Unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour
force that is unemployed. The unemployed are persons who are currently
without work, who are seeking or have sought work recently, and
who are currently available for work. The base for these statistics
is the labour force (the economically active portion of the population),
not the total population.
The International Conference of Labour Statisticians
adopted the following definition of the unemployed as an international
recommendation in 1982:
All persons who during the reference period were: (1) "without
work", that is, were not in paid employment or self-employment
as specified by the international definition of employment; (2)
"currently available for work", that is, were available
for paid employment or self-employment during the reference period;
or (3) "seeking work", that is, had taken specific steps
in a specified recent period to seek paid employment or self-employment.
However, many persons without work--women more
than men--do not take active steps to "seek work" if
they believe none is available. In rural areas, employment opportunities
may be particularly limited, especially for women and outside
seasonal harvesting periods. Also in rural areas and among women
in many countries, persons not working do not have easy access
to formal channels for seeking employment and women often face
social and cultural barriers when looking for a job. In such circumstances
the "seeking work" criterion should be relaxed, though
this is not often done in national surveys.
In developing countries, the number of workers
covered by unemployment insurance or other assistance is limited.
Under these conditions very few people can afford to be unemployed
for any period of time. The majority of the population must be
engaged at all times in some economic activity, however inadequate
it may be. So, although they may also be seeking other or additional
work, they will not be counted as unemployed. Women, who more
often than men are engaged in activities within the household,
grow food in the family plot or work as seasonal agricultural
workers, are economically active and should be counted as "employed"
according to the standard definition of economic activity. But
their situation in terms of income, use of skills and productivity
might be closer to unemployment than to employment.