The Persistence and Change of Classification in Official Statistics: The Case of Forced Labour.

Theresa Wobbe, University of Potsdam

This paper deals with the historical dynamics of official statistics, with classification and reclassification, with the persistence and change of once defined categories and the invention of new ones. Right from the start, statisticians of labour statistics had to struggle with the creation of basic categories, drawing boundaries between social phenomena, and establishing broader classifications. Around 1900, the dynamics of creating labour categories and making them comparable resulted in the institutionalization of a strict differentiation between housework and gainful employment in occupational statistics. Since then, housework as waged domestic work and family work are attributed economic activities, while ‘all types of housework’ are lumped together with non-economic activities. Whereas housework is excluded from economic activities, but is mentioned in measurement schemes and manuals, forced labour has not even been thematized in the classification system of labour statistics. Only recently, the International Labour Organization (ILO) attempts to create forced labour as a statistical object. The paper will discuss how the ILO is coming to terms with this challenge, and what we can learn from this case about the nature of fabricating “data”.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 49. The Data of Labor History