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Living Standards Measurement Study

Work and Employment


The Women’s Work and Employment Partnership (WWEP)

The World Bank’s Gender group and Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team are working together in advancing the measurement of women’s work and employment under the umbrella of the Women’s Work and Employment Partnership (WWEP). The WWEP is a collaborative initiative of the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The WWEP is supported by Data2X of the United Nations Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Launched in December 2014, the WWEP promotes inter-agency collaboration to operationalize the new international definitions of work and employment, which were adopted by the 19th International Conference of Labor Statisticians (19th ICLS) as the resolution concerning statistics of work, employment and labor underutilization.

An important contribution of the new ICLS standards is to narrow the definition of employment to work performed for pay or profit. Unlike under the previous definition, own use production of goods (for own consumption purposes) is now excluded from the employment category. In addition, the 2013 resolution introduces a new category of work, which recognizes all productive activities, paid and unpaid, and proposes several measures of labor underutilization. These new definitions have significant implications for the measurement of employment and labor force participation in household surveys including labor force surveys, especially for women and the rural poor.

Under the WWEP, the World Bank is conducting methodological research in three countries – Ghana, Malawi and Sri Lanka (the latter jointly with the ILO). Additional pilot studies were conducted by the ILO; details can be found here.

  • In Ghana, a survey of agricultural households was conducted during the 2015-16 agricultural season. The data were collected from March 2015 to February 2016 by the Ghanaian Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo districts. The survey was designed to allow studying how accurately agricultural labor is measured through end-of-season recall surveys and to explore the distinction between own-use and market-oriented work in agriculture under the 19th ICLS.

  • In Malawi, survey of agricultural households was conducted during the 2016-17 agricultural season. The data were collected from September 2016 to August 2017 by Wadonda Consult Limited in Ntcheu and Zomba districts. The main objectives of the survey were to measure recall bias in farm labor, operationalize the 19th ICLS standards and to explore the feasibility of using accelerometers to measure physical activity.

  • In Sri Lanka, the World Bank and the ILO are working with the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) on a joint pilot study. Data collection was finalized on September 2019. The main objectives of this study are to compare labor market indicators across two survey instruments – a multi-topic household survey and a labor force survey – and to support the operationalization of the 19th ICLS.

  • Measuring Women and Men’s Work : Main Findings from a Joint ILO and World Bank Study in Sri Lanka


    Between 2017 and 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, in collaboration with the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) of Sri Lanka, completed a pilot study in Sri Lanka with the goal of developing guidance on good practice in the measurement of women and men’s work through household surveys. The study was designed to enable a comparison of the outcomes of two types of household surveys, namely, the labour force survey (LFS) and the multitopic living standards survey (MLSS). This new framework recognizes that people may engaged in multiple working activities within the same period, thereby enabling a complete accounting all work performed. An additional important development was the adoption of an extended set of labour underutilization indicators to supplement the unemployment rate. This report presents a first summary set of the findings of the pilot study. The findings are being used to generate guidance on the measurement of labour across different types of household surveys. While highlighting issues of measurement, the report also emphasizes the valuable data that can be generated if the guidelines and standards are implemented, such as the more comprehensive measurement of all the working contributions of men and women.

    Employment and Own-Use Production in Household Surveys: A Practical Guide for Measuring Labor


    Labor statistics provide essential information for macroeconomic planning and policy formulation on employment creation, vocational training, income generation, and poverty reduction. A clear understanding and accurate comparability of labor indicators are therefore crucial for promoting efficient policies across countries and require the consistent application of international standards in collecting employment data in multi-topic household surveys. This Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) guidebook provides informed advice to statisticians and survey practitioners on the accurate measurement of employment and work in accordance with standards of the 19th International conference of labor statisticians (ICLS) and in the context of multi-topic household surveys.

    Youth Aspirations and Employment Module


    The model ‘Youth Aspirations and Employment Module’ is designed to collect the following information on household members aged 15-25 years: (i) education history, i.e. level of education already achieved (in multi-topic household surveys, this information is collected as part of an Education Module), (ii) work history, i.e. age when started working, work experience gained previously, sources of income, (iii) future plans, i.e. intended activities after completing education/training program, and (iv) aspirations, i.e. desired work, role models, social norms, migration interest. This module is currently being piloted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda

    The Distribution of Effort: Physical Activity, Gender Roles, and Bargaining Power in an Agrarian Setting

    Policy Research Working Paper

    This paper explores intra-household differences in physical activity in a rural agrarian setting.

    Interviewer Manual of the Model Labor Module for Multitopic Household Surveys

    Interviewer Manual

    The Interviewer Manual of the Model Labor Module for Multitopic Household Surveys is designed to support the training of interviewers by explaining in detail the intention of each question. Additionally, it provides examples to help with the implementation of the module.

    Labor Module for Multitopic Household Surveys


    Model Labor Module for Multitopic Household Surveys. It is designed to collect data on paid work and work on own-use production of goods. This module should produce headline labor market indicators (i.e., employment rate, labor force participation rate, and unemployment rate) and labor underutilization indicators, as well as new indicators regarding different forms of work.

    Who Is Employed? Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa on Redefining Employment

    Policy Research Working Paper

    This paper analyzes the implications of the revised standards on measures of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa obtained from multitopic household surveys.

    How to Measure Women’s Work? New Insights from Sri Lanka

    WEDGE Newsletter

    Between September 2018 and December 2019 the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Bank and the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) implemented a joint pilot study in three districts in Sri Lanka, namely Galle, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala. An important objective was to ensure that such surveys capture participation in all forms of employment and work, especially for women.

    Measuring Farm Labor: Survey Experimental Evidence from Ghana

    The World Bank Economic Review

    This study examines recall bias in farm labor through a randomized survey experiment in Ghana, comparing farm labor estimates from an end-of-season recall survey with data collected weekly throughout the agricultural season.

    ILO Model Questionnaires

    Labour Force Survey (LFS) resources

    The ILO model LFS resources to support PAPI and CAPI data collection.

    Explaining Variation in Child Labor Statistics

    Journal of Development Economics

    This paper presents the results from a randomized survey experiment in Tanzania focusing on two survey design choices: different questionnaire design to classify children work and proxy response versus self-reporting.

    Do Returns to Education Depend on How and Who You Ask?

    Economics of Education Review

    Relying on a survey experiment in Tanzania, this paper finds that estimates of the returns to education vary by questionnaire design, but not by whether the information on employment and wages is self-reported or collected by a proxy respondent.

    Not Your Average Job: Measuring Farm Labor in Tanzania

    Journal of Development Economics

    Understanding the constraints to agricultural growth in Africa relies on the accurate measurement of smallholder labor. Yet, serious weaknesses in these statistics persist. The extent of bias in smallholder labor data is examined by conducting a randomized survey experiment among farming households in rural Tanzania.

    Designing Household Survey Questionnaires for Developing Countries: Lessons from 15 Years of the Living Standards Measurement Study


    The objective of this book is to provide detailed advice on how to design multi-topic household surveys based on the experience of past household surveys.