Statistics on the working-age population and labour force

The working-age population is a central concept in labour statistics. Changes in the size of the working-age population (usually defined as persons ages 15 and over) can impact significantly the labour market and the economy. A growing working-age population provides opportunities for economic growth while at the same time creating challenges for job creation and integration of new labour market entrants. By contrast, a shrinking working-age population can create challenges for economic growth, competitiveness, population dependency, etc.

Not everyone that is part of the working-age population, however, is actively engaged in the labour market. Some have jobs, others are seeking jobs, yet others are discouraged, engaged solely in other activities, or not interested in the labour market. Statistics are required to enable us to understand how people are relating to the labour market and how this changes over time. These statistics require clear definitions to ensure consistency and clarity of measurement, reporting and interpretation. As defined in international standards (19th ICLS, 2013), the labour force captures those persons of working age who are actively engaged in the labour market. It is the sum of persons employed and the unemployed. Together these two groups of the working-age population represent the supply of labour for the production of goods and services in exchange for remuneration existing in a country at a given point in time.

Key indicators to monitor the working age population and labour force include the employment-to population-ratio, labour force participation rate, as well as age dependency ratios. These are essential headline indicators of the labour market that need to be complemented with additional indicators, such as measures of labour underutilization for monitoring and to inform policy.

Table of Contents

Featured publication

Rural and urban labour markets: Different challenges for promoting decent work

Rural and urban labour markets: Different challenges for promoting decent work

This issue of Spotlight on Work Statistics explores the rapid urbanization observed in the world and the accompanying shifts in employment from agriculture to non-agricultural activities. It sheds light on differences between rural and urban areas in labour force participation and labour underutilization (and especially unemployment). It also attempts to reveal differences in the quality of employment in rural and urban areas.


Data

Methods

Indicator description: Labour force participation rate

Indicator descriptions provide a concise overview of concepts and definitions, uses, sources and limitations.


Labour Force Estimates and Projections: Methodological description

Labour Force Estimates and Projections: Methodological description

This document describes the main elements of the estimation and projection methodologies adopted for the 2017 edition. This edition continues to use the enhanced methodologies that were developed in order to improve the labour force estimates and projections in the 6th edition in 2011 and continued in the 2013 and 2015 editions.  As established in the 6th edition, the historical estimates are accompanied by detailed metadata for each data point. The metadata include several fields regarding the source of collected data, the type of adjustments made to harmonise them (when needed) and the type of imputation method used to fill missing data.


Measuring work in official labour statistics

Measuring work in official statistics: The new international standards

In 2013, new international standards that promote measuring all forms of work were adopted by the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (19th ICLS). The new standards introduced an innovative framework that recognizes all productive activities, whether paid or unpaid, as work. Once applied, the new standards will serve to expand the range of statistics available about the different working activities, paid and unpaid, carried out by women and men, including employment, volunteer work, own-use production work, etc. needed to inform policies aimed at achieving inclusive development and decent work.


Quick Guide on Measuring Economic Characteristics in the Population Census

Quick Guide on Measuring Economic Characteristics in the Population Census

Population and housing censuses are a vital part of national statistical systems. They provide essential information on the structure, characteristics and housing conditions of a country’s population, and serve as a backbone to national household survey programmes and other statistical activities necessary to support informed policymaking. Capturing essential economic characteristics of the population in the census is recommended as a core topic for the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Censuses. To support these efforts, the ILO Department of Statistics, collaborates with the UN Statistics Division to issue updated international census recommendations aligned with the latest ICLS standards, and develops practical tools and training to support census planners in adapting these recommendations to the national context.


Sources and Methods Volume 10: Disability statistics (2015)

This volume presents the sources and methods used in the compilation of national statistics on labour force characteristics of persons with disabilities.


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Data available in the Excel summary files are for indicators only (not available for countries or regions) for selected classification items for 2010 onward for annual data and 2018 onward for short-term indicators. For historical data or additional classifications, either use the Data Explorer or download the CSV file. 

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