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The production and presentation of statistics of unemployment: comparability issues

Presenter 1
John Adams
Napier University
Presenter 2
Ray Thomas
Open University

The United Nations publish unemployment statistics for 123 countries. Most of these statistics are based on International Labour Office (ILO) criteria for the definition of unemployment, but many countries also produce unemployment statistics based on insurance records and on the basis of registered unemployment.

The paper aims to compare the main features of different series. The dimensions compared include the conceptual basis for the definition of unemployment, use of denominators for production of unemployment rates, boundaries with employment and inactivity, entry statistics and duration of unemployment, and the cultural influence of the statistics.

The paper identifies conflicts between achieving international comparability and national needs. Survey statistics that underpin international comparisons do not support geographically detailed analysis within countries. The value of ILO statistics also is limited by failure to recognise the concept of entry to unemployment and difficulties of integration with other unemployment statistics. The standard LFS questionnaire could be modified to support the production of statistics for entrants to unemployment. The sampling frame could be modified to ensure consistency with nationally produced insurance or registered unemployment statistics.

(The research for this paper has been supported by a grant to John Adams from Scotecon and by the award of a Campion Fellowship by the Royal Statistical Society to Ray Thomas)

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