Labour statistics

Guy Ryder: Sound economic policies need strong statistical evidence

Strengthening the knowledge base of the world of work is essential to provide policy makers with better labour market information, says ILO Director-General.

Press release | 02 October 2013
GENEVA – Quality statistics are increasingly needed as the basis for sound policy advice and support to countries at a time when the economy is changing fast.

Opening the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder insisted on the importance for countries to rely on comprehensive and up-to-date statistics to shape their policies in a fast-moving economic environment.

“Sound policy advice or support to our member States can only be provided properly on the basis of solid, empirical evidence,” he said.

Mr. Ryder mentioned the recent call by G20 leaders in St Petersburg for access to better labour market information, as well as with financial and economic indicators. He also noted that the post-2015 development agenda will require robust data to measure progress.

“Achieving accuracy in capturing the different dimensions of the complex world of work is one of our most important challenges,” he said, highlighting the difficulty for statisticians to try to cope with rapid changes.

Mr. Ryder stressed the need to gather more data on specific groups such as youth and subsistence workers as well as on apprenticeships, internships, traineeships, and on jobs in rural areas.

The ILO Director-General welcomed discussions planned at the Conference to better measure paid and unpaid work.

“It will give international recognition of all unpaid services provided by family members in households as productive work,” he said.

He also mentioned volunteers who contribute not only to the non-profit sector but also to community development.

Mr. Ryder reiterated his intention to further strengthen the ILO Department of Statistics which will be part of a new Knowledge Centre that the ILO is launching to enhance its research activities.

The Conference will also discuss a set of new measures to more broadly assess labour underutilization and lack of integration into labour markets to complement the traditional measure of the unemployment rate.

This rate has long been criticised for not reflecting the full picture of the difficulties faced by a large part of the work force in making a living.

The Conference is also expected to discuss a resolution that will propose the first international statistical definition of “work”.

The International Conference of Labour Statisticians is held at the ILO every five years. It brings together representatives from ILO member States and from employers’ and workers’ groups.

It also provides recommendations for adopting international standards on labour statistics to guide countries and promote international comparability of data.

The Conference celebrates its 90th anniversary, since the first was held in 1923, making it what Mr. Ryder called “a unique international body setting standards on statistics in the world of work”.