Concepts and definitions

The framework on work statistics has been widely publicized over the years, particularly to data producers and policymakers, as it was designed to improve labour market and gender analysis. But little has been said to data users interested in international comparisons. Until now. Here is the ILOSTAT solution to handling the impacts of revised definitions occurring on different schedules across the globe.

Table of contents

Database descriptions

Concise descriptions of concepts and definitions, uses, sources and limitations

Resolutions and guidelines

Statistical standards adopted by the ICLS


Resolution concerning statistics of employment in the informal sector

Guidelines concerning a statistical definition of informal employment

NOTE: The ILO established a working group for the revision of the standards for statistics on informality.  The revision will lead to the replacement of the existing standards of informality with a coherent set of statistical standards which conceptually and operationally define the different concepts necessary for measurement of work and economic activity in the informal economy.


Simple definitions of key terms in labour statistics
Earnings relates to gross remuneration in cash and in kind paid to employees, as a rule at regular intervals, for time worked or work done together with remuneration for time not worked, such as annual vacation, other type of paid leave or holidays. Earnings include direct wages and salaries, remuneration for time not worked (excluding severance and termination pay), bonuses and gratuities and housing and family allowances paid by the employer directly to this employee. Earnings exclude employers’ contributions in respect of their employees paid to social security and pension schemes and also the benefits received by employees under these schemes. Earnings also exclude severance and termination pay. For more information, refer to the indicator description.
Persons in employment are defined as all those of working age who, during a short reference period, were engaged in any activity to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit. They comprise employed persons “at work”, i.e. who worked in a job for at least one hour; and employed persons “not at work” due to temporary absence from a job, or to working-time arrangements (such as shift work, flexitime and compensatory leave for overtime). For more information, refer to the Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization.
Employment in the informal sector refers all persons who, during a given reference period, were employed in at least one informal sector enterprise, irrespective of their status in employment and whether it was their main or a secondary job. An informal sector enterprise is (1) an unincorporated enterprise and (2) a market enterprise (i.e., it sells at least some of the goods or services it produces), and (3) meets at least one of the following criteria: (i) the enterprise is not registered, (ii) the employees of the enterprise are not registered, or (iii) the number of persons engaged on a continuous basis is below a threshold determined by the country. For more information, refer to the indicator description.
The unemployment rate expresses the number of unemployed as a percent of the labour force (which includes persons in unemployment plus those in employment). The unemployed are persons of working age who were not in employment, carried out activities to seek employment during a specified recent period and were currently available to take up employment given a job opportunity. For more information, refer to the Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization and the indicator description.

Guides and manuals

In-depth guidance on producing and using labour statistics, including applying international standards

Related pages


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