Indicator description: Labour inspection


Proper application of labour legislation depends on an effective labour inspectorate. Labour inspectors examine whether national labour standards are applied in the workplace and advise employers and workers on how to improve the application of national law in such matters as working time, wages, occupational safety and health, and child labour. In addition, labour inspectors inform national authorities regarding loopholes and defects in national law. They play an important role in ensuring that labour law is applied equally to all employers and workers. Because the international community recognizes the importance of labour inspection, the ILO has made the promotion of the ratification of two labour inspection conventions (ILO Conventions Nos. 81 and 129) a priority.1For more information on International Labour Standards on Labour inspection, see here

Labour inspection statistics play an important role in assisting governments, their ministries of labour and labour inspectorates, in the development of national policies, systems, programmes and strategies for labour inspection. Labour inspection statistics allow governments to observe trends in labour markets and to better analyse compliance issues.2ILO Labour Administration, Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety and Health Branch : “Guide on the Harmonization of Labour Inspection Statistics” (ILO, Geneva, 2016)

ILOSTAT presents information on various indicators pertaining to labour inspection, obtained from national sources. It features statistics on labour inspection visits, the number of inspectors per 10’000 persons employed and the average number of labour inspection visits conducted per inspector. For users interested in more detailed statistics, data on the number of registered workplaces that could be selected for labour inspection, and the number of labour inspectors by sex are also available.

Concepts and definitions

Labour inspectors are public officials or other authorities who are responsible for three key labour inspection activities: a) securing the enforcement of the legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of workers while engaged in their work, such as provisions relating to hours, wages, safety, health and welfare, the employment of children and young persons, and other connected matters, in so far as such provisions are enforceable by labour inspectors; b) supplying technical information and advice to employers and workers concerning the most effective means of complying with the legal provisions; c) bringing to the notice of the competent authority defects or abuses not specifically covered by existing legal provisions. Labour inspectors have the authority to initiate processes that may lead to legal action.

Labour inspection visits refer to a physical presence of a labour inspector in a workplace for the purpose of carrying out a labour inspection and which is duly documented as required by national legislation.

A workplace can be defined as any physical space, whether a physical construction (such as a building or set of buildings) or not, in which at least one employed person carries out their work activities. Only those workplaces that are registered and could potentially be selected for labour inspection should be included in the total number.

Employment comprises all persons of working age who during a specified brief period, such as one week or one day, were in the following categories: a) paid employment (whether at work or with a job but not at work); or b) self-employment (whether at work or with an enterprise but not at work).3Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization, adopted by the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, Geneva, 2013

Method of computation

Given that relative measures are easier to interpret and favour international comparability by removing the effect of the country size, ILOSTAT presents statistics on the following two calculated indicators:

Inspectors per 10’000 persons employed =

                     Number of labour inspectors                          x 10’000
Number of employed persons liable to labour inspection

Ideally, the denominator should have the same coverage as the numerator (geographical coverage, population covered, economic activities covered, etc.). When the denominator is not available from the same source as the numerator, however, statistics on the employed population from other sources (such as a labour force survey) can be used as a proxy.

Labour inspection visits per inspector =    Number of inspection visits conducted during the reference year
                                                                                               Number of labour inspectors

Recommended sources

Labour inspection records are the prominent source of statistics on the labour inspectorate’s staff and activities. Other types of administrative records can also be used, where appropriate.

Interpretation and use of the indicator

Statistics on labour inspection can provide a powerful resource for labour inspectorates to properly understand the environment in which they act, the resources at their disposal in relation with the population they have to cover and the needs of workers and employers. Based on accurate and updated information, labour inspectorates can design scenarios to anticipate change, prepare approaches to observed trends, define strategic options and address challenges with the best methodological models. In addition, patterns in economic sectors, regions and enterprises can be identified, providing helpful background information to map risks.

Countries where labour inspection systems are underfunded and understaffed face difficulties to ensure the proper implementation of labour legislation. Labour inspection can help prevent problems such as occupational accidents and illnesses, absenteeism, abuse of workers and labour conflicts, thus contributing to enhancing productivity and economic development. Having statistics on labour inspection enables the assessment of the ability of inspection services to conduct their important role in an efficient manner.


Given that administrative records are the main source of data on labour inspection, there are a number of factors inherent to this type of source which could affect the reliability of the resulting statistics. In order to ensure the consistency and validity of the statistics, administrative records must be complete and comprehensive (without missing observations), kept up to date, and based on concepts, definitions and classifications clearly established for statistical purposes. Dates of occurrences must also be recorded with precision, and reference periods must be respected to ensure the reliability of statistics referred to for each period (and so, for instance, statistics on the number of inspection visits conducted and the number of labour inspectors would refer to the same reference period if the two indicators are being analysed together).

It is also worth noting that statistics on the number of visits conducted and the number of labour inspectors do not convey any information on the quality of the inspection services, the duration or type of the visits (first visit, specialized visit, preventive or reactive visit, etc.), or the results obtained through the visits conducted.

Table of contents

Featured publication
Guide on the Harmonization of Labour Inspection Statistics

Guide on the Harmonization of Labour Inspection Statistics

This publication provides a methodology for the use of common terms and definitions and common procedures for the collection and compilation of labour inspection data. It also incorporates several additional recommendations that further the objective of harmonizing labour inspection statistics.

See also