New standards, new statistics? The measurement of unpaid care work in labour force surveys
Category: International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS)
2023 marks a decade since the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) adopted a new resolution on international standards “concerning statistics of work, employment, and labour under-utilisation” . The new standards signified a major step-change in the measurement of productive activities in official statistics, part of an ongoing corrective to the historic preoccupation with market-oriented production, and the concomitant undercounting or omission of work activities disproportionately performed by women and girls. Following the adoption of the new standards, “own use provision of services” (unpaid domestic and care work performed for one’s own household or family) was brought into the reference scope of activities for labour force statistics, as was “direct volunteer services”. As such, the 19th ICLS standards extended the remit of labour statistics to encompass the topic of “unpaid care work” (“unpaid household services” in the language of national accounts), which falls within the system of national accounts (SNA) 2008 general production boundary, but outside of the narrower production boundary. One important outcome of these changes is the potential for much improved analysis of gender-based inequalities in labour force participation, employment characteristics, divisions of (paid and unpaid) labour, and total work time. Such data have relevance for a wide range of public policy areas, especially when collected alongside data on labour force participation and employment. This provides for a much fuller treatment of gender-based differences and inequities, while also permitting a fuller analysis of the contribution of unpaid work to national economies, alongside monitoring of transitions in the social organization of care work, from unpaid- to market-based provision (or vice versa). In the years following the adoption of the current standards, the measurement of unpaid care work has been subject to revitalised interest in national and international policy circles. There is now growing acknowledgement of the economic contribution of unpaid care work, which, based on conservative estimates, would amount to nine per cent of global GDP were it accorded monetary value . Numerous countries now produce extended, or satelite, accounts for unpaid household services, as a supplement to official GDP. At the same time, there is growing recognition of the untenability of a status quo whereby, globally, women and girls contribute over three quarters of the total time spent daily on unpaid care work, to the detriment of labour force participation, access to formal employment and decent work, and involvement in the wider public sphere. In this session, we survey the progress made towards enhancing the visibility of unpaid care work within national labour statistics, in the decade since the adoption of the current standards. We present available measurement approaches developed by the ILO in partnership with national statistics offices, and discuss lessons learned in the operationalisation of the standards.