1. Labour force survey

2. Irregular work

3. Domestic work

4. The Government temporary lay-off indemnity (CIG)

5. Work disputes

6. The Excelsior information system


1. The labour force survey

Since the beginning until nowadays, the survey has been revised many times to take into account the necessity to undertstand the real social and economical needs of the on-going transformation of the countrys' labour market.

Revision of the survey carried out in 1999

During 1999, ISTAT completed the review of the time series of the quarterly surveys on the labour force, determining October 1992 as the beginning of this study. The revised report, reveals the dynamics in the main aggregates of the labour market after 1995.  In particular it shows a more ‘positive’ trend regarding an increase both in the number of persons in employment and the employment rate and a decrease both in the number of persons seeking employment and the unemployment rate.

Aggregates and economic indexes providing data forecasts are regularly updated.  Such review is currently carried out on: national accounts data, price and production indexes, foreign trade, etc.

Between 1984 and 1995 the data on the labour force were also reviewed, so as to align the forecasts with the data collected on the population census; and also between 1977 and 1986 following a change in the criteria adopted.

The current revision is mainly carried out to comply with EU’s strict regulations; however, this is providing the opportunity to improve automated procedures for quality control which have been spread through a computerised network system. Data production has in fact been enhanced at every level.

Reasons at the basis of the revision

Basically, the three main methodological innovations adopted are:

  • innovation in the calculation procedures of the sample data coefficients;
  • innovation in the quality control and error correction procedures;
  • complete alignment of defined standards and procedures set by the EU.

Main characteristics of the 2004 survey

The prime objective, of the continuous sample survey on the 2004 labour force, is the forecast of the main aggregates of job offers.  The change from the quarterly survey carried out in a specific week for each quarter to a continuous survey spread uniformly over all weeks of the year has been dictated by the necessity to comply with EU Council regulation n. 577/98. In fact, with the exception of Germany where the continuous survey will begin next year, all the EU members (excluding Cyprus, Malta and Hungary) conduct the continuous survey on the labour force . 

However the harmonisation of the EU decree does not only involve the constraint on continuity.  The survey also adheres to the EU norms concerning the wording and the sequence of the questions contained in the questionnaire and the definitions of persons in employment and those seeking employment.  A recent EU regulation also foresees the introduction of new variables. 

To enhance the information legacy, the questionnaire was articulated in such a way so as to gather new and important aspects regarding: labour activity, unemployment, education and training and the family relationships of interviewees.  To render the current forecasts comparable with those of the previous years, ISTAT has compiled its time series starting from 1992 fourth quarter as the base.

The survey is characterised by the definition of new identification criteria regarding persons in employment and persons seeking employment (unemployed), and by the in-depth riorganisation of the data processing: development of a surveying network directly managed by ISTAT, the use of computer assisted techniques for data surveying allowing cost reductions borne by the interviewee, adoption of new tools for research management and monitoring the quality of field work.

The survey is based on a two stage sample, respectively communes and households, with stratification of units in the first stage.  For each quarter, around 175.000 individuals resident in 1.246 communes from all the Italian provinces were interviewed. Some communes in this sample survey are permantly part of it, these are either the provincial capitals or those communes with a greater population threshold than that established by each province, defined as autorepresentative.  The communes with a lower population threshold are instead known as non-autorepresentative and are grouped in layers. The latter form part of the sample survey through a random selection mechanism that foresees the extraction of a non-autorepresentative commune from each layer. For each commune a simple random sample of households are extracted from the Register's list.

The population referred to, is made up of entire household members resident in Italy, even though they maybe temporaraly overseas.  From these, are excluded those households that constantly live overseas and permanent community members (religous orders, barracks etc.).  The resident population includes both Italian citizens and non-nationals that are registered in the communal records. 

The survey unit is the de-facto household, defined as persons living together, united by such ties as: marriage, kinship, affinity, adoption, custody or affective ties. The interview to the households is carried out using a survey network directly managed by ISTAT through techniques such as CAPI (computer assisted personal interview) and CATI (computer assisted telephone interview).

In general the information gathered refers to the week prior to that of the interview. 

Every household is interviewed for two consecutive quarters; followed by an interuption of two successive quarters, after which is interviewed again for another two quarters.  Overall, these are part of the sample covering a 15 month period.  Some questions contained in the survey, due to the difficulty of the answers or because of the sensibility of the topic being dealt with, foresee the no reply option. The data collected from the research, elaborated with reference to the units, are rounded to thousands and expressed in absolute values.  In the variations,  in the percentage values and also in the percentage point difference the rounding is to the first decimal. The seasonally adjusted data featured in the press release are obtained according to the TRAMO-SEATS procedure.

When comparing the 2003 data with that of 2004, it is necessary to consider that:

  • the new survey takes into account the post-census updates on the resident population. Such population registered a significant increase between 2003 and 2004, in particular within the central age-groups. In this regard, the levels verified in the survey and the variation trends are obviously affected by such dynamics;
  • the trend variations refer to the 2004 research data and to those gathered for 2003 that derive from the reconstruction of the time series.

The main objective of the new survey remains the production of official forecasts on persons in employment and those seeking employment.  On the basis of the definitions set by the International Labour Office and taken on board by the Community Regulations, the population of working age (aged 15 and over) is divided in three distinct groups: in employment, unemployed and inactive.  In applying such a criteria, a hierarchical principle is pursued: initially persons in employment are identified, subsequently, those unemployed, persons seeking employment, finally inactive persons, that is those not included in persons in employment or unemployed.

Within the in employment category are classified those persons (aged at least 15 years) who during the week prior to the reference week, did any work for pay or profit for at least one hour.  In the event the activity is carried out in a family business on a regular basis, the work may not necessarily be remunerated. The changes of the opening question of the individual form represents one of the major innovations of the survey.  In fact, the quarterly survey began with the question regarding the declared conditions, that is the interviewee's perception of his condition. The autoperception resulted crucial for the identification of persons in employment, regardless it had to take into account subjective interpretation.

In the new survey, the condition of persons in employment as part of the labour force is free from any ties of the opinion an individual interviewed has of his own condition.  In fact, an individual may be classified as in employment although it may perceive its own status differently.  At the same time, an individual may not fall within the criteria to be classified as in employment regardless it may be considered as such. The new survey has retained the question on the autoperception condition, this is now to be found after the classification sections concerning the interviewee's employment position.  This choice allows to compare the results obtained with the new criteria with those related to the subjective assessment on one's position in the labour market.

Additional characteristics of the new survey relate to the conditions that need to be verified to classify as in employment an individual absent from work. If the interviewee has not worked any hours, it is necessary to verify the existence of two requisites: the resumption of work after the period of absence and the length of absence that should not exceed three months.  For employees, the length of absence may be superior to three months if the pay received is at least equivalent to 50% of that prior to the beginning of the period of absence; for self-employed if the activity is in any case maintained.

The introduction of the variable "absence from work" compared to the quarterly survey, broadens the gap between the previous criteria founded on the autoperception and that centered on the verification of specific subjective conditions.  In the previous research, in fact, the only declaration of personal employment status also allowed an individual absent from work to be considered among those in employment, without verifying any of the conditions and time limit constraint.

The definition of persons seeking employment (of age between 15 and 74 years) is based on the following requisites:

  • known to be unemployed;
  • available to work (or start own activity) within two weeks following the interview;
  • having made at least an attempt to search for a new job (among those listed in the questionnaire) in the four weeks preceeding the interview.  This criterion is not applied to individuals unmployed who declare to have found work that will begin within three months from the interview date.  However it also applies to this group the requisite of the availability to start working within two weeks in the event it is likely to anticipate the commencement date.

Further changes made to the continuous survey relate to "secondary" aspects, such as the introduction of the maximum age limit referred to persons seeking employment, not foreseen in the previous survey; the verification of the and availability of those that will start a new job, both considerations excluded from the previous survey. 

To fill the gap of the previous research, the new survey gathers information on the coordinated and ongoing collaborations and on occasional work services.  The previous study, focused on the customary dichotomy between employees and self-employed workes, including those persons involved in "non standard" typology of work, could declare themselves and be classified as employees or self-employed workers.  In the new study, the position in the profession is instead surveyed by distinguishing collaborations and casual work whether it be employees or self employed workers.

The survey on temporary work features several innovations.  The new data allow in fact to intergrate those made available by administrative sources (in particular, INPS and INAIL), whose update of records is subject to delays.  There are two types of contracts included in the temporary work survey: supply contract and temporary contract.  In the supply contract, the supplying company identifies one or more workers for the receiving company.  In the contract for the supply of temporary workers, the supplying firm employs the worker who then is made available for the receiving company. The new analysis, provides additional information concerning the reasons for having opted for a part-time job, with particular attention to the need to reconcile the time spent at work and with family commitments. This choice, is linked to the possibility of accessing adequate services such as child care and/or other family member's care.

The most important innovations regarding the survey on the persons seeking employment, in line with what happens for part-time work, concern the estimate on the effect of the lack of welfare services.  In fact, the study contains a specific question, for those who declare that they are not looking for a job so as to take care of their children and/or family members. 

The range of answers to the questions regarding the reasons for the lack of participation on the labour market have been expanded. Compared to the quarterly survey, the information has been enhanced by subdividing family and personal reasons however isolating the topic-heading concerning marternity.  Again, an ulterior expansion derives from the verification of the time limit within which an individual begins his work activity.

With regards to the data on unemployment, the major changes of the survey relate to the actions made by the umemployed that have declared to be seeking employment.  For each action, in fact, a specific question (with explicit reference to the period in which the actions have been made), has been included to replace the only question with multiple choices contained in the previous survey.

Base Glossary

The following are the major definitions currently in use:

Working age populaton - persons aged 15 and over; they can be both in the labour force or not in the labour force.

Labour Force  - persons in employment and persons seeking employment.

Persons in employment - persons aged 15 and over who during the reference week:

  • worked at least one hour for pay or profit in any work activity;
  • worked at least one hour without pay in the family business where normally employed;
  • were temporarily absent from such work (for example, holidays or illness). Employees absent from work are considered in employment if the absence does not exceed three months, or if, during the absence, employees continue to earn at least 50 % of the wage.  Self-employed workers absent from work (with the exception of family workers), are considered in employment if, during the period of absence, they maintain their work activity. Family workers are considered in employment if the absence does not exceed three months.

Persons seeking employment - unemployed persons aged 15-74 that:

  • have made at least one active step to seek employment in the four-week period preceding the interview and are available for employment (or start their own business) before the end of the two weeks following the interview;
  • or will begin working within three months following the interview and are available to work (or start their own business), before the end of the two weeks following the interview, in the event it is possible to bring forward the commencement date.

Inactive - people not in the labour force.  They are neither employed nor searching a new job. 

Activity rate - persons in the labour force as a percentage of the population of the same age.

Employment rate - persons in employment as a percentage of the population of the same age.

Unemployment rate - unemployed persons as a percentage of people in the labour force.

The data published mainly relates to Italy, but also to territorial divisions, Regions and, limited to specific variables, and only on an annual basis, to the Provinces.


2. Irregular work

Underground economy is defined as the total of production activities of goods and services that are not surveyed by the Public Administrations. This may be caused by a fault in the statistical survey system (hidden statistics) or by the intention of the enterprise/individual not wishing to be identified so as to evade taxes and other regulations (underground economy). Underground economy can de divided into three categories:

  • Criminal economy: production and trade of illegal goods and services (drug production and trafficking, robbery, extorsions etc.) or activities carried out by unauthorised personnel (clandestine betting, illegal archaelogical excavations, etc.).
  • Informal economy: self-production or reciprocal exchange of goods and services among persons connected by social relationships (familiy, neighbourhood or friendship).
  • Irregular economy: production of legal goods and services but not declared to the local tax offices or to the social security. This note will only take into account this last category and will use the words underground economy and irregular economy as synonymous.

Underground economy, as such, is hidden and therefore difficult to verify. Its analysis is based on the interpretation "between the lines" of official data or based on survey methodologies that take into account the peculiarities and elusiveness of the phenomenon. This work has a double scope: firstly, help the Regional and Provincial Commissions to make the irregular work emerge and to help the local administrations and those interested in studying the phenomenon to read and interpret existing data. Secondly, to develop research methods and survey systems that may be useful to become better acquainted with the phenomenon of irregular economy and understand it. This is not meant to be exhaustive nor to impose standard working methods.  The objective is instead to think over more adequate research instruments that would favour better analyses of specific concrete situations.

3. Domestic work

Domestic workers are those who provide their services exclusively based on the household needs of the employer (housekeepers, waiters, cooks, nannies, maids etc.).

Employers of domestic workers must pay social contributions to INPS on a quarterly basis. Such payment is made by means of specific forms stating the number of hours worked and the number of weeks paid, the regular contributions referred to, periodically adjusted.

INPS's Observatory on Domestic Work provides a system of territorial data relating to the number of workers, weekly hours of work and nationality of domestic workers for whom at least a weekly contribution has been paid.

The sources for the creation of the Observatory on domestic work are the declarations of employment presented by the employers on the Forms LD09 and the postal payment receipts issued by INPS that are used for the quarterly payments (10 January, 10 April, 10 July, 10 October), of social contributions.

Declarations of employment contain, for each worker, data on sex, age and nationality while the payment slips provide a series of information on periods to which contributions relate, on the amounts paid, on the number of weekly hours paid and on standard contribution levels.

In particular, the following information is available:

  • details of INPS branch;
  • full name of the employer;
  • employer's address;
  • employer's commune of residence;
  • employer's postcode;
  • employer’s taxpayer’s code number;
  • date of reference;
  • employment’s start date;
  • employment’s termination date;
  • employee's full name;
  • employee's full address;
  • employee's date of birth;
  • employee's sex;
  • employee's nationality;
  • employee's taxpayer's code number;
  • numbers of hours paid (including leave, sick-leave, maternity leave, public holidays etc.);
  • hourly rate (including year-end bonus and the standard value of board and accommodation calculated on an hourly rate);
  • total amount of contributions paid during the year.

The Observatory provides time series that cover the last five-year period available. The first year that has been tabulated is 1991.

Data is generally updated every mid-year, re-tabulating the five-year time series by discarding the oldest year and including the most recent. 

Classification of the units and survey methods

The survey unit of this Observatory is the domestic worker. Since domestic workers often work for more than one employer, it occurs that for the same contribution period, the worker has more than one contribution form.

This problem has been overcome by gathering together the information concerning the same worker through the fiscal code.

All the Observatory's tables contain data on the number of workers who, during the year of reference, have at least one contribution payment, regardless the length of time.

The territory survey unit for domestic workers is the province where the domestic work is carried out.

The Observatory on domestic workers provides information concerning sex, age, the average number of weekly hours paid.

The same information is also available for foreign domestic workers.  This includes the geographical area of origin, according to the following 11 geographical groupings:

Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle-East, Philippines, other Asian countries, North Africa, Central and South Africa, North America, Central America, South America and Oceania.

Classification by age is based on the worker's age on 31 December of the year of reference and comprises the following age groups: up to 20 years, 21 -25, 26 - 30, 31 - 40, 41 - 50, 51 - 60, 61 - 65, over 65.

For each worker, the total number of annual working hours paid is calculated, thus including the hours of work paid by all the employers. This enabled to determine the average weekly number of hours paid. The classes of average weekly hours adopted are the following: up to 10 weekly hours, 11 - 20, 21 - 30, 31 - 40, 41 - 50, over 50.


4. Government Temporary Lay-off Indemnity

This is a Government fund which was established to help enterprises in difficulties and it provides salaries to temporarily laid-off workers.

Data on this topic are provided by INPS (Quarterly Bulletin) and it refers to the number of hours authorised for manual and non-manual workers, by type of intervention (ordinary or extraordinary).

The same data are collected, at a regional level, by the Regione Lombardia's Employment Policies Service; however, INPS has been chosen as the source for a number of tables, since the corresponding national values it can supply are homogeneous.

It should be noted that the number of "authorised" hours does not necessarily coincide with the number of hours used by the enterprises. Moreover, the legislation for granting such interventions has tightened.

As a rule, the two types of interventions are authorised respectively in the event of an unfavourable economic cycles ("ordinary" interventions) and in the event of reorganisation or sectoral and territorial crises ("extraordinary" interventions).


5. Labour disputes

The survey on labour disputes is carried out by the National Institute of Statistics that avails itself of the police offices to survey data in the provinces.

The updating of the calculation basis of the index number is undertaken to take into account the changes in the distribution of persons in employment and also to revise the diverse elements that constitute the gross compensation and working hours.  The new time series starting from December 2000 contains a new category: the study focuses on gross compensation of all categories of employees foreseen in the contract, with the exception of apprentices and managers. In the past the indexes included also the managers of the Public Administrations (with contracts, without a contract, such as magistrates).

The new time series allows to carry out a more comparable analysis regarding the dynamics of large aggregates such as: agriculture, industry, marketable services and the Public Administration.   The new index of  the last branch of the economic activity refers to employees. In fact, managers and executives are part of the calculation of the index although they are surveyed as in the past in order to determine indicators that relate to all professional positions.

The recalculation of the index basis constitutes the opportunity to extend the survey to new sectors of negotiations, not previously included.  Since December  2000 =100 basis, new category contracts have been included: Helicopter pilots; courier delivery express agencies; postal services let out on contract; motor-way enterprises and consortia; airport ground services; port services; waste disposal municipal utilities; Rai (Italian radio and televesion broadcasting company); private radio and television networks; fire brigade.


6. The Excelsior Information System

The Excelsior  information system

The Excelsior information system is based on information taken from administrative records (Register of Enterprises/REA, INPS - National Institute of Social Insurance, INAIL - National Institute against Occupational Accidents) and based on individual interviews with enterprises.

With regards to private enterprises, it allows to collect both at regional and provincial level, the following information:

  • the number of employees forecasted by enterprises over the next 18- 24 months, broken down by province, economic activity, enterprise size, employees professional status;
  • the job profiles most sought after by enterprises (as replacement or expansion in the number of employees
  • the job profiles indicated by the same enterprises as relevant, regardless of immediate requirements;
  • the amount of offers and the type of enterprises (broken down by economic activity, size class and territory);
  • replacement, growth or reduction rates forecasted for the different types of enterprises, broken down by economic activity, size class, territory.

Development of the survey system

The Excelsior information system has taken into account - for the development of the second survey on labour demand - private enterprises registered in the Register of Enterprises of the Chambers of Commerce that, as of 31.12.1996, had at least one employee and carried out an activity included in the NACE rev.1 - ATECO91 classification, not including:

  • agriculture, fishery and the operative units of the Public Administration,
  • public health enterprises,
  • public schools and Universities,
  • associations.

The third survey (referred to labour demand in the two-year period 1999-2000) does not include in the study field only the operative units of the Public Administration (including  public health enterprises, public schools and universities). The survey has also been extended, on a test basis, to agricultural holdings employing at least one worker (the relative outcomes by sector are not yet available).

In the fourth survey (2000) were introduced three new elements:

  • change of the survey period, from April-May to November-December, period considered by many enterprises more appropriate for the planning of forecasts on the occupational trend;
  • reduction of the forecast period from two to one year;
  • greater attention towards the provincial economic systems that allowed to obtain substantial data on sectors and/or branches of economic activities at a provincial level.

The fifth survey (2001) has instead confirmed the structure of the previous survey, with a few changes to the survey questionnaire with the aim of collecting data for a more precise identification of professional profiles indicated by the enterprises and, subsequently, the full adoption of the ISCO-88 classification as a grid showing the final results (back to the more detailed level of unit groups).

With the sixth survey (2002) were collected additional information in order to obtain further information concerning the experience required by the enterprises, the widespread practice of training courses, information on continuous training programmes offered by enterprises and the selection criteria adopted. Some changes concern the classification of professional profiles and the evaluation of the equivalent educational level (please refer to next paragraphs of this methodological note for further information).

The new elements of the seventh survey (2003, with forecasts on 31.12.2004) relate first of all to the availability of data regarding other levels of job classification (in particular referred to apprentices), the precise estimates of the number of pension leaves and the survey of further aspects concerning continuous training carried out by enterprises (internal costs and training days), and also a thorough focus on the motivations provided by the enterprises that do not foresee engagements;this last edition includes also updates in the classification of professional profiles.

The obserservation field of the seventh survey has not changed compared to the previsous one and it is represented by private enterprises registered in the Register of Enterprises of the Chamber of Commerce that, as at 31.12.2001, had at least one employee, with the exclusions of:

  • the operative units of the pubblic amministration,
  • the public health enterprises,
  • the school units and public universities
  • the associations.

From such groups have been excluded the enterprises that in the meantime have closed down (that is in 2002 and 2003) while enterprises that were established after 31.12.2001 have been included (above all large-sized enterprises and those potenitally large, that is likely to generate significant shares of new jobs).

For the larger-sized enterprises (with at least 100 employees) the basic data have been updated with more recent information, for example surveying the opening of new provincial units. 

Although the registration in the Register is not compulsary, the survey has taken into account the professional activities subject to the registration in the professional order lists. In general it relates to "professional offices", provided hey have an employee.

As customary, the units considered are the enterprise, the local unit and provincial unit (the provincial unit being the sum of the local units of an enterprise operating in the same province; the relative number of persons employed corresponds to the sum of workers employed in the same province). The definitions of the above units are consistent with those used by ISTAT.

The enterprises registered in the Enterprises Register at 31.12.2001 and being part of the sections included in the observation field were around 5.794.000, of which 4.748.000 in the non-agricultural sectors and 1.046.000 in agriculture and fisheries. Not all were active at the date of reference nor, were all the variables clearly defined, that is "economic activity, number of employess and self-employed workers, address of local units" necessary to devise the sample scheme.

In order to identify all the enterprises that could be considered active and those that, employing at least one worker, were included in the observation field, as well as in order to integrate and eventually correct the information on the variable levels, a comparaison was undertaken between the records of the Register and those of other Administration registers whose data are then included in the Index of Economic and Administrative Information (REA), linked to the Register of Enterprises and held by each Chamber of Commerce. In particular, reference data was taken from the National Institute of Social Security (INPS) and from the National Institute for Insurance against Occupational accidents (INAIL).  The integration of statistical data from the diverse administrative archives has led to the definition of:

  • lists of enterprises and of provincial units, containing the stratification variables: economic activity, number of persons employed and number of employees, localisation (region and province), juridical form and years in business of an enterprise;
  • tables relative to the structure of enterprises, to the local and provincial units and to the relative number of persons employed at 31.12.2001, broken down by economic activity, size, localisation, juridical form (these tables contain relevant information and at the same time "the section on provincial units with employees" has been the basis used to compare data with the results of the Excelsior survey).

All the questionnaires used for the survey have been checked to verify the consistency between the various information gathered. Verifications have been carried out both on quantitative data (number of persons employed, number of new appointments etc.), and on qualitative data (professions identified, educational levels etc.). During the telephone interview, (or during the data entry of questionnaires of enterprises employing more than 250 workers) it was automatically carried out the "on line" verification regarding the "adjustment" of quantitative data present in the diverse sections of the questionnaire. In a subsequent phase the information on the professional profiles and on other elements surveyed through the questionnaire were verified and checked to assert their coherence.

In conclusion, it must be remembered that two are the main objectives of the Excelsior Project:

  • the calculation of the actual professional demand of the different territorial areas in the labour market (currently defined as an administrative provincial unit with the addition of information gathered in experimental micro-areas) in order to support public and private enterprises in their effort to match labour offer and demand.
  • to help the Government and other bodies with the introduction of appropriate changes in the educational and training sectors through the provision of detailed information on the needs of employers in the short and medium terms.



Central Directorate for communication and public relations
Via Ciro il Grande 21 00144 - Roma
Tel. 06-59051

Unione Italiana delle Camere di Commercio (Italian Association of the Chambers of Commerce)

P.za Sallustio 21 00187 - Roma
Tel 06-4704.1

Data aggiornamento: 
November, 2017