Throughout his career Dr Standing has sought to provide sound empirical evidence to underpin his conceptual thinking about labour market developments and their policy implications. During his thirty years at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and subsequently, he has been involved in a large number of research and advisory projects, carried out in a broad range of countries, often in collaboration with senior government officials and ministers, and also with many academics. Much of this work has been in developing countries, but in the 1990s Dr Standing worked extensively in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, for part of that time directing the ILO’s technical and advisory policy work in the region. He has also carried out studies in several western European countries.
Dr Standing has designed and conducted household surveys or establishment surveys in over 25 countries, analysing the resultant data, as well as providing training and supervising fieldwork. In the 1980s, he organized a series of nine ILO country studies in Western Europe on labour market flexibility and unemployment. He has directed several large projects with numerous participants, including research in the mid-1990s to assist the new post-apartheid South African Government plan reforms of labour market and social protection policy.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Dr Standing developed the design, application and analysis of Enterprise Labour Flexibility Surveys (ELFS), which gathered detailed information on labour and social practices of enterprises through interviews with managers and employers. Data on over 20,000 enterprises were collected in ELFS conducted in Albania, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Georgia, Hungary, India, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Ukraine.
Dr Standing subsequently developed a complementary survey instrument, the People’s Security Surveys. These were household surveys examining the incidence and causes of social and economic insecurities, and the difficulties encountered by households and individuals in improving their “well-being” and working lives. In partnerships with government statistical offices and with local universities, these were conducted between 1999 and 2006 in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China (three provinces), Ethiopia, Ghana, Gujarat (India), Hungary, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ukraine (five rounds), Namibia and Mozambique. In total, over 82,000 households were covered.
Since 2006, Dr Standing has been involved in survey research in India, in partnership with SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association of India). One project, which explored his concept of "social income", has been published as Social Income and Insecurity: A Study in Gujarat, with Jeemol Unni, Renana Jhabvala and Uma Rani (New Delhi: Routledge, 2010). He was more recently involved in a number of pilot basic income projects in India, the results of which have been published in Sarath Davala, Renana Jhabvala, Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Guy Standing, Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (London and New Delhi: Bloomsbury, 2015) and in a detailed report.