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Metadata: ILO unemployment rate


Source: Labour Force Survey (EAK), Statbel and (LFS) Eurostat, processed by Centre of Expertise for Labour Market Monitoring


ILO unemployment rate: the share of unemployed persons in the labour force aged 15 to 64, according to the definition of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The labour force includes both the employed and unemployed.

Working persons are persons who:

  • have worked for wages or profits for at least one hour during the reference week, including assisting family members.
  • were not working during the reference week, but had a job or their own company where they were temporarily not present. These include:
    • persons not working due to holidays, working time arrangements, sick leave, maternity or paternity leave;
    • persons in work-related training;
    • persons on parental leave, who are either receiving and/or entitled to work-related income or benefits, or whose expected parental leave is 3 months or less;
    • seasonal workers during the off-season, where they continue to perform regular job or company duties and duties, with the exception of compliance with legal or administrative obligations;
    • persons who are temporarily out of work for other reasons where the expected duration of the absence is 3 months or less;
  • produce agricultural commodities, most of which are intended for sale or barter.

Unemployed persons meet the 3 conditions below:

  • not employed during the reference week;
  • available to start working within 2 weeks of the reference week;
  • actively sought work in the 4 weeks prior to the reference week or already found a job to start within the next 3 months. That includes the following activities:
    • studied job advertisements;
    • posted or answered vacancies;
    • posted or updated resumes online;
    • directly contacted employers;
    • asked friends, family or acquaintances;
    • contacted the Public Employment Service;
    • contacted an employment agency;
    • a test, interview or exam taken as part of a recruitment process;
    • made preparations for setting up an independent activity or your own company.

Persons who have been temporarily unemployed for more than 3 months for economic reasons (including the measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic) will no longer be considered as working from 2021. When they have actively sought work and are available to start working within 2 weeks, they are considered unemployed. If they have not actively looked for work or are not available to start working within 2 weeks, they are counted as inactive.

Educational level:

Low educated: persons without any educational qualification or having a lower-secondary education at the maximum;

Medium educated: persons with an upper-secondary educational level or a post-secondary non-higher education at the maximum;

Highly educated: persons with a higher education or university degree.

Remarks on quality

The data on the ILO unemployment rate are estimates based on a survey. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the official survey that is taken in all countries of the European Union (EU27). The survey is used to construct European, national and regional statistics on the labour market. The LFS is coordinated by the European Statistical Office Eurostat. For Belgium, the survey is carried out by Statbel, the Belgian office of statistics, under the name Labour Force Survey (EAK). The EAK survey has been carried out in Belgium since 1983. Participation in the EAK survey is mandatory for the selected households.

From 1983 to 1998, the households were surveyed once a year during a limited period. From 1999, the survey was carried out all through the year, with the sample being equally spread over all the weeks of the year.

From 2017, a new method of surveying has been used. The selected household and persons are asked to answer questions in a first questionnaire. Then they are invited to answer a questionnaire another 3 times in the following 15 months. The households are surveyed in 2 consecutive quarters, followed by a pause of 2 quarters, and finally they are surveyed again during 2 quarters.
The initial survey took place in the same way as in previous years: the respondent is invited by a pollster for a personal interview in which the questionnaire is worked through together and the answers are registered on a tablet (CAPI). This questionnaire is the most detailed and is supervised by a pollster.
The follow-up questionnaires are shorter and are largely limited to the aspects of the labour market that have changed in comparison with the previous questionnaire. These follow-up surveys are conducted by telephone (CATI) or via the internet (CAWI).

As part of the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, all face-to-face interviews have been temporarily replaced by telephone interviews since the first lockdown in March 2020.

In order to increase the comparability of the LFS data at European level, a new questionnaire was implemented in 2021. A new European framework regulation (EU regulation 2019/1700) provides for a complete revision of the variable list for the Labour Force Survey and a more uniform way of measuring certain essential concepts. The aim of this is to increase the comparability of the data at European level.
The changes compared to the old questionnaire are diverse. For example, a number of variables were deleted because they have become less relevant or because the information is available in administrative sources. Other new questions were added. Sometimes the order of questions or the frequency of the survey (annual versus quarterly) was adjusted. In a number of cases the wording of an existing question was also changed or the answering modalities were adapted, but every effort was made to keep this to a minimum. Nevertheless, this means that the data from before 2021 are not always comparable with the data from 2021 and later.
An essential part of the new questionnaire is the measurement of the Labour market status. The new framework regulation aligns this measurement with the revised operational definitions of employment and unemployment from the International Labour Office (ILO). Important changes have also been made to the measurement of working time, which again aim to ensure a more uniform measurement between the different EU Member States.

In the Flemish Region data were collected from around 20,000 households and 50,000 persons (household members) in the 1999-2016 period. In that period, the response rate for the Labour Force Survey in Belgium was between 75% and 80%.
From 2017 onwards, 15,000 to 18,000 Flemish households and 35,000 to 43,000 people participated using the new method. In 2023, this concerns 16,342 households and 38,055 persons.
The response rate in the Flemish Region was 67% in the first survey, 90% in the second survey, 94% in the third survey and 95% in the fourth survey.​​​​​​​

Since the data are collected on a sample basis, a certain margin of uncertainty must be taken into account when interpreting the results of the LFS and EAK.
For the period from 1999, one must take into account a break in the time series between 2016 and 2017 and between 2020 and 2021.

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