Author:Patterson, Louise
Position:United Arab Emirates


In 2015, a report was released by the Gulf Research Center (De Bel-Air, 2015) on the demography, migration, and labor market in the UAE whereby it stated, despite their objective to draw a sketch of the UAE's population and migration dynamics, it was severely restricted due to the scarcity of data available from the federal and emirate-level statistical bureaus. In the data collection section of this report, it states that:

"In contrast to other GCC countries which have set up a population registry like Kuwait and Oman, in the UAE, population figures and demographic characteristics of the resident population (Emiratis and foreigners) are not yet disclosed to the public in real time" (De Bel-Air, 2015).

Furthermore, the report cautions the intercensal population data including post-2005 figures are estimates and that the population projections and estimates in the UAE must treat with caution, for two sets of reasons. First, the scale of irregular sojourn and labor cannot be overlooked, given the speed of population growth in the country, and especially in Dubai, partly due to the dependency of UAE's economy on labor-intensive sectors such as the construction sector. Second, the methodology used to project population figures since 2010 was recently questioned, as it led to the release of extraordinary rates of demographic growth. Therefore, with any labor market data released to the public has to be treated with caution and, in some cases, for a time series analysis, data for some years are unavailable. The data market data collection, during 2008 to 2010 was not publicized for unknown reasons.

In the UAE, policymakers and other stakeholder groups need access to robust data to comprehend how changes in the labor force participation rates can affect the workforce dynamics, evaluate the effectiveness of labor force policies, and to develop an adequate supply of local workers. The current issue in the United Arab Emirates (hereby referred to as the UAE) as to the collection and use of labor force data needs to be improved, especially as the government has implemented its 2020 Emiratization Policy whereby 40% of the labor force must be composed of Emirates.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the labor force data collection methods of three countries, India, the Republic of Korea (hereby referred to as Korea), and the UAE whereby a comparison will be conducted on these three systems of data collection. India and Korea will act as role models for the UAE government in the data collection methodology.

Three countries were selected based on the different situations and data collection needs of those three countries. The three countries have dissimilar labor structures and therefore the objectives of human resource management might be unlike.

Korea can be considered as an industry model due to its rapid industrialization and currently has shifted the knowledge-based society. When focused on the knowledge-intensive industry, Korea has been sourcing its human resources in Korea. India has seen limited success in the structured manufacturing sector but has accounted a powerful human resource base, but it is not being effectively utilized except in the IT industry. Thus, India is experiencing the outflow of human resources, so-called brain-drain. Considering that the UAE depends on foreign human resources in the technology sector, the UAE's labor data management approach should also reflect these characteristics. In addition, various stakeholder groups will then have access to historical data, from the time of the foundation of the UAE to its current labor force data. It identifies strategies that can fulfil the improvement of labor force data collection.

Literature review, interviews, multiple documents, and websites will be examined to identify the extent to which India and Korea have developed the labor force data collections. A comparison will be conducted if there are there are any differences between these three countries as to their data collection methodology. This preliminary research will contribute towards building a new labor force data collection framework for the UAE government.

The International Labor Office (ILO) (2015) published a guide for gathering analysing labor market data. It gives examples of how countries are using indicators and data analysis and briefly discusses how to analyse data from single and multiple indicators for a policy position. The guide points out that data gathered from labor force surveys and national censuses by various agencies can be limited and too general in nature, quite often due to resource limitations. Papola (2014) stated that:

"Labor statistics are collected, compiled and disseminated in a country to meet the requirements of different goals and objectives sought to be achieved by different stakeholders and interest groups. These groups and uses to which they put the statistics could broadly be grouped into the following four categories:

  1. Planners, policymakers and administrators: For planning and monitoring socioeconomic development and formulation and implementation of policies, laws and rules for overall development and welfare of labour.

  2. Research workers, media, civil society and the public at large: Seeking to improve understanding, awareness and knowledge about labor and related subjects.

  3. Workers organizations and employers' associations: To analyse, represent and lobby for their respective constituencies, namely, workers and industry.

  4. International agencies: For presenting international perspective and comparisons and monitoring progress in the well-being of labor and assess the labor situation for utilization as part of the assessment of the overall socio-economic situation of the country from the view point of their own mandate. (Papola, 2014)

    Western Countries

    Beginning in 1960, the members of the then European Community began collecting comparable data on employment and unemployment through the means of a labor force survey (Eurostat, 1998). Nowadays, the EU Labour Force Survey is universally recognized as a tool for observing labor market demographic developments and for taking appropriate policy measures. It provides data that is truly comparable as it is independent of national administrations and legislative frameworks.

    Anker (1983) wrote a criticique of the data methods being used at that time to collect female labor force participation data where they were inaccurate or incomplete; especially in developing countries where women were shown as economically inactive members of society despite their labor being important to the economic survival of the household. The author recommended that the female labor force data be improved by showing their economical role through statistics.

    In 2015, the ILO released a report providing guidelines on the gathering and analysis of labor market data specifically referring to national policies (ILO, 2015). The ILO's principal objective is to achieve "full productive employment and Decent Work for all, including for women and young people". In the analysis of labor market data, the report points that it is important for three major reasons (ILO, 2015):

  5. To identify and understand issues in the labor market regarding employment policy.

  6. To inform decisions about national employment policy with objective empirical foundations.

  7. To evaluate the costs and benefits of policies, measures and programmes.

    The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces several statistical series for the United States and has developed a statistical series for foreign comparisons (Handbook of Methods Chapter 12 International Comparisons, Capdevielle and Sherwood, 2002). The BLS uses a conceptual framework for its comparative purposes whereby it obtains foreign data and documentation from numerous sources worldwide, does translation if necessary into English and performs analyses of sources and method for quality and comparability, and adjusts the statistical series. The BLS program of international comparisons is unique as the data collected is adjusted for comparability by the other agencies.

    In 2018 the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a fact sheet regarding the concepts, sources and methods of labor force statistics, specifically international comparisons. The report pointed out that is essential to acquire a global context to economic analysis, social research, and policy formation and evaluation. Consideration must be taken regarding the differences in how labor concepts are measured. The ILO developed a measure of international labor standards for countries to follow to allow a similar basis for cross-country comparisons to happen. The fact sheet outlined the key labor force statistics to collect for this comparison: population with the working population given as well, followed by the labor force participation by gender, employment to participation ratio, the unemployment rate by gender, and underemployment rate by gender based on the ILOSTAT Database.


    On the Asian continent, in Thailand, data for a study (Adhikari et al., 2011) was drawn from the 2007 Survey of Older Persons, a nationally representative survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO). The NSO has conducted three nationally representative household surveys of older persons in 1994, 2002 and 2007 to fulfill the need for adequate information to develop appropriate policies and programs to ensure the well-being of the Thai elderly. These surveys collected information on socioeconomic conditions and living arrangements, employment and income, health status and health behaviour, etc. of the elderly in Thai society. In Malaysia, an article (Franck and Olsson, 2014) argues that common methods to collect data on women's labor force participation frequently result in under-reporting and under-recording of their work. Based on fieldwork in...

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