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ECASTAT: Transforming labor statistics and capacity building in Europe and Central Asia

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ECASTAT group photo ECASTAT group photo

Timely, quality statistics are essential for informed policy decision-making. After transitioning from centrally planned, rigid economies to a more flexible market approach in the 1990s, European and Central Asian countries (ECA) needed new ways of collecting, analyzing, and understanding statistical measurements of their countries’ labor and socio-economic policies. Rising unemployment from this transition coincided with a decline in living standards, and it was difficult for experts to forecast development trends. At the same time, however, their common market and language (Russian) assisted efforts to define a viable path forward. While mass temporary labor migration accompanied the first years of the post-USSR world, adequate social protection and poverty reduction measures lagged behind. Availability of work no longer translated to a guarantee of basic income or affordable living, and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries—Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine—realized this had to change.

Given the importance of labor statistics to ECA, it was important to reform the timeliness of statistical reporting, implement sample population and labor force surveys, and collect census data. Some CIS countries had not undertaken a Labor Force Survey since 1992, with other countries showing varied consistency in implementing this standard measure. This is where ECASTAT stepped in, pledging $560,000 and global experience in statistical capacity building over a four-year commitment to help countries transform their national statistical systems. This would be implemented through instituting the Labor Force Survey as defined by the International Labor Organization, with verified data collection techniques and adherence to international standards and methodologies. The project was designed to make official data more accessible to policymakers and civil society alike and allow development partners to further recycle this data for monitoring their programs and sustainable development on the whole.

The objectives of the project were (a) to improve the methodology of statistical measuring of the labor market, taking into account current international recommendations, standards and classifications, and (b) the development of information exchange of data characterizing the labor market in the region. First, the project covered the development and implementation of methodology on economic activity population, informal employment, and data on labor migration, wages, and cost in line with National Strategies of the CIS countries and the Sustainable Development Goals. Second, the developed methodology, indicators of data exchange and other issues were discussed at international meetings with the participation of NSOs’ specialists on labor statistics and international experts. And third, a translation of materials of international organizations into Russian was made (especially 19th and 20th ICLS resolutions).

By the project’s closing in December 2018, many of its goals were accomplished:

  1. Labor statisticians and specialists from the CIS countries noted that methodological materials and recommendations were “highly relevant,” “closely reflected the local circumstances,” and did not require further efforts adopting them.
  2. Project activities resulted in the revision of the CISSTAT questionnaire on the labor market for producing cross country comparable harmonized data.
  3. A set of questions to measure migration and labor trends for the 2020 censuses was prepared and agreed upon within national statistical offices in the CIS countries. This took into account standard measurements of work, employment, and underutilization of labor in statistical practices according to the ICLS 19th and 20th resolutions; how wages, labor costs, and amount of time worked was calculated; effective translation into Russian and dissemination of SDG indicators on youth employment; instituted guidelines on international labor migration; and publicly disseminated these results on the CIS-Stat website (
  4. ECASTAT labor project also implemented new tools like modular surveys and sample pilot testing to measure underutilized labor.
  5. Six stakeholders’ discussions and workshops helped exchange knowledge and facilitate the sharing of innovative approaches to labor statistics, as well as enhancing the technical capacity of 125 statisticians.

These relationships laid the groundwork for future collaboration and information sharing among labor statisticians. Through this project, ECASTAT shows that catalyzing development can truly be sustainable and snowball into greater results once we take the first step in building up capacity. Stay tuned for more from this driven program!


Irina Zbarskaya

Chief of Department of Social and Demographic Statistics, CIS

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