Since its first edition in 1935-36, the Yearbook of Labour Statistics has established itself as the world's foremost work of statistical reference on labour questions, bringing together in systematic form a mass of data from a vast network of authoritative sources of information in some 190 countries.
Data are published, wherever possible, by sex and according to the latest versions of the following international standard classifications: International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities (ISIC), Revision 3; International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-88); International Classification of Status in Employment (ICSE-93) and the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), 1976.
Each yearly edition contains 31 tables corresponding to nine major substantive chapters on the following:
- economically active population
- hours of work
- labour cost
- consumer prices
- occupational injuries
- strikes and lockouts
The series usually cover the preceding ten years. Data with monthly, quarterly or half-yearly frequency relating to general series on employment, unemployment, hours of work, wages and consumer price indices are published in the Bulletin of Labour Statistics.
A variety of sources are used by the national statistical authorities, such as population censuses, labour force and other household surveys, establishment type surveys, administrative recording systems, official estimates and special collection procedures. Needless to say this variety of sources between countries for the same subject affects the degree of comparability of the resulting statistics.
The Yearbook made its first appearance in 1935 with time series on prices, employment, unemployment,wages, hours of work, industrial disputes and collective agreements, food consumption, social security, occupational injuries, national income, production and wholesale price indices, exchange rates, international migration, the economically active population, household incomes and expenditures, labour productivity and labour cost. Subsequently some topics were transferred to other agencies ( e.g. statistics on international migration to the UN Statistics Division), to other ILO units (e.g. cost of social security to the Social Security Department), to separate publications of the Bureau (e.g. household income and expenditure statistics), and some were dropped due to changes in the world of work coupled with limited space and resources.