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Work modalities

The term “work modality” refers to the ways in which work is coordinated, performed, and compensated over time and space. This excludes aspects of the work relationship itself, including the “nature of the economic risk and authority that individuals experience at work” and “the strength and nature of the attachment of workers to the economic units in which or for which they work” which are covered by the International Classification of Status in Employment 2018 (ICSE-18).

Unlike status in employment categories, an important feature of work modalities is the additive property of its main aspects – the ability to consider a combination of modalities as part of statistical measurement. In other words, a job could be classified in terms of each broad modality.  

There are five broad work modality aspects:
1) Working time 
2) Work location 
3) The electronic allocation and supervision of work tasks 
4) Forms of remuneration and payment 
5) Cooperation within and across organizations

In addition, the statistical concept of informality has the same statistical properties as a work modality since it cross-cuts status in employment categories. However, informality occupies a unique position within the forms of employment framework, since it can be an aspect of either the economic unit (informal sector) or of the job (informal employment) and reflects whether the economic unit and the job are effectively recognized and covered by formal arrangements such as commercial law, labour law and the social protection system.

Working time

Based on the concepts of the Resolution concerning the measurement of working-time of the 18th ICLS, the working time modality is organized around four subdimensions: the length, timing, flexibility and variability of working time. Each of these sub dimensions covers specific modalities that can be featured in a job. For example, modalities of the length of working time include full-time and part-time employment, as well as overtime, while the flexibility of work hours focuses on the ability of workers to control their schedule and total work hours in the context of their job.

A summary of each sub dimension along with key examples is provided HERE

Work location

Statistics on work location are organized around four core concepts: types of workplaces, alternative work locations, frequency, and the degree of mobility. In addition, statistics may be collected on the jurisdictions or countries in which employees, employers and clients are located.

The Resolution concerning statistics on work relationships of the 20th ICLS describes three broad types of workplaces in which work may be conducted, and several subcategories within each type:

  • fixed places of work outside the home
  • no fixed place of work
  • work at home

However, where a worker actually works may differ from the location where work is typically expected to be carried out given the status and profession of the worker. According to a 2020 technical note from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), identifying where a worker is expected to work – the “default place of work” – is necessary to determine if the worker works in an alternative location and engages in remote work or telework.

  • Remote work: is defined by the ILO as “situations where the work is fully or partly carried out on an alternative worksite other than the default place of work.”   
  • Telework: is a subcategory of remote work where personal electronic devices such as a computer, tablet or telephone (mobile or landline) are used to perform the work, and where the use of the personal electronic device is an essential part of the work.

Finally, more information may be collected on the frequency at which workers work in different locations or engage in remote work or telework, as well as the number of locations where workers carry out their work (the degree of mobility). 

The electronic allocation and supervision of work tasks

Digitalisation and technological progress have added a newly emerging dimension of management through technologies involving algorithms or automation. Indeed, the concept of ‘algorithmic management’ is increasingly discussed at both a policy and operational level. Based on the work of Wood (2021) and Kellogg et al. (2020), it refers to “computer-programmed procedures that use input data to remotely manage workers and coordinate work tasks in order to obtain a desired output”.

The emergence of algorithmic management has occurred in parallel with the appearance and growth of digital platform employment. However, it should be noted that algorithmic management may also occur as part of employer-employee relationships without the involvement of a third-party platform.

According to a forthcoming definition jointly developed by the EU, the ILO, the OECD, and other national statistical agencies, digital platforms relevant to digital platform employment are defined as:

 “digital interface[s] that generate economic and/or social value and that directly or indirectly intermediate between three distinctive agents (the owner of the platform, the provider of labour services, and the final user of the goods and services produced). The digital platform provides services and tools that remain under the control of the economic unit that owns it and enables that economic unit to exercise some degree of control over the productive activities (i.e. work) carried out by the provider and to monitor the work process on the digital platform.” 

Digital platforms of particular interest to employment statistics are those which mediate work, which includes:

-online web-based platforms, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk and Upwork, where work is carried out remotely

-location-based platforms, such as Uber and TaskRabbit, where the worker is required to perform in-person tasks

The degree of control exercised by the platform may be a factor in the statistical classification of status in employment. For instance, while most digital platforms pay workers as independent contractors, in some cases, digital platforms may exercise enough control over key aspects of the work so that workers would be classified as dependent contractors based on ICSE-18.

Forms of remuneration and payment 

The way in which employment is compensated can evolve alongside changes in legislation, business practices and technology. This broad work modality aspect covers three sub dimensions: forms of remuneration, variable remuneration schemes, and forms of payment.

A form of remuneration refers to the basis on which a payment is made, rather than the method of payment itself (e.g. cash, in-kind, bank transfer).  The Resolution concerning statistics on work relationships of the 20th ICLS refers to six forms of remuneration which should be covered by statistical programmes: for time worked, by the piece, commission, fee for services, determined by profit or loss, and tips from clients.

The remuneration of independent workers in household market enterprises, dependent contractors, contributing family workers, and owner-operators of corporations is variable by definition as a result of being partly or entirely determined by profit or loss. However, employees may also receive part of their remuneration through variable remuneration schemes that reward workers based on results, performance, or profit.

Finally, forms of payment refer to the means by which workers are compensated, which includes, cash, cheques, digital wage payments, and vouchers, among others.

Cooperation within and across organizations

The cooperation modality refers to the ways in which workers collaborate with each other as part of their work. Some National Statistical Offices (NSO) may place less importance on collecting and disseminating data on this modality, particularly if a specific form of cooperation is relatively uncommon in the country.

Key forms of cooperation include worker cooperatives, teamwork, and umbrella organizations for independent workers.


Informality covers the concepts of the informal sector (defined at the level of the economic unit) and informal employment (defined at the level of the job).

According to the Resolution concerning statistics of employment in the informal sector of the 15th ICLS: the informal sector consists of unincorporated enterprises owned by households which: 

“operate at a low level of organisation, with little or no division between labour and capital as factors of production and on a small scale. Labour relations – where they exist – are based mostly on casual employment, kinship or personal and social relations rather than contractual arrangements with formal guarantees.”.

Based on the Guidelines concerning a statistical definition of informal employment from the 17th ICLS, informal employment is the total number of informal jobs, “whether carried out in formal sector enterprises, informal sector enterprises, or households, during a given reference period,”. The criteria used to determine whether a worker has an informal job varies depending on the type of work relationship. For example, all contributing family workers are considered to be in informal employment, whereas employees are deemed to have an informal job if they are not subject to labour legislation, social protection, income taxation etc.

The ILO has initialized work on developing a new set of standards on informality that will draw from existing definitions and country practices and be aligned with the most recent statistical standards for measuring work, contributing to increased global coverage and harmonisation. The new set of standards is expected to be presented and discussed at the 21st ICLS in 2023.



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