THE CONCEPT OF LABOUR FORCE. Labour force can be defined as the total number of persons available to supply the labour for the production of economic goods and services.

summary of labour force

In other words, it is the total number of people of working age in a country who are able and willing by law to work. It is the active or working population and it comprises all persons who have jobs and those who are seeking for jobs in the labour market.

They are normally found between the age bracket of 18 to 65years. Working population varies from one country to another.

To be a member of the labour force, one must be of a working age (18 – 65years), be able-bodied, i.e. not handicapped either mentally or physically, and must be willing to work.

Persons that are not members of the labour force in any society


  • Children of school age (0 – 17years)
  • The elderly (above 65years)
  • The handicapped (either physical or mental)
  • Persons even though they are able-bodied but are unwilling to work


Size of population of a country: The larger the population, the greater the number of labour to be supplied.

Official school leaving age: If the school leaving age is low, the proportion of labour force will be high.

Retirement age: The age of exit in public employment will determine the labour force. The older the age the more the supply      of labour and vice versa.

Pursuit of higher education: Many people in their pursuit of higher education, go beyond the official entry age into the labour force.

Age structure of the population of labour force

: The structure of a country’s population is a significant determinant of the size of the labour force. The lower the dependant people, the higher the supply of labour and vice versa.

In other words, the labour force will increase in a country with a greater number of its people between the ages of 18 and 65years.

Role of women in the society: In some societies, women are usually prevented from engaging in gainful employment because of religious belief, social and cultural factors and this affects the size of labour force.

Number of working hours and working days: The number of working hours per day and the number of working days in a week or a year also helps to determine the supply of labour.

The number of disabled: When the number of disabled persons is high especially within the working population, the supply for labour will be low.

The number of people unwilling to work: There are certain numbers of able-bodied people who are also between the age bracket of 18 and 65 years but are unwilling to work. If their population is high, it will affect the size of supply of labour.

how Migration affects labour force

The rate of migration can also affect the size of labour force. If the rate at which the working population leaves a country is higher than the rate at which people come in, it will lead to reduction in the supply of labour.

Trade union activities: The activities of trade union may also affect the supply of supply. For example, when a long period of training is imposed on a certain trade, this may discourage people from engaging in such trade or profession leading to a reduction in supply of labour.

Government policies: Certain government policies can affect the supply of labour. E.g. specific laws are made to exclude children and women from working in ministries. This can reduce the supply of labour to that are or field.

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