Statisticians adopt new standards for measuring informal employment

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GENEVA (ILO News) – 21st International Conference of Labor Statisticians (CIST) has adopted new standards on the informal economy that will enable countries to collect better data and develop better policies on workers employed in the informal economy.

The resolution was adopted at the centenary of the ICLS held at the headquarters of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 11 to 20 October.

Two billion people worldwide work in the informal economy, often without job protection or social security and in poor working conditions. However, little is known about these workers and their situation, making it difficult for governments to develop targeted policies or assess their effectiveness.

The new standards will provide a wide range of definitions for key concepts, allowing for high-quality information, while providing flexibility to reflect the realities of different national systems and legislation.

The standards refer to working conditions and other work characteristics. They will also cover unpaid work other than employment, such as volunteering and subsistence farming.

“The lack of decent work can be brutal for those who rely on informal work to survive and feed their families. It accounts for almost 60 percent of the world’s current workforce, or two billion people,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo. “I am therefore very pleased see the work you do by adopting new standards for informality. These new standards will provide countries with a solid platform that will allow them to have more accurate data. This will make informal work more visible.

During the conference, three additional resolutions were adopted to adapt the existing standards to the latest developments in the world of work. These resolutions cover the measurement of employment-related income, statistics on household income and expenditure, and statistics on work, employment and labor underutilisation.

The conference also agreed on future work, such as updating occupational classifications, labor migration, working with digital platforms and skills and care work.

Closing the conference, ICLS President and Chief Statistician of Canada Anil Arora said, “Statistics Canada continues to be a strong supporter and investor in the work of ICLS, benefiting from world-class standards that provide greater cohesion and comparability across important areas of our society, our economy and the environment.”

Referring to the centenary year of the conference, ILO Chief Statistician Raphael Dieze de Medina said: “I would like to once again pay tribute to our predecessors, those pioneers who have gathered in Geneva for the first time since 1923. Many developments have taken place since then, but the aim is one: to provide a clearer insight into the world of work, particularly to inform policy. As labor statisticians, we have an important responsibility and a special role to play. We should never shy away from challenges, no matter how difficult they may seem.”

The conference was attended by approximately 500 participants from 140 countries, including representatives of governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as observers from many international and non-governmental organizations.

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