The work of the ICLS is carried out on the basis of reports prepared by the ILO, one each for the main items and a general report for the others. The report on a subject contains proposals for a draft resolution, the first version of which in most instances would have been submitted to a Meeting of Experts for review and advice. Subsequent to the Meeting, the ILO continues its research and consultation activities to improve the draft proposals, taking into consideration the discussions and recommendations of the Meeting. Thus, the report prepared for the ICLS reflects detailed methodological research and analysis that are often of help to national statistics offices.
The reports are first briefly presented at a plenary session of the ICLS and then discussed in detail and amended, if necessary, by Committees that meet during the Conference. The resulting proposals from the Committees are then further debated at a plenary session before being adopted as amended (or rejected) by the Conference. The tradition is that decisions at the ICLS are taken on the basis of consensus with only occasional voting on particular points of a resolution. As much as possible, the standards adopted by the ICLS reflect “best practice” but they are not prescriptive, because of the differences that exist in statistical development, resources and infrastructure in the countries in which they are to be implemented.
Changes in the world of work and practices in official statistics, improvements in technology, methodological advances and new insights from experience make it necessary to revisit the same topics and review their existing standards over several ICLS sessions. A wide range of subjects have been discussed at the ICLS with some appearing on the agenda several times. The most frequent subjects are wages and hours of work (discussed at nearly all the ICLS meetings), the classification of occupations, occupational injuries and unemployment.