9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN21 RENCORE: Methods for Comparative Research on Europe

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Standardizing Socio-Demographic Variables for Cross National Social Surveys Building I, 2E7

Harmonising the Measurement of the Employment Status in the EU-LFS - The "12 Principles" and Beyond

The harmonised measurement of the employment status is one of the key objectives of the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). The Labour Force Survey offers various advantages with regard to comparative analysis, e. g. relatively large sample sizes, high response rates and a high degree of methodological harmonisation. In order to guarantee conceptual comparability, the measurement of the employment status is implemented according the Guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and further operationalised in the EU regulations mandating the EU-LFS.

Based on methodological studies carried out during the 1990s, the Commission Regulation 1897/2000 provided further elements of conceptual and methodological harmonisation. First of all, the regulation specifies details regarding the operational definition of unemployment, namely the definition of "active job search" and the treatment of persons with a job, but not at work. Secondly, the regulation stipulates twelve principles for the formulation of the questions on the employment status. The principles concern various aspects like the order of questions (e.g., the question on the main status shall never precede the question on employment according to the ILO guidelines), the use of filter questions, the cues to be used in question wording, and the order of the response items. The aim of the twelve principles is to standardise question formulation, while leaving some degrees of freedom to take into account institutional and cultural differences across the member states in questionnaire construction.

Different results of recent research indicate that some of the principles might need some revision and further principles should be discussed. For example, a follow-up survey carried out by Destatis, the Federal Statistical Office Germany, showed that the questions on employment could be further optimised with regard to the measurement of small jobs. Other studies emphasised that the results on the employment status are subject to mode effects, especially comparing CAPI and CATI techniques. Furthermore, results on job search seem to depend upon question wording, question order and the use of filter questions. The paper outlines the harmonisation approach of the EU-LFS regarding employment status, presents recent relevant research and suggests issues for the future development of the principles.