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"But it's not the same thing!" Using National Labour Data in Cross-National Comparative Studies on Precarious Employment

Presenter 1
Walter Giesbrecht
York University

Attempting to compare labour data from different countries or regions can be fraught with danger, since definitions of concepts can vary tremendously, and gaps exist in the data collected. Apparently similar concepts such as part-time work, or permanent vs. temporary employment, are often not strictly comparable using published aggregate data. Surveys designed to gather data for national policy reasons do not automatically generate data that are comparable for use in cross-national studies. Harmonizing these concepts and definitions involves considering their deployment in national contexts in order to assure that cross-national comparisons are truly comparing likes with likes. The Comparative Perspectives Database (still under development) is a project that is attempting to generate comparative multi-dimensional data tables on aspects of precarious employment, using the microdata from a total of seven surveys spanning thirty countries (Canada, United States, European Union (EU-27) and Australia). I will discuss in detail some of the problems we encountered in producing a codebook that would allow us to produce useful cross-national data tables, as well as describe other similar projects conducted elsewhere.

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