International definition of unemployment

To facilitate a proper comparison between unemployment rates in the various European countries, Eurostat – the statistical bureau of the EU - publishes harmonised figures on a monthly basis. Eurostat uses a definition which deviates from the definition used in the Netherlands.

The definition of employed and unemployed labour force used by Eurostat is based on directives drawn up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The main difference between the ILO definition and the Dutch definition is the amount of weekly working hours. According to the ILO definition, the labour force comprises all people who work at least one hour a week (employed labour force) or seek a job for at least one hour a week and are available for the labour market (unemployed labour force).

The Dutch definition uses a minimum of 12 hours a week to define the labour force. According to the ILO concept, the employed labour force is larger than according to the national definition. The unemployed labour force, on the other hand, is smaller.