This upgrade will help policymakers and other data users better analyze and understand the characteristics and challenges of different groups of workers, the double burden of work and family responsibilities carried by women, and different categories individuals who are not in employment.
The standards were adopted in 2013 by the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, or ICLS19.
In 2014, with ILO’s technical support, Viet Nam became one of the 10 pilot countries that tested them in their Labour Force Surveys, which look at the trends on the size of the labour force, on employment and unemployment, and job quality.
The pilot-testing of the complex new standards lasted until 2020, and Viet Nam officially adopted the new standards in January this year and applied them in its report of the first quarter.
“By releasing its labour market data using ICLS19, Viet Nam joins some other half of the ILO member States who have already implemented the new standards, many of them from advanced economies, and six of them among the ASEAN member States,” said Tite Habiyakare, the Bangkok-based ILO Regional Labour Statistician, as he congratulated Viet Nam on such an achievement.
According to ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist, Valentina Barcucci, the most important innovations brought about by the ICLS19 standards are in the definition of ‘work’ and ‘employment’.
“The concept of ‘work’ becomes broader, to include both paid and unpaid work,” she said.
The concept of ‘employment’, on the other hand, becomes narrower. It is now defined as “work for pay or profit”, or work to generate an income exclusively. Therefore, those who work for their own use, such as producing food for their own household, are no longer considered as ‘employed’.
The result of this change is that some groups of workers have become more visible than before, so their characteristics and challenges are now more easily analyzed and understood."Valentina Barcucci, ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist
With the new definition of employment applied, the GSO could identify a group of 3.5 million people who work for their own use, in subsistence agriculture.
Another type of work that has been made visible under ICLS19 is the production of services for an individual’s own household. The concept of ‘work for own use’ includes also activities that are part of unpaid care work, such as cooking, looking after children, and others.
For the first time, according to the ILO Labour Economist, Viet Nam can now quantify how many hours women and men spend in these activities on average, and analyze the double burden carried by women through statistical evidence.
New headlines indicators of the labour marketAnother major highlight of ICLS19 is the adoption of broader measures of labour underutilization beyond the commonly used unemployment rate. In addition to the unemployed, additional measures recommended are the underemployed, and the potential labour force, all of which have a strong attachment to the labour market, but have also unmet needs for employment.
It is important for policy makers and for the media to use these other indicators of labour underutilization, in addition to the unemployment rate, which is usually low in Viet Nam."Tite Habiyakare, the Bangkok-based ILO Regional Labour Statistician
The unemployed, who are not working, seeking work, and available to work, are usually a minority of those who are not working.
The potential labour force includes individuals who are not working, but do not meet all criteria to be considered unemployed. They may be looking for jobs, but not available to work at the moment. Or in alternative, they may be available to work, but not seeking employment at the moment.
Finally, those who are not working and do not belong to any of these categories are considered as having no attachment to the labour market.
“Why is it important to have so many ways of describing individuals who are not working? COVID-19 has provided a clear answer,” said Barcucci.
During the second quarter of 2020, more than 2 million individuals stopped working, but only 200,000 of them became unemployed, while the rest withdrew from the labour force.
“These are likely to be either individuals who did not work but could not see a reason to seek employment, since the social distancing measures had dramatically reduced economic activity,” the ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist added.
In alternative, they were individuals who had stopped working to look after children during school closure, and who, therefore, were not available to work. In either case, they were not ‘unemployed’ but outside of the labour force – or part of the potential labour force.
Identifying the characteristics of different groups of individuals who are not in employment provides important information to design policies that target their specific needs."Valentina Barcucci, ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist