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Standards and guidelines on labour statistics

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International standards on labour statistics are of two types: 1) Conventions and Recommendations, adopted by the International Labour Conference (ILC), and 2) Resolutions and Guidelines adopted by the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS).

It’s important to note that international statistical standards evolve over time. As such, users should refer to the latest set of standards on any given topic. 

Conventions and recommendations

ILC Conventions are legally binding instruments for countries that choose to ratify them. ILC Recommendations on the other hand, are not binding instruments.

The ILC adopted two Conventions in the field of labour statistics, and these form part of the International Labour Code:

    1. C063 – Convention concerning Statistics of Wages and Hours of Work, 1938 (No. 63)
      Note: In 2018, the Standards Review Mechanism Tripartite Working Group (SRM TWG) confirmed the status of Convention No. 63 as outdated and recommended to the ILO Governing Body (GB) that an item be placed on the agenda of the ILC for its abrogation at its 112th session in 2024
    2. C160 – Labour Statistics Convention, 1985 (No. 160)

Each country that ratifies one of the Conventions is required to report to the ILO on their application. The ILO Department of Statistics then makes a technical evaluation of the situation. The Governing Body’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations uses this information to follow up on problems or queries.

The ILC also adopted R170 – Labour Statistics Recommendation, 1985. It provides further guidance regarding frequency of data collection, recommended disaggregations of the statistics, as well as on national statistical infrastructures.

Topics covered

  • Art 5-12 Average earnings and hours actually worked in mining and manufacturing industries (including building and construction)
  • Art 13-21 Time rates of wages and of normal hours of work in mining and manufacturing industries (including building and construction)
  • Art 22 Wages and hours of work in agriculture
  • Art 7-8 Labour force (economically active population, employment, unemployment and visible underemployment)
  • Art 9-10 Wages and working time (average earnings and hours of work)
  • Art 11 Labour cost
  • Art 12 Consumer price indices
  • Art 13 Household income and expenditures
  • Art 14 Occupational injuries and diseases
  • Art 15 Industrial disputes
  • Art 1-2 Statistics of the Economically Active Population, Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment
  • Art 3-5 Statistics of Wages and Hours of Work
  • Art 6 statistics of labour cost
    Art 7-10 Consumer Price Indices
    Art 11 Statistics of Household Expenditure and Household Income
    Art 12-13 Statistics of Occupational Injuries and Occupational Diseases
  • Art 14 Statistics of Industrial Disputes
    Art 15 Statistics of Productivity

Ratification campaign of C160

Statistics for Decent Work & Social Justice – the numbers matter: Ratify C160!

Up-to-date, flexible and adaptable Convention with streamlined and simplified reporting obligation under the ILO’s supervisory system

As of 2024, the following countries ratified C160 or C63:

Relevance of C160

Convention No. 160 is the only binding and up-to-date international labour standard in terms of labour statistics. It establishes the basic framework for the progressive elaboration of national labour statistics systems.

Countries ratifying it commit to regularly collect, compile and disseminate basic labour statistics on the main labour-related topics.

The importance of comprehensive and comparable labour statistics has been further underlined by the global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The ILO reports to the UN Statistics Division data for 14 SDG indicators, grouped under 4 of the 17 Goals. In view of the increased demands put on national statistical systems, the ILO’s role in strengthening countries’ capacity for producing high-quality labour statistics has become even more crucial.

Key features of C160

  • Comprehensive: covers a wide range of statistical sources and labour–related topics
  • Up to date: designed to accommodate advances in the field of labour.
  • Flexible: allows for the progressive application and expansion of the scope of the collection, compilation and publication of statistics on each of the subjects covered.
  • Reasonable: statistics should be compiled regularly, be representative of the country as a whole and disseminated in a timely manner with no requirements in terms of data disaggregation.
  • Tripartite: Guarantees the involvement of social partners in all stages of statistical production.
  • Underscores the central role of national statistical offices: (implicitly) recognizes that they should have the resources, decision power and autonomy needed to successfully conduct their activities
  • Establishes close collaboration with ILO

Ratification of C160

  • Exclusion of articles from acceptance: C160 allows ratifying countries to ratify – depending on their needs and readiness – one, more or all articles under Part II of the Convention and for the subsequent expansion of the scope of the collection, compilation and publication of statistics on each of the subjects covered.
  • Ratification instrument and notification of accepted articles: In view of the above flexibility, it is important that countries that do decide to ratify C160 indicate in their ratification instrument submitted to the ILO the article or articles in respect of which it accepts the obligations of this Convention.
  • Close collaboration with the ILO and national statistical office: The process of ratifying implies a close collaboration between the ILO, the Government concerned and, given the technical and statistical subject matter, the relevant national agencies in the national statistical system.
See the process below. Click on the right/left arrows to move the timeline.

Assessment of compliance of national law and practice with C160 in collaboration with NSOs (or equivalent body) and, if needed, the ILO

Tripartite endorsement of compatibility assessment, and establishment of roadmap towards ratification

Ratification process according to national constitutional requirements

Transmission of instrument of ratification to ILO Director General; registration of ratification as of the date of deposit or receipt.

Each Member shall specify in its ratification the Article or Articles of Part II in respect of which it accepts the obligations of this Convention.

Entry into force of Convention 12 months after the date of ratification

First report on application of the Convention in the year following the entry into force. Periodic reporting every 6 years

Reporting on the application of C160

Under C160, ratifying member States are required to submit reports to the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations every six years.

Data are considered duly reported to the Office by being reported, alongside the corresponding methodology, through the annual ILOSTAT questionnaire, microdata sharing, batch processes, special data transfer agreements or other means.

Resolutions and guidelines

ICLS Resolutions and Guidelines are both non-binding instruments. Resolutions provide detailed guidance on conceptual frameworks, operational definitions and measurement methodologies to produce and disseminate labour statistics. Their purpose is to provide guidance to countries wishing to develop or revise their national labour statistics programmes, as well as to enhance international comparability. Guidelines provide more general guidance relating to particular areas of interest.

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