14. Labour Market Information Systems

Sustainable Development

Decent work

Economy Social Environment Employment Protection Rights Dialogue
Relevant SDG Targets

8, 8.8, 1.3, 5.5, 17.18, 17.19
Relevant Policy Outcomes
1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 2, 8, 9, 10

On this page: DWA-SDG Relationship | Cross-cutting policy drivers | Partnerships | ILO Capacity | Resources

The identification of labour market issues critically rests on the availability of data, information and analysis. Labour market information systems (LMIS) provide an essential basis for employment and labour policies, and inform the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies that are better focused and targeted. LMIS also contribute to a reduction in the transaction costs of labour markets as they help overcome incomplete information of labour market agents.

Most countries are committed to the development of labour market information systems. However, particularly in developing economies, the functioning of LMIS, if such systems have been established at all, is hampered by various constraints, including data limitations. Data limitations affect not only complex issues such as informality and employment protection, but also labour market indicators that in most developed economies are available on a monthly or quarterly basis, such as employment and unemployment indicators. Data limitations are related in developing economies to constraints such as resource scarcity, limited analytical capacity and structural factors. Furthermore, labour market institutions, including workers’ and employers' organizations, are weak in many economies, which hampers the development and use of mechanisms to feed information and analysis into decision-making. Such problems may lead to ill-informed policy formulation and inadequate monitoring, hindering efforts to achieve labour market and development objectives (49).

Three main functions of Labour Market Information Systems can be distinguished:
  • LMIS facilitate labour market analysis;
  • LMIS provide the basis for monitoring and reporting on employment and labour policies;
  • LMIS constitute a mechanism to exchange information or coordinate different actors and institutions that produce and utilize labour market information and analysis.
The main purpose of LMIS is the production of information and analysis for policy-makers and other labour market stakeholders. For example, the functions of the European Employment Observatory are stated as follows: “The European Employment Observatory contributes to the development of the European Employment Strategy through the provision of information, comparative research and evaluation on employment policies and labour market trends.” It is important to establish institutional arrangements in order to make the information and analysis widely available, and to provide opportunities for labour market stakeholders to influence the agenda of the LMIS.

The LMIS can also be directly involved in monitoring and reporting on employment and labour policies. Both at the international and the national levels, the institutional role of the LMIS can be broadened to include the exchange of information or coordination of the LMIS activities of labour market stakeholders, which include statistical agencies, research agencies and agencies involved in policy formulation and implementation, including and workers’ and employers' organizations. This function may range from the dissemination of information on concepts, definitions and standards, to the allocation of resources regarding data collection or specific analytical activities.

Labour market information systems consist of four main components:
  • collection and compilation of data and information;
  • repository of information;
  • analytical capacity and tools; and
  • institutional arrangements and networks.
Regarding the first component, and given that LMIS should provide analyses of labour markets in their economic context, collection or compilation of data consists not only of data on labour markets, but also on the broader economy. For example, data on trade flows and remittances are indispensable for an analysis of the labour market effects on economic crises.

Labour force surveys can be designed to cover the entire population of a country, all sectors of the economy and all categories of workers, including own-account workers, contributing family workers and persons engaged in casual work or marginal economic activity. For this reason, household-based labour force surveys offer a unique advantage to obtain information on the labour market of a country and its structure. Other sources, such as population censuses, multi-purpose household surveys, establishment surveys, or administrative records (e.g., employment service records), differ in scope, coverage, units of measurement or methods of data collection.

Each source has advantages and limitations in terms of the cost, quality and type of information gained. For example, establishment surveys typically have poor coverage of very small or unregistered businesses but are a more reliable source on wages and earnings. Similarly, administrative records provide a low-cost source of labour market information, but this information is limited by the purpose of the records, which may be different from that of an analyst or policy-maker. Therefore, effective LMIS draw on all sources.

At a minimum, LMIS track a set of indicators, which constitute the basis for the development of more advanced systems. A widely-used set of indicators are the Decent Work Indicators (DWI) which can be found at ILOSTAT, the core statistical information system of the ILO. DWI cover the four dimensions of the Decent Work Agenda, plus indicators of the economic and social context of decent work.

Amongst the more than 400 indicators and breakdowns in ILOSTAT, the Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM) constitute a subset of labour market indicators used to monitor new employment trends. The initial set of indicators was selected in consultation with the OECD and national representatives from Ministries of Labour and statistical offices. The selection and design of the core indicators has evolved since the first edition of KILM, and is still in evolution, including new indicators based on demand and availability. The latest version of the KILM indicators has now been fully integrated into ILOSTAT and is available directly through this portal.

One tool recommended for storage and dissemination of LMIS indicators is .Stat (maintained by the OECD), because:
  • This powerful platform is available for those countries implementing LMIS through an agreement between ILO and OECD and the Statistical Information Systems – Collaboration Community (SIS-CC).
  • .Stat is one of the most advanced statistical information systems’ platform currently used in the official statistics community.
  • ILO and OECD/SIS-CC have signed a MoU that enables ILO to provide .Stat free of charge to all countries implementing a LMIS according to ILO’s recommendations. Moreover, the ILO provides first level support and free upgrades.
  • The SIS-CC promotes values that are aligned with ILO principles, such as partnership (collaboration rather than a vendor/client relationship), transparency, and consistency with internationally defined statistical standards.
  • .Stat comprises four main functions (data entry, data storage, data exit and data analysis).
ILO work on LMIS is subject to a specific Convention, namely Labour Statistics Convention, 1985 (No. 160), which has been ratified by 50 countries.

DWA – SDG Relationship

The 2030 Agenda Declaration in its paragraph 48 underlines that “quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data will be needed to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure that no one is left behind. Such data is key to decision-making. Data and information from existing reporting mechanisms should be used where possible. We agree to intensify our efforts to strengthen statistical capacities in developing countries, particularly African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.” Hence, the SDG framework includes two specific targets on statistics, namely 17.18 and 17.19. In addition, statistics, and more specifically LMIS, will be crucially needed to enable ILO Member states to report on numerous SDG indicators, not least the ones for which the ILO has been named “custodian”.

In a similar way, all ten ILO policy outcomes and their indicators rely on statistical information to measure progress. LMIS are an indispensable instrument to supply decent work-related data and statistics. The draft ILO Programme and Budget 2018-19 underlines that “All policy outcomes emphasize the strategic importance of research and statistics. Enabling Outcome A on effective knowledge management for the promotion of decent work will help ensure that the ILO produces and disseminates high-quality, timely and relevant research and statistics that underpin its policy recommendations so that member States and constituents have the knowledge tools to advance the Decent Work Agenda.” Thus, LMIS cover almost all the policy outcomes.

Crosscutting policy drivers

Again, all four cross-cutting policy drivers depend on one way or another on data and statistics to establish baselines and measure progress. Labour standards relating to social protection coverage, the informal economy, child and forced labour, and many other subjects can only be monitored if relevant data is available. The measurement of gender equality depends on the availability of gender-disaggregated data. Social dialogue can greatly benefit from up-to-date and comprehensive LMIS. And in the area of environmental sustainability the “ILO will focus on scaling up research and analysis to inform evidence-based policy advice so that constituents can develop coherent and effective employment and social policies to promote a just transition for all.”
(P&B 2018-19).


The ILO is a member of the Statistical Information System Collaboration Community (SIS-CC) which is hosted by the OECD, and defined as “a community of .Stat users which was setup so that participating members could benefit from a broad collaboration, sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices, and to enable cost-effective innovation in a minimal time” (50). The ILO collaborates closely with the UN Statistics Division which, inter alia, is responsible for the development of SDG indicators. Furthermore, the ILO hosts the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS), which meets every five years. Through its technical assistance work the ILO has established close partnerships with national bureaux of statistics around the globe.

ILO Capacity

The ILO’s work on labour market information systems is hosted within the Department of Statistics which “provides users within and outside the ILO with relevant, timely and reliable labour statistics, to develop international standards for better measurement of labour issues and enhanced international comparability, and to help member States develop and improve their labour statistics”. The Department of Statistics employs a team of professionals at headquarters and is represented in the field through labour statisticians attached to Decent Work Technical Teams or Regional Offices. Many additional ILO technical departments develop and maintain statistics that are of relevance to LMIS.


The Department of Statistics maintains the ILO Portal on Labour Statistics which provides data on KILM and many other subjects. Publications, reports and manuals relating to LMIS can be accessed through the Department’s publication web site. The ILO Turin Training Centre lists labour market statistics and analysis as one of its areas of expertise, and offers several relevant course, including a labour market statistics and analysis academy which in 2017 has focused on measuring decent work in the SDG indicator monitoring system.

49. Sparreboom, Theo. Labour Market Information and Analysis System. [book auth.] Sandrine Cazes and Sher (Ed.) Verick. Perspectives on Labour Economic for Development. Geneva : ILO, 2013.

50. SIS-CC. The Foundations of the SIS-CC. Statistical Information System Collaboration Community. Online] 19 May 2017. [Cited: 19 May 2017.] http://siscc.oecd.org/Home/About?Length=4.