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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentEconomic activity
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View the documentEmployers' organizations
View the documentEmployment injury benefit
View the documentEmployment-intensive works programmes
View the documentEmployment policy and promotion
View the documentEquality of opportunity and treatment in employment
View the documentEqual remuneration (pay)
View the documentExport-processing zones
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Economic activity

The terms "labour force", "economically active population", "economic activity" and "economic participation" all refer to the same international definition of the "economically active population". Statisticians use the term "economic activity" rather than "work".

The definition of economic activity has been broadened over the years to cover the supply of labour for the production of economic goods and services as defined by the United Nations System of National Accounts (SNA). The economically active population includes persons who actually produce goods and services, as well as those who are willing and available to do so, but do not produce them. The SNA includes the production of goods and services for the market and the production of goods in households for their own consumption, but excludes unpaid services for the consumption of the household which produces them. These services are commonly known as "housework", including activities such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children and other family members.

The ILO defines economic activity as "all work for pay or in anticipation of profit" and specifies that the production of economic goods and services includes the production and processing of agricultural products and the production of other goods for home consumption.

Although the proportion of women who are economically active has been rising over the last decades, women's participation in economic activities has been, and still is, substantially underestimated in all regions of the world and does not, in any case, include unpaid housework.

→ see also Housework and Labour statistics

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