BASIC CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS
Last update: 30/08/2006
This section presents the main concepts and definitions used in the EU-LFS. It is organised in four parts:
2 Labour status and main dimensions
3 Detailed definition of employment and unemployment
4 Socio-demographic dimensions
The information provided is based on the Eurostat publication The European Union Labour Force Survey – Methods and definitions 2001 that contains a comprehensive presentation of definitions and technical aspects of survey as well as a detailed list of variables and related explanatory notes.
For a concise summary, definition of rates and indicators published by EUROSTAT, please view LFS Series - Quarterly survey results.
The main statistical objectives of the Labour Force Survey is to divide the population of working age (15 years and above) into three mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups - persons in employment, unemployed persons and inactive persons - and to provide descriptive and explanatory data on each of these categories. Respondents are assigned to one of these groups on the basis of the most objective information possible obtained through the survey questionnaire, which principally relates to their actual activity within a particular reference week.
The concepts and definitions used in the survey are based on those contained in the Recommendation of the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, convened in 1982 by the International Labour Organisation (hereafter referred as the ‘ILO guidelines’). To further improve comparability within the EU, Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000, gives a more precise definition of unemployment. This definition remains fully compatible with the International Labour Organisation standards.
The economic active population comprises employed and unemployed persons.
Employed persons are persons aged 15 year and over (16 and over in ES, UK and SE (1995-2001); 15-74 years in DK, EE, HU, LV, FI, NO and SE (from 2001 onwards); 16-74 in IS) who during the reference week performed work, even for just one hour a week, for pay, profit or family gain or were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent because of, e.g., illness, holidays, industrial dispute and education and training.
Unemployed persons are persons aged 15-74 (in ES, NO, SE (1995-2000), UK and IS 16-74) who were without work during the reference week, were currently available for work and were either actively seeking work in the past four weeks or had already found a job to start within the next three months.
Inactive persons are those who neither classified as employed nor as unemployed.
Indicators to supplement the unemployment rate
Underemployed part-time workers are persons aged 15-74 working part-time who wish to work additional hours and are available to do so. Part-time work is recorded as self-reported by individuals.
Persons seeking work but not immediately available are the sum of persons aged 15-74 neither employed nor unemployed who:
- Are actively seeking work during the last 4 weeks but not available for work in the next 2 weeks;
- Found a job to start in less than 3 months and are not available for work in the next 2 weeks;
- Found a job to start in 3 months or more;
- Are passively seeking work during the last 4 weeks and are available for work in the next 2 weeks.
Persons available to work but not seeking are persons aged 15-74 neither employed nor unemployed who want to work, are available for work in the next 2 weeks but are not seeking work.
Employer employing one or more employees are defined as persons who work in their own business, professional practice or farm for the purpose of earning a profit, and who employ at least one other person.
Self-employed person not employing any employees are defined as persons who work in their own business, professional practice or farm for the purpose of earning a profit, and who employ no other persons.
Employees are defined as persons who work for a public or private employer and who receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, fees, gratuities, payment by results or payment in kind; non-conscript members of the armed forces are also included.
Family workers are persons who help another member of the family to run a farm or other business, provided they are not classed as employees.
The classification used for economic activities is the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities (NACE Rev.1, from 2005 NACE Rev.1.1). It is based on the 3 digit level for the main job and 2 digit level for other job descriptions. For more details, please view: NACE Rev.1and NACE Rev.1.1.
The classification used for occupation is the International Standard Classification of Occupations - ISCO-88 (Com) on 4 digit level for the main job and 3 digit level for the previous occupation. For more details, please view ISCO 88 (COM).
This variable refers to the main job. The distinction
between full-time and part-time work is based on a spontaneous response by the
respondent (except in the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway were part-time is
determined if the usual hours are fewer than 35 hours and full-time if the
usual hours are 35 hours or more, and in Sweden where this criterion is applied
to the self-employed. It is impossible to establish a more precise distinction
between full-time and part-time employment, since working hours differ from one
Employees with fixed-term contracts
In the majority of Member States, most jobs are based on written work contracts. In some countries, however, contracts of this type are concluded only in specific cases (e.g. for public-sector jobs, apprentices or other trainees within an enterprise). Given these institutional discrepancies, the concepts of ‘temporary employment’ and ‘work contract of limited duration’ (or ‘permanent employment’ and ‘work contract of unlimited duration’) describe situations which, in different institutional contexts, may be considered similar. A job may be considered temporary if employer and employee agree that its end is determined by objective conditions such as a specific date, the completion of a task or the return of another employee who has been temporarily replaced. Where there is a work contract of limited duration, it usually states the terms of the end of the contract.
The following belong to these categories:
1. Persons with seasonal employment,
2. Persons engaged by an agency or employment exchange and hired to a third party to perform a specific task (unless there is a written work contract of unlimited duration with the agency or employment exchange),
3. Persons with specific training contracts. If there are no objective criteria for the end of a job or work contract, this should be considered permanent or of unlimited duration.
Total duration of temporary job or work contract of limited duration
This refers to the total of the time already elapsed plus the time remaining until the end of the contract.
Number of hours usually worked per week
The number of hours usually worked per week covers all hours including extra hours, either paid or unpaid, which the person normally works, but excludes the travelling time between home and workplace and the time taken for the main meal break (usually at lunchtime) are excluded. Persons who usually also do homework are asked to include the number of hours they usually work at home. Apprentices, trainees and other persons learning a job are asked to exclude any time spent at college or in other special training centres. Some persons, particularly self-employed persons and family workers, may not have usual hours, in the sense that their hours vary considerably from week to week or month to month. If a respondent is unable to provide a figure for usual working hours for this reason, the average of hours actually worked per week over the past four weeks should is used as a measure of usual hours.
Number of hours actually worked during the reference week
The number of hours actually worked during the reference week covers all hours including extra hours regardless of whether they were paid or not. Travel time between home and the place of work as well as the main meal breaks (normally taken at ) are excluded. Persons who have also worked at home are asked to include the number of hours they have worked at home. Apprentices, trainees and other persons in vocational training are asked to exclude the time spent in school or other special training centres.
Calculation of average hours
Average hour results are computed as the mean of individual replies to the question on usual hours (or actual hours, accordingly). The frequency of each individual after grossing-up procedures is used as a weight. Non responses are not taken into account.
Duration of unemployment
Duration of unemployment is defined as:
- the duration of search for a job, or
- the length of the period since the last job was held (if this period is shorter than the duration of search for a job).
Involuntary part-time employment
This is when respondents declare that they work part-time because they are unable to find full-time work.
Working at home
This concept applies to many self-employed persons exercising, for example, an artistic or liberal profession and working solely or partly at home, often in a part of the premises set aside for the purpose. However, if the workplace consists of a separate unit adjacent to the person’s living unit but with a separate entrance (a doctor’s consulting room or a tax consultant’s office, for example), the work done on these premises should not be classed as ‘homework’. Similarly, a farmer should not be considered as ‘working at home’ when occupied in fields or buildings adjacent to his or her home. In the case of employees, ‘homework’ should be interpreted strictly on the basis of formal agreements concluded with the employer, in which both parties, employee and employer, agree that part of the work is to be done at home. Such an agreement may either be stated explicitly in the work contract or recognised in another way (e.g. if the employee informs the employer explicitly of his or her work by completing a suitable form or by applying for additional pay or another form of compensation). Such an agreement is also recognised if the employee is provided with a home computer for performing his or her work. Other typical examples of ‘working at home’ include sales representatives who prepare at home for the meetings they are to conduct with clients in their offices or homes, and persons doing typing or knitting which is then sent to a central collection point.
‘Work at home’ does not cover employees choosing to work at home for personal or emergency reasons but whose work contract stipulates that they could equally have done the work at the workplace.
A person is considered ‘usually’ to work at home if, for a reference period of four weeks before the interview, he or she has worked at home under the type of agreement described above and the hours worked at home amount to at least half of the total hours worked during the period.
A person is considered ‘sometimes’ to work at home if, for a reference period of four weeks before the interview, he or she has worked at home under the type of agreement described above but the hours worked at home amount to less than half of the total hours worked during the period.
A person is considered ‘never’ to work at home if, for a reference period of four weeks before the interview, he or she has on no occasion worked at home under the type of agreement described above.
Asocial working time
Evening or night work
Since the definitions of evening and
night differ widely, it is not easy to establish a strictly uniform basis for
all Member States. In general, however, ‘evening work’ is considered to be work
done after usual working hours but before the usual hours of sleep in the
‘Night work’ is generally be regarded as work done during usual sleeping hours and implies abnormal sleeping times.
In this context, ‘usually’ is interpreted as meaning at least half the number of days on which the person worked during a four-week reference period before the interview, ‘sometimes’ as less than half the number of days worked (but at least one occasion) and ‘never’ as no occasion during the four-week reference period preceding the interview.
Saturday or Sunday working
This concept is interpreted strictly on the basis of formal agreements concluded with the employer. Employees taking office work home and/or occasionally working at the workplace on Saturday or Sunday are not generally included under this heading.
In this context, ‘usually’ may be interpreted as meaning two or more Saturdays (or Sundays) during a four-week reference period before the interview, ‘sometimes’ as one Saturday (or Sunday) in this period and ‘never’ as no Saturday (or Sunday) during the four-week reference period preceding the interview.
The question of shift work applies only to employees. Shift work is a regular work schedule during which an enterprise is operational or provides services beyond the normal working hours from to on weekdays (evening closing hours may be later in the case of a longer break at in some Member states). Shift work is a work organisation under which different groups or crews of workers succeed each other at the same work site to perform the same operations. At the start of the shift work, work of the previous shift is taken over and at the end of the shift, work is handed over to the next shift. Shift work usually involves work during unsocial hours in the early morning, at night or in the weekend and the weekly rest days not always coincide with the normal rest days.
(Note: The definition of shift-work changed in 2001. The previous definition can be found in the publication “The European Union Labour Force Survey - Methods and definitions 1998”)
Persons in employment
Persons in employment are those aged 15 year and over (16 and over in ES, UK and SE (1995-2001); 15-74 years in DK, EE, HU, LV, FI, NO and SE (from 2001 onwards); 16-74 in IS) who during the reference week did any work for pay or profit, or were not working but had jobs from which they were temporarily absent. Family workers are included.
"Work" means any work for pay or profit during the reference week, even for as little as one hour. Pay includes cash payments or "payment in kind" (payment in goods or services rather than money), whether payment was received in the week the work was done or not. Also counted as working is anyone who receives wages for on-the-job training which involves the production of goods or services (European System of Accounts 11.13 f). Self-employed persons with a business, farm or professional practice are also considered to be working if one of the following applies:
1) A person works in his own business, professional practice or farm for the purpose of earning a profit, even if the enterprise is failing to make a profit.
2) A person spends time on the operation of a business, professional practice or farm even if no sales were made, no professional services were rendered, or nothing was actually produced (for example, a farmer who engages in farm maintenance activities; an architect who spends time waiting for clients in his/her office; a fisherman who repairs his boat or nets for future operations; a person who attends a convention or seminar).
3) A person is in the process of setting up a business, farm or professional practice; this includes the buying or installing of equipment, and ordering of supplies in preparation for opening a new business. An unpaid family worker is said to be working if the work contributes directly to a business, farm or professional practice owned or operated by a related member of the same household.
If self-employed persons are absent from work, then they are regarded as in employment only if they can be said to have a business, farm or professional practice. This is the case if one or more of the following conditions are met:
1) Machinery or equipment of significant value, in which the person has invested money, is used by him or his employees in conducting his business, an office, store, farm or other place of business is maintained.
2) There has been some advertisement of the business or profession by listing the business in the telephone book, displaying a sign, distributing cards or leaflets, etc.
3) Person who works on their own small agriculture farm, who do not sell their products, but produce only for their own consumption
The classification as employment of persons who work on their own small agriculture farm and who do not sell their products, but produce only for their own consumption depends on whether it falls within the production boundaries. When this production is included in national accounts, underlying employment must be identified. This depends on the relative quantitative importance of the production of agricultural products for own consumption in relation to the total supply of these products in a country (European System of Accounts 3.08)
Conscripts who performed some work for pay or profit during the reference week are not considered in employment.
During the off-season, seasonal workers cannot be considered as having a formal attachment to their high-season job— because they do not continue to receive a wage or salary from their employer although they may have an assurance of return to work.
Maternity leave is first given to the mother (but may include the leave of the father in the case of a transfer of the entitlements) and corresponds to the compulsory period of the leave stipulated by national legislation to ensure that mothers before and after childbirth have sufficient rest, or for a period to be specified according to national circumstances. People in maternity leave are always considered in employment.
Parental leave can be taken either by the mother or the father and is the interruption of work in case of childbirth or to bring up a child of young age. It corresponds to the period when parents receive “parental leave benefit”. People in full-time parental leave are treated as a case of long term absence from work.
The unpaid family worker can be said to have a job but not be at work if there is a definite commitment by the employer (a related household member) to accept his/her return to work and the total absence does not exceed a period of 3 months. In this point Eurostat diverges from the ILO recommendation.
A person on lay-off is one whose written or unwritten contract of employment, or activity, has been suspended by the employer for a specified or unspecified period at the end of which the person concerned has a recognised right or recognised expectation to recover employment with that employer.
Lay–offs are classified as employed if they receive ³ 50% of their wage or salary from their employer or have an assurance of return to work within a period of 3 months. In 2001, the surveys in BE, BG, EE, ES, LT, SI and partially SK included the test to capture this type of lay-offs classification.
If the total absence from work (measured from the last day of work to the day on which the paid worker will return) exceeds three months then a person is considered to have a job only if he/she continues to receive ³ 50% of the wage or salary from their employer (ESA 11.14a). In 2001, the surveys in BE, BG, EE, ES, LT, SI and partially SK included the test to capture this type of long-term absence classification.
1) In accordance with the ILO standards adopted by the 13th and 14th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000, since 2001, unemployed persons comprise persons aged 15 to 74 (16 to 74 in ES, NO, SE (1995-2000), UK, IS 16-74) who were:
a) without work during the reference week, i.e. neither had a job nor were at work (for one hour or more) in paid employment or self-employment;
b) currently available for work, i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment before the end of the two weeks following the reference week;
c) actively seeking work, i.e. had taken specific steps in the four week period ending with the reference week to seek paid employment or self-employment or who found a job to start later, i.e. within a period of at most three months.
For the purposes of point 1(c), the following are considered as specific steps:
Comparability with results prior to 2001:
2) Education and training are considered as ways of improving employability but not as methods of seeking work.
Persons without work and in education or training will only be classified as unemployed if they are ‘currently available for work’ and ‘seeking work’, as defined in points 1(b) and (c).
3) Lay-offs are classified as unemployed if they do not receive any significant wage or salary (significant is set at =50%) from their employer and if they are ‘currently available for work’ and ‘seeking work’. Lay-offs are treated as a case of unpaid leave initiated by the employer — including leave paid out of government budget or by funds (16th ICLS). In this case, lay-offs are classified as employed if they have an agreed date of return to work and if this date falls within a period of three months.
4) During the off-season, seasonal workers cannot be considered as having a formal attachment to their high-season job because they do not continue to receive a wage or salary from their employer although they may have an assurance of return to work. If they are not at work during the off-season, they are classified as unemployed only if they are ‘currently available for work’ and ‘seeking work’, as defined in points 1(b) and (c).
The age of the respondent is calculated from the year of birth. For persons born in the same year, those whose birthdays fall between 1 January and the end of the reference week are, for the purposes of survey results analysis, regarded as being one year older than those whose birthdays fall after the end of the reference week. This definition applies to all tables incorporating an age structure.
Nationality is interpreted as citizenship. Citizenship is defined according to national legislation of each country. For the sake of reliability, the results by nationality are shown only in three groups:
Marital status is the conjugal status of each individual in relation to the marriage laws of the country (i.e. de jure status). Therefore it does not necessarily match the real household situation in terms of cohabitation arrangements. Those countries that have a legal framework for registering partnerships giving them a legal status parallel to married couples are treated as married. This definition applies to all tables incorporating this variable.
Degree of urbanisation
The concept of ‘urbanisation’ was introduced to indicate the character of the geographical area in which the surveyed person lives. Three types of area have been identified:
- densely-populated area;
- intermediate area;
- sparsely-populated area.
A set of local areas with a total area of less than 100 km² and less than the required population density which is entirely enclosed within a densely-populated or intermediate area should be regarded as part of this area. If the area is surrounded by a densely-populated area and an intermediate area, it is regarded as part of the intermediate area.
Population in education or training
The data collected refer to all education or vocational training whether or not relevant to the respondent’s current or future employment (International Standard Classification of Education 1997).).
They should include initial education, additional education, continuing or additional training, training in enterprises, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, seminars and workshops, distance education, evening classes, self-learning, etc. They should also include courses followed out of personal interest only and may cover all forms of learning, and training in subjects such as languages, computer studies, business studies, art and culture, health and medicine.
Due to the transition to harmonised concepts, several countries experienced breaks in those series (see notes for the indicator ‘Lifelong Learning’)
Purpose of education or training
First of all, this questions aims at collecting information on participation in training under a specific employment measure.
Secondly, the question aims at collecting individual perception of purpose. The answer does not depend on the characteristics of a programme but on the perception the individual has about his current training. This perception would usually depend on whether the person has had a previous main job before.
Highest level of education or training successfully completed
- Education level is classified according to the International Standard Classification of Education 1997.
- The expression 'level successfully completed' is associated with obtaining a certificate or a diploma, when there is a certification. In cases where there is no certification, successful completion must be associated with full attendance.
- When determining the highest level, both general and vocational education/training is taken into consideration.
For more information on the comparability of results over time see the notes available for the indicator ‘Youth Education attainment level’. For the main quality features of this structural indicator, please view its Eurostat Quality Profile Background Document on Quality.
A child is defined as a household member aged less than 25 years and in full social and economic dependence from other household member/-s (parents/ adults). All household
members aged below 15 are by default considered 'children', whereas an additional check on the social and economic dependence is required for the household members aged between
15 and 24. The check is based on the LFS variables determining whether a person is living in a common household with a parent (HHMOTH/HHFATH) and whether a person perceives
her-/himself as economically inactive (MAINSTAT) or, in lack of this information, is considered inactive according to the ILO definition or works for a very limited number of hours (less than 10 hours a week).
2005 data onwards. Prior to 2005, the category “non-nationals of the
 From 2003, definition has been restricted to regular education or other taught activities.
 NO: before 2006, only people who completed 16 years at the end of the year where included in the scope