Labour migration statistics

Effective labour market policies inclusive of labour migration issues are complex and require reliable quantitative and qualitative data. But labour migration statistics are needed, not only for informing policy debates at the national, regional and international levels, but also for formulating, implementing and evaluating labour migration policies which address the real effects of migration on labour markets and national development.

Comprehensive and comparable official national statistics as well as reliable estimates at the regional and global levels of the economically active migrant population are still largely lacking, and short term migration (i.e. migrating for less than 12 months) remains difficult to capture. Access to essential age and sex-disaggregated data, data on labour market needs, occupations and skills, working conditions and wages, and the social protection of migrants remain very fragmented and unreliable at national, regional and international levels.

Towards better labour migration statistics: What do we need?
  • International standards and definitions, and common methodologies and approaches on labour migration statistics developed in coordination with national and supra-national statistics-collecting and standard-setting bodies, such as the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS).
  • Improved capacity of national statistical offices (NSOs) to collect and analyse labour migration statistics and apply them to labour migration policy.
  • Improved capacity at the national level to perform Labour Force Surveys (e.g. through sampling and questionnaire design or strengthening of IT resources available at local and national levels), especially in countries where no LFS exists yet.
  • Improved harmonization between multiple data sources in order to produce more reliable global and regional estimates of labour migration.
  • Better coordination between users and producers of labour migration information, involving social partners when determining national and international data needs.
  • Mainstreaming labour migration issues in Labour Force Surveys and national censuses.
What type of data is needed?
  • Statistical information is needed on labour migrants’ characteristics over time: Demographic and socio-economic characteristics
  • Share of labour migrants in the total work force
  • Occupations and skills
  • Economic Sectors
  • Status in employment
  • Working conditions (working hours, wages, resting period, and other contractual conditions etc.)
  • Social security coverage
  • Emerging changes in existing and new flows
  • Causes of labour migration
  • Contribution to/impact of labour migration on sending and receiving countries (labour markets, remittances, share of GDP, job creation, poverty reduction, human development etc.)

ILO’s mandate

The ILO’s Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration (2006) states that “Knowledge and information are critical to formulate, implement and evaluate labour migration policy and practice and therefore its collection and application should be given priority (Principle III – Global Knowledge base).”

The UN High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (2013) called for more data on international migration to facilitate links to development – labour migration data is key to this link.

The 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (October 2013) adopted a Resolution concerning further work on labour migration statistics, which recommends that the Office: “(a) set up a working group with the aim of sharing good practices, discussing and developing a workplan for defining international standards on labour migration statistics that can inform labour market and migration policy; (b) prepare a progress report for discussion to the next ICLS.”

The Conclusions of the ILO’s 2013 Tripartite Technical Meeting on Labour Migration recommended to strengthen data collection, research and capacity development in order to facilitate evidence-based policy-making and to develop tools for dealing with the internationalization of labour markets to the benefit of all; and promote harmonization of statistical methods and concepts on international migration and the exchange of knowledge on labour migration among countries.

The ILO works closely with all its national partners to align their work with existing ILO tools and methodologies. The ILO supports the collection, compilation, and sharing of statistics on the topic of labour migration and can provide tailored technical assistance to National Statistical Offices to develop or expand labour force surveys and other means of collecting sound labour migration statistics based on international standards and common methodologies.