Statistics on unpaid work

Unpaid work

The different forms of work identified within the framework include employment, own-use production work (activities people do to produce goods and provide services for their own use) as well as other unpaid activities such as volunteer work and unpaid trainee work.

Another significant development is the recognition within the statistical standards that individuals can be engaged in multiple forms of work in a single period of time, for example caring for children, working in a paid job and/or doing voluntary work. When applied, the standards create the potential for a far more holistic view of people’s work, how work is allocated within households, and the interaction between labour market engagement and different types of working activities.


Unpaid work is an everyday feature of everyone’s life, in all households and societies. Its role in supporting the well-being of individuals, households and communities is indisputable. It can take the form of goods and services provided within households and families, or provided to others through volunteer work or other unpaid activities.

Despite this, unpaid work can remain invisible, both in policies and statistics. However, recognition of its importance and the need to understand its nature and role has been increasing. One reflection of this has been the inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals of a target to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work (Target 5.4) under Goal 5 on Gender Equality. In setting this target, the 2030 Agenda aims at tackling persistent gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work, as a necessary foundation for inclusive growth and development.

This increase in demand for information on unpaid work was also a driver of key changes in statistical standards introduced at the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 2013. The newly adopted definition of work and different forms of work (both paid and unpaid) within a coherent framework enables a more meaningful analysis of participation in working activities and many related issues.

Table of contents

Featured publication

Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work

Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work

This report takes a comprehensive look at unpaid and paid care work and its relationship with the changing world of work. A key focus is the persistent gender inequalities in households and the labour market, which are inextricably linked with care work.


Only indicators on volunteer work are currently available. Data on own-use production workers is forthcoming.


Capturing impacts on employment and unpaid work using Rapid Surveys

Capturing impacts on employment and unpaid work using Rapid Surveys

Lack of data on how households and workers are being impacted by the pandemic can severely affect the formulation of programmes and policies aimed to help those most in need. In times of crisis, rapid surveys may be an alternative source of information where official household surveys such as LFS have been halted or postponed. This note provides modules for rapid surveys to shed light on the COVID-19 impacts on paid and unpaid work.

Exploring Light Time-Use approaches for measuring productive activities

Exploring Light Time-Use approaches for measuring productive activities

The ILO has launched efforts to develop guidance to promote accurate measurement of time use in different settings. A particular focus is the development of a data collection strategy centred on the attachment of a Time-Use module to the LFS. The successful design of such an approach offers many potential advantages given the topic overlap between the LFS and TUS, common target populations, high prevalence of LFS internationally, etc. An in-depth review of methods and country practises has been undertaken to inform the design of such a data collection strategy. This review has focussed in most depth on Light Time-Use Diary (LTUD) approaches to assess their suitability. This Brief highlights results, lessons learned and main challenges identified stemming from that review.

Indicator description: Volunteer work

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

Resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labour underutilization

Adopted by the 19th ICLS (2013), this resolution sets standards for work statistics to guide countries in updating and integrating their existing statistical programmes in this field. It defines the statistical concept of work for reference purposes and provides operational concepts, definitions and guidelines for: (a) distinct subsets of work activities, referred to as forms of work; (b) related classifications of the population according to their labour force status and main form of work; (c) measures of labour underutilization.

Resolution concerning statistics on work relationships

Adopted by the 20th ICLS (2018), the standards set by this resolution guide countries in updating, harmonizing and further developing their statistical programmes that include information on work relationships. Statistics on work relationships are concerned with: (a) the authority relationships between persons who work and the economic units in which or for which the work is performed; and (b) the economic risks that follow from the contractual or other conditions under which the work is performed. These statistics can relate to all forms of work, including own-use production work, employment, unpaid trainee work, volunteer work and other forms of work.

Survey methods to improve measurement of paid and unpaid work: Country practices in time-use measurement

Survey methods to improve measurement of paid and unpaid work: Country practices in time-use measurement

This Review documents national practices in measuring productive activities through time-use methods. Covering the period between 2000 and 2016, it shows the extent of time-use data collection across countries around the world and highlights the main methods used in their implementation. The Review focuses in particular on modular time-use approaches that have been integrated with related household surveys, including Labour Force Surveys (LFS) and other socio-economic household surveys.

United Nations Guide to Producing Statistics on Time-Use: Measuring Paid and Unpaid Work

United Nations Guide to Producing Statistics on Time-Use: Measuring Paid and Unpaid Work

The purpose of the guide is threefold. First, it is conceived as a reference tool for countries interested in conducting time-use surveys. Second, it is aimed at facilitating the harmonization of methods and practices in collecting, processing and disseminating time use statistics. Finally it is meant to solicit comments and suggestions on the trial International Classification of Activities for Time-Use Statistics (ICATUS) which will subsequently be revised and ultimately presented for adoption as an international standard classification.

Volunteer work measurement guide

The guide provides survey designers with the latest ILO tools and recommendations to produce statistics on volunteer work in line with the current international standards.


Women’s Work and Employment Partnership

In 2014, the ILO partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank under the Women’s Work and Employment Partnership, supported by Data2X, with the overarching goal of addressing challenges in measuring work and employment to ensure that women are counted. The partnership supports research in two core areas: subsistence production and unpaid care work.

Project activities currently focus on designing a testing strategy for providing evidence on what works and for contributing to global work on Time-Use statistics under the leadership of the United Nations Statistics Division. 

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