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The opportunity to engage in “decent work” is fundamental to human well-being and the well-being of society. According to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), decent work “sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives – their aspirations for opportunity and income; rights, voice and recognition; family stability and personal development; and fairness and gender equality. Ultimately these various dimensions of decent work underpin peace in communities and society.”[1]

Most people need paid work to obtain the economic resources for day to day living, to acquire the things they want or need and to support their dependents. At the same time, people’s involvement in paid work contributes to a successful economy and economic growth.

Measuring Decent Work

There are many different aspects of work which contribute to a person’s well-being, such as job satisfaction, hours worked, job security, level of renumeration, opportunity for self-development and interaction with other people. Traditionally, work has been measured mostly by levels of employment or unemployment, although there is currently a movement to go beyond this to look at measuring other aspects of “decent work”.

In September 2008, the ILO published “Measurement of Decent Work“, a Discussion paper for the Tripartite Meeting of
Experts on the Measurement of Decent Work. The paper outlines the need for a global methodology to measure progress towards decent work. It calls for the identification of a global template of qualitative and quantitative indicators that can be used to measure progress towards decent work at the country level; the collection of statistical data and qualitative information related to selected decent work indicators; and the presentation in country profiles of decent work indicators and statistics identifying both country-specific information as well as a global dynamic picture.[2]

For more information refer to the ILO’s web page on Measuring Decent Work.

Links to other dimensions of progress

Work is fundamental to progress, both at an individual and societal level. Studies show that higher rates of unemployment are associated with crime, poor health and lower levels of social attachment. For long-term unemployment the association tends to be stronger.

Further studies

Measurement of Decent Work” a Discussion paper for the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on the Measurement of Decent Work, September 2008.

Measuring Decent Work with Statistical Indicators paper produced by the ILO, July 2002.

Decent work indicators for Asia and the Pacific: a guidebook for policy-makers and researchers
This Guidebook, designed to be a practical resource for collectors and users of labour market information, presents a detailed overview of key indicators for monitoring labour market trends and measuring progress towards national and international goals related to the promotion of decent work

UK Data Service case study: European working hours in the global economy, By Damian Raess, University of Geneva, in collaboration with Brian Burgoon of the University of Amsterdam, Feb 2012.

See also