International Labour Organisation
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) that seeks to improve labour conditions and living standards throughout the world. It was established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency to the League of Nations, and became the first affiliated specialised agency of the UN in 1946. The ILO’s functions include the promotion of standards for national legislation to protect and improve working conditions; providing technical assistance in social policy and administration and in workforce training; fostering cooperative organisations and rural industries; and protecting the rights of international migrants and organised labour. In addition, the organisation compiles labour statistics and conducts research on labour related issues (Liang 2001). The ILO’s Bureau of Statistics is assigned with providing users within and outside the organisation with relevant, timely and reliable labour statistics, to develop international standards for better measurement of labour issues and enhanced international comparability, and to help member states develop and improve their labour statistics. In doing so, it maintains professional relations with national statistical systems, especially central statistical agencies and ministries responsible for labour issues, and with statistics offices of other international organisations.
ILO hosts a wide range of statistical databases. Laborsta, the main database on labour statistics, is examined in some detail in this section. Among the most important additional statistical databases are:
- KILM (Key Indicators of the Labour Market): KILM is a comprehensive database of country-level data on 20 key indicators of the labour market, a training tool on development and use of labour market statistics, highlights of current labour market trends and analyses of key issues in the labour market.
- Labour Force Surveys: Compiles web sites which contain data from national statistical agencies, the ILO and other sources. Includes links to source web sites and references to print publications available in the ILO Library.
- IPEC-SIMPOC (Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour): Provides access to a comprehensive compendium of child labour statistics and methodological guidance material. Processed child labour data can be accessed in the form of national child labour survey reports, statistical country-briefs and other resources derived from household-based SIMPOC surveys. A large number of micro-datasets are also available.
- Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws: The database contains legal information from countries around the world. It covers legislation on maternity protection, minimum wages and working time.
CSV, On-screen tables
200 (+) countries
Data types and sources
Data from censuses, official registers, administrative records and labour force surveys.
The Laborsta database covers various labour related issues, such as the economically active population, employment, unemployment, hours of work, wages, labour cost, consumer price indices, occupational injuries, strikes and lockouts, household income/expenditure and international labour migration. It is the main ILO statistical database and contains statistics published in the Yearbook of Labour Statistics, the October Inquiry and the Bulletin of Labour Statistics. It also includes estimates and projections of the economically active population. Some of the indicators are part of the ILO-Comparable Annual Estimates of Employment and Unemployment programme, which provides data adjusted for comparability. See Statistics by topic for lists of variables and tables.
The database covers over 200 countries and territories, both existing and historical. The geographical scope varies by theme and over time. The ILO-Comparable estimates cover 30 countries, mainly developed ones.
Time coverage and updates
The temporal coverage varies across countries and by theme. Data from some table are available from 1945. The ILO Yearbook of Labour Statistics: annual data from 1969; ILO Bulletin of Labour Statistics: monthly data from 1976; ILO October Inquiry: data from 1983. The ILO-Comparable estimates are available from 1981. The database is updated continuously.
Fairly detailed documentation is easily accessible under the Sources and Methods-tab in the online database. Data from the ILO-Comparable programme are described in Lepper (2004).
Access conditions and cost
Available free of charge.
The data are accessed through an interactive application, which is fairly easy and straightforward to use. A help text explains how to use the application. It is possible to create subsets of the data by specifying the indicators, countries and years that are to be included in the output. A drawback is that it is only possible to download data from one table at a time; hence the database is very cumbersome to use if you wish to crate a dataset with variables from several tables.
On-screen tables. Download available in CSV format.
Comparability and data quality
The data published as part of the ILO-Comparable programme are adjusted for comparability by the ILO. The quality and comparability of the other data collections may vary substantially. Even though the ILO works to ensure that data are comparable through promoting international statistical standards, countries may adopt diverging definitions and use different methods of data collection. Users should therefore examine the documentation carefully before using data from the database.
Lepper, Ferdinand. 2004. “ILO-comparable annual employment and unemployment estimates”. Bulletin of Labour Statistics (4): ix-lvi.
Liang, Oliver. 2001. “Governing globalization: labour economic paradigms and international labour standards at the International Labour Organisation, 1919-1998”. Presented at Interactions: Regional Studies, Global Processes, and Historical Analysis, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., 28 February - 3 March 2001.