data demonstrating an increasing trend of occupational injuries. Jordan increased from 57 in 2006 to 74 in 2007 and Yemen increased from 1,092 in 2007 to 3,259 in 2008. Israel and Yemen are the only two countries that have data on imposed sanctions.

Israel has figures on work-related accidents (61 recorded in 2006) and the Syrian Arab Republic on the amount of infractions/violations against labour law (253 in 2008).

None of the countries studied have the number of workplaces covered by the LIS, hampering an informed analysis in this region.


In this region, we obtained information for Australia and New Zealand. In both cases, data were collected for the number of inspectors.

In Australia, there were 940 inspectors in 2006 and 1,575 in 2008. Furthermore, we found information on the number of inspections in 2008 (29,692) and the amount of money imposed in penalties for that year (1,599,638.75 AUD).

New Zealand had 172 inspectors in 2007 and 189 in 2008. Moreover, it recorded the number of visits (9,582 in 2007 and 9,388 in 2008) noting that despite the increased number of people who completed inspection tasks, the number of visits to workplaces decreased. Claims for occupational injuries fell from 206,236 in 2007 to 196,677 in 2008; the claims for occupational diseases increased slightly from 23,614 to 23,710 during the same years.

Neither of the two countries has data on the number of workplaces registered in the LIS, the number of places that were inspected, the number of women and men who are considered inspectors, the amount of violations registered by the inspectors and the amount of work-related accidents.

Preliminary conclusions

Acknowledging that much remains to be explored and developed on LI statistics, it is important to reflect on the following points:

  • A homogenization and standardization of concepts must be conducted in relation to LIS in order to help the countries draw and interpret statistics. The use of a common language will lead to an efficient decision making process and to the acquisition of more accurate results.
  • The establishment and implementation of a widespread and accepted methodology for statistics on LIS is vital. Determining a consistent methodological route on this topic would help to present the labour inspection as s more systematic and disciplined subject.
  • It is relevant to denote in the LIS statistics the number of men and women inspectors by country and by year, as established in the Convention No. 81. This resource could contribute to the creation of gender perspective indicators in the field of labour inspection that facilitate comparisons among countries and allow for the identification of changes over time in relation to this area.
  • The Labour Administration and Inspection Programme (LAB/ADMIN) and the Department of Statistics of the ILO are committed to the subject presented in this investigation. Currently, they work together to:
  • Examine the data collected by the programme LAB/ADMIN and other technical units to formulate a diagnosis on the methodological difficulties encountered in making LIS statistics and possible solutions to them.
  • Produce documents about the state of LIS’s quantitative measurement in the countries and the importance of statistics in the improvement of labour inspection performance.
  • Schedule meetings with representatives of labour inspectorates and/or labour inspectors from different regions for unifying concepts and establish common criteria on the procedure for gathering LIS statistics.
  • Define specific objectives of LAB/ADMIN Programme-Department of Statistics co-operation, namely: i) developing a support tool for the countries on LIS statistics, ii) capacity building and training for public employees that work with LIS statistics and iii) having harmonized statistics for a considerable amount of countries in the medium term.
  • Set a coordinated work plan to achieve the proposed objectives.

1 Please note that this is still a draft. Not to quote without prior authorization.

2 Countries that have ratified Convention No.81 are committed to provide an annual report to the ILO on the measures taken to implement that agreement as well as data concerning the state of their LIS, which makes these memories in a good source of information for the purpose of this research.


4 Figures on LIS were drawn from the reports that governments present on the execution of the Convention No. 81 to the ILO, national reports on labour inspection, Eurostat, websites of ministries responsible for labour inspection, audits and technical memorandums on the LIS conducted with the collaboration of the ILO regional offices and the programme LAB/ADMIN and verification reports of the implementation of the White Paper recommendations for Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

5 In fact, a considerable number of these countries have no institutional web pages with relevant content.

6 The concepts of inspection and visit may have different meanings. For example in the Netherlands an inspection process is defined as the totality of activities and follow-up activities, such as the carrying out of repeat checks and the deployment of enforcement instruments, that form part of an inspection that has been set in motion or an investigation linked to a certain company. In the Central American countries, there is no clear conceptual difference between visit and inspection, using these terms as synonyms in some reports and documents.



9 Generally, all of the data is not updated at the same time.

10 Oceania is the term used by LABORSTA on its website. However, Asia or Pacific are also names accepted by the ILO terminology to denote the region which Australia and New Zealand belong.

11 None of the regions have figures on the amount of money imposed in fines, as expressed in terms economically comparable (thus preventing a diagnosis of this variable).

12 Only Ethiopia defined inspectors as men or women. There were 17 women and 103 men in 2008.

13 The years are the latest recorded for these countries in our file. Hungary, Latvia, Portugal and Romania show the evolution of the number of employees by gender in the periods examined (See LIS data set, programme LAB/ ADMIN).

14 The Community Strategy on Health and Safety at Work (2007-2012) is on progress. The Commission's strategy aims for a 25% reduction in the total incidence rate of accidents at work by 2012.

15 Comparing the first and the last year analysed, the percentage increase in “number of inspectors" was 60.66% in Argentina, 20.12% in the Dominican Republic and 68.4% in Nicaragua.