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7.36.            As indicated above, a labour force survey  is a standard household-based survey of work-related statistics. In the context of statistics on the international supply of services, a labour force survey to collect the following types of information:

(a) On mode 4 outbound movements, i.e. contractual services suppliers, intracorporate transferees/employees directly recruited by foreign affiliates, and services sellers or those responsible for setting up a commercial presence (and, to a lesser extent, mode 4 inbound movements for contractual services suppliers and intracorporate transferees/employees,  if the persons become resident). That is the most relevant use for a labour force survey;

(b) On consumption/expenditure of those travelling abroad for business purposes (mode 2, relevant for travel debits and outbound tourism expenditure), i.e., goods and services actually consumed by the person in the context of his travel, not on behalf of his employer; 

(c) On the acquisition of services on behalf of the respondent’s employer or more generally on a business-to-business basis (mode 2); 

(d) On sales/exports of services on a business-to-business or business-to-consumer basis, which will be relevant mainly for self-employed persons (modes 1, 2 or 4). 

7.37.            Labour force surveys are widespread and reasonably standardized. Modules can be added to such surveys for multiple purposes, for  example, for obtaining information on persons moving in the context of mode 4 or changing the subject matter in each round, from questions on the labour force to questions related to mode 4 movements, for example.  

7.38.            Labour force surveys can identify the individuals in the household who are self-employed (and whether they are employers or not) and who are employees, as well as their principal job and the industry it relates to. A labour force survey can also determine the type of production of the employer, if the individual is an employee (and, in some instances, the size of the company), or that of the self-employed persons. Such information is of interest in the context of mode 4. However, the important factor for identifying mode 4 is whether the individual went abroad in the context of his or her work, but is based in the home country of his or her  place of employment.[1] 

7.39.            To use labour force surveys with the purpose of separating mode 4-related movements from international labour mobility requires including a limited number of questions on recent visits abroad by household members for the purpose of work, e.g., questions about the contracting parties, the duration of the visits abroad and the forms of payment. Such information may be relevant mainly for sending countries in respect of mode 4, which covers contractual services suppliers and those travelling for negotiating purposes. In the case of intracorporate movements, as well as the migration of self-employed persons, such surveys could be relevant for receiving countries, but with a different set of questions. 

7.40.            For countries or regions in which mode 4 is potentially important and/or the population is relatively well covered by the sample, it may prove useful to add appropriate questions in the surveys. A specific module, similar to the one proposed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for labour migration, could be developed.[2] In order to identify such movements, questions, as illustrated in box 7.3, could be added to the questionnaire or developed in a specific labour force survey module on mode 4. If deemed relevant, other questions could be added to gather more information, as outlined at the beginning of this section. However, it is once again important to note that compilers need to analyse the potential benefits and, most importantly, the costs associated with the use of such a source, in particular if they want to go further than the purely mode 4 information needs.

7.41.            It is recognized that such an approach cannot be generally adopted without a thorough analysis of the importance of the different mode 4 categories for a country. Some countries are more concerned with the fact that their workers are temporarily sent abroad to fulfil services contracts, whereas others tend to receive many self-employed persons, or see a large number of incoming intracorporate movements of personnel  who operate from a base in the host economy (as per relevant modes 3 and 4 commitments, often combined). Since such movements may be limited to a specific region within a country, an additional module may be envisaged for respondents of that particular region only. 

7.42.            It is potentially mutually beneficial for countries with labour force surveys to cooperate at the national and/or regional level on the production of such labour migration or mode 4 statistics.  Responses clarifying employment status, in combination with demographic indicators, could be useful for the compilation of mode 4 statistics. Such cooperation could ensure consistency with enterprise surveys that cover similar subject matter. 

7.43.            It is, therefore, good practice to cooperate with agencies that have a common interest in collecting statistics on such items as national accounts, balance of payments, migration or tourism. Integrated enterprise and social surveys, such as the European Union Structure of Earnings Survey, the  Workplace and Employee Survey of Canada or the  National Compensation Survey of the United States, could also be built to collect information on duration at workplaces abroad, and could provide valuable information on wages, industry and other relevant items. It is, therefore, important for compilers to contact the units in charge of the respective surveys or subject matter. Chapters 2 and 3 provide more information on legal frameworks and institutional arrangements.


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Country experience: European Union member states (Chapter 7)


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[1] See chapter 1 and MSITS 2010 box V.2.

[2] At the time of writing, the module for labour migration had already been applied in Thailand and Armenia