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Statistics on the population and labour force

Table of Contents

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Introduction

The working-age population is a central concept in labour statistics. Changes in the size of the working-age population 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.

Data catalogue

Methods

Key Labor Market Indicators: Analysis with Household Survey Data

This publication is an introduction to labour market indicator analysis and a guide for analysing household survey data using the ADePT ILO Labour Market Indicators Module. The ADePT module is a powerful tool for producing and analysing KILM indicators using household survey data. The software allows researchers and practitioners to automate data production, to minimize data production errors and to quickly produce a wide range of labour market data from labour force surveys or other household surveys that contain labour market information.

Measuring the Economically Active in Population Censuses: A Handbook

The Handbook (2010) provides guidance on the measurement of economic characteristics in population censuses, based on relevant experiences of countries, with a particular focus on the questions used and the requirements for processing of responses. The Handbook is intended to provide census planners with a variety of approaches to assess the questions and methods of collecting economic characteristics used in their national census, as they evaluate the performance in the past decade and plan for the 2010 round of censuses (2005-2014).

Sources and Methods Volume 3B: Labour force surveys (2011) – Source of statistics of the labour force and its components

This volume presents national methodological descriptions of statistics of employment, unemployment, underemployment, hours of work and other indicators derived from labour force and household surveys, disseminated on ILOSTAT. It is a revised and updated version of the third edition issued in 2004, and contains descriptions for 160 countries and territories and 169 surveys.

Sources and Methods Volume 3A: Household surveys (2004) – Economically active population, employment, unemployment and hours of work

This volume presents national methodological descriptions of statistics of employment, unemployment, underemployment, hours of work and other indicators derived from labour force and household surveys, disseminated on ILOSTAT. It is a revised and updated version of the second edition issued in 1990. This third edition contains descriptions for 83 countries.

Publications

Note: Many publications are available only in English. If available in other languages, a new page will open displaying the options on the right. 

World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2023

The report covers the extent and consequences of the labour market disruption caused by overlapping economic and geopolitical crises and analyzes global patterns, regional differences and outcomes across groups of workers.

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