Employment policies and data

Basic statistical concepts: employment, unemployment and activity in Labour Force Surveys


National Labour Force Surveys (LFS) are the best way to capture unemployment and employment according to the ILO guidelines that define the criteria for a person to be considered as unemployed or employed. These criteria are summarised below: 

  • Employment
    Persons in civilian employment include all those employed above a specified age who during a specified brief period, either one week or one day, were in the following categories: i) paid employment; ii) employers and self-employed; iii) unpaid family workers; unpaid family workers at work should be considered as being self-employed irrespective of the number of hours worked during the reference period. For operational purposes, the notion of some work may be interpreted as work for at least one hour. Total employment is defined as the sum of civilian employment and members of the armed forces.
  • Unemployment
    The unemployed comprise all persons above a specified age, who during the reference period were: i) without work, i.e. were not in paid employment or self-employment during the reference period; ii) currently available for work, i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment during the reference period; iii) seeking work, i.e. had taken specific steps in a specified recent period to seek paid employment or self-employment.
  • Labour Force
    The Civilian Labour Force, or currently active population, comprises all persons who fulfill the requirements for inclusion among the civilian employed or the unemployed. Total Labour Force is equal to Civilian Labour Force plus the members of the armed forces.

 While data from LFS make international comparisons easier compared to a mixture of survey and registration data, there are some differences across countries in coverage, survey timing, etc, that may affect international comparisons of labour market outcomes. In this context, harmonised unemployment rates are presented in the Statistical Annex (Table A) of our annual flagship publication, the OECD Employment Outlook.



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