Global Recognition of Singapore’s Work in Setting Standards for Manpower Statistics at the 100th Anniversary of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians
1. Singapore played a significant role at the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS)’s historical 100th anniversary, held in Geneva from 11th to 20th October 2023. The ICLS is an important platform for standard setting in labour statistics and is convened by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) every five years. The conference is attended by representatives from 184 countries. Decisions at the conference shape labour statistics and set international standards for key labour market indicators such as unemployment, income, and employment conditions.
2. Notably, MOM received global recognition for its collaboration with the ILO in projects that were presented at the ICLS. The ILO is one of the first and oldest specialised agencies of the United Nations (UN), mandated by the UN to set international labour standards:
- MOM and ILO jointly developed preliminary recommendations to enhance the quality of data on Digital Platform Employment1(DPE), which was endorsed at ICLS; and
- Presented a joint project to enable more timely updates to occupational classifications in the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO).
Singapore’s Contributions to Digital Platform Employment Data
3. Despite the rapid growth in DPE in many countries, there are currently no internationally agreed concepts, definitions, and data collection standards on this form of employment and its workers. This makes it difficult to compare data across countries or even within the same country. Recognising the need for quality data in this area, MOM and the ILO embarked on a joint effort to translate global research on DPE into international statistical and methodological recommendations.
4. Representatives from the participating countries at ICLS concurred with the recommendations laid out by the MOM-ILO team at the conference plenary, and committed to working towards them in the following years. This marks an important step forward in the study of DPE. The creation of standardised measures for DPE will help with the formulation of policies to improve social protection and working conditions for this growing group of workers.
Enabling Timely Updates to Occupational Classifications
5. MOM and ILO statisticians also presented a joint project that would enable more timely updates to the ISCO. The ISCO organises jobs into clearly defined groups according to the tasks and duties undertaken in the job. Data producers and policymakers typically categorise working populations according to these occupational codes when deciding which occupational groups may need more support.
6. Currently, ILO occupational classifications are updated every 10 years. With new types of occupations emerging across the world at a much faster rate, there is the need for the classifications to keep pace through more regular updates. MOM and ILO have identified how new and emerging occupations can be identified quickly through the use of cutting-edge technologies like natural language processing and machine learning techniques. This enables the ILO to update its international classifications more frequently, so that data producers and labour agencies can continue to produce the latest and most accurate information.
Singapore’s Delegate Elected as Conference Rapporteur for Second Term
7. Singapore’s delegate at the conference, Mr Ang Boon Heng, Director of the Manpower Research & Statistics Department in Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), was nominated by the ILO, and elected by the international community to be the conference Rapporteur for a second consecutive term. This represents global recognition of Singapore’s technical expertise in the field of official labour market statistics. At his speech during the conference’s closing ceremony, Mr Ang commended the delegates for the robust technical discussions, and the close tripartite approach towards endorsing the numerous resolutions and guidelines on labour statistics.
8. Mr Ang’s nomination by the ILO at the 100th anniversary of the ICLS bears testament to the ILO’s recognition of MOM as a globally trusted and credible organisation in the area of manpower research and statistics. MOM is also aligned with the ILO’s mission and Decent Work agenda2, which aims to advance the economic and working conditions that give all workers, employers and governments a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress.