ILO Note Reveals COVID-19’s Impact on Collection of Labour Statistics

1 May 2020
Research Innovation

Nesrien Hamid  | Research and Editorial Consultant - Delta 8.7

Among COVID-19’s many evolving impacts on the world are the unprecedented challenges National Statistical Offices (NSOs) now face with data collection. To understand how NSOs are adapting their statistical operations—specifically those pertaining to labour statistics—in an era of physical distancing, the ILO solicited input from NSOs, and compiled and analysed their responses in this note.

Most countries registered some impact on their collection of labour statistics due to COVID-19, especially on their field operations. The impacts vary depending on the methodologies typically utilized for data collection as well as an NSO’s institutional capacity to modify them under these novel conditions. Since a majority of countries primarily employ face-to-face interviews, physical distancing requirements have led to significant disruptions in normal survey operations and, in most cases, the suspension of all in-person activities. In countries that typically use mixed methods—including in-person, telephone and web interviews—the transition to telephone or web-based interviews has been easier but not without complications. Often, face-to-face interviews are the initial means to establish rapport and gather contact details. Suspension of in-person interviews might thus adversely impact survey responsiveness as well as an NSO’s ability to administer it to a larger sample. And even in countries where telephone interviews are the primary means to administer a survey, under current work-from-home arrangements, some countries are not in possession of the technical infrastructure to transition operations to remote work.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In addition to field operations, NSOs anticipate a significant impact on data analysis that may require changes to the process of imputation and estimation. The limitations on field operations have led in some cases to postponement or cancellation of scheduled surveys; disruption of ongoing surveys; and/or an anticipated reduction in survey responses. Such changes are expected to affect survey results.

Nevertheless, countries are already creatively adapting to the current limitations by, for example, reducing survey questions to facilitate completion or using existing administrative data as supplementary indicators. Some countries are also adding queries to specifically gauge the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market.

To read the full note, which includes specific country responses, please visit this page.

Nesrien Hamid is a Programme Officer for Delta 8.7. 

This article has been prepared by Nesrien Hamid as a contribution to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.

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