Women and men in the informal economy - Statistical picture


The files and databases are part of the activities jointly undertaken by the ILO and WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing). A final publication is forthcoming.

Data sources: The statistics presented in the different files were prepared on the basis of data obtained from a range of sources: responses to a questionnaire, which the ILO Department of Statistics had sent to countries to request data and meta-data on employment in the informal economy; special tabulations of national survey data accessible to the ILO and to WIEGO, including the household survey micro-data base held by the ILO/SIALC (Panama) for Latin American countries; extracts from survey reports, etc. The primary data source were national labour force surveys in most cases, and informal sector surveys, living standards measurement surveys or other household surveys in some other cases.

The data refer to non-agricultural employment, i.e. they exclude employment in agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing activities (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation categories A-B). Employment in non-agricultural activities is classified into: manufacturing incl. mining & quarrying and electricity, gas & water supply (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation categories C-E); construction (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation category F); trade incl. hotels & restaurants (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation categories G-H); transportation (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation category I); and services other than trade and transportation (ISIC, Rev. 3, Tabulation categories J-Q). Wage employment refers to employees, and self-employment to the sum of employers, own-account workers, members of producersí cooperatives (if any), and contributing family workers.

Persons with more than one job during the survey reference period were classified as being employed in the informal sector or in an informal job on the basis of the characteristics of their main job. The same applies to their classification by kind of economic activity (industry) or by status in employment.



Concepts and Definitions of informality

The conceptual framework for the statistical measurement of informal employment adopted by the ILO International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) distinguishes between informality from the perspective of production units as observation units on the one hand, and that of jobs as observation units on the other. Thus, two concepts are involved: employment in the informal sector referring to employment in informal enterprises, and informal employment referring to employment in informal jobs. The databases presents data on:

"(i) Employment in the informal sector, including formal employment (if any) in the informal sector, i.e. employees holding formal jobs in informal enterprises.
(ii) Informal employment outside the informal sector, i.e. employees holding informal jobs in formal enterprises (incl. government units and non-profit-institutions), as paid domestic workers employed by households, or as contributing family workers in formal enterprises.
(iii) Total informal employment, excluding employees with formal jobs in informal enterprises."

The informal sector was defined by the 15th ICLS (1993) as private unincorporated enterprises that are unregistered or small in terms of the number of employed persons. An enterprise is unincorporated if it is not constituted as a separate legal entity independently of its owner(s) and does not maintain a complete set of accounts. Units engaged in the production of goods or services exclusively for own final use by the household are excluded, as are enterprises engaged in agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing. National statistical definitions of the informal sector vary to some extent; however, the countries, for which data are presented here, all use informal sector definitions in line with the international definition.

Informal employment was defined by the 17th ICLS (2003) as encompassing: (a) own-account workers and employers employed in their own informal enterprises; (b) members of informal producersí cooperatives (not established as legal entities), if any; (c) own-account workers producing goods exclusively for own final use by their household (if considered employed given that the production comprises an important contribution to the total household consumption and is included in the national definition of employment); (d) contributing family workers in formal or informal enterprises; and (e) employees holding informal jobs in formal enterprises, informal enterprises, or as paid domestic workers employed by households. In line with the international definition, countries for which data are shown, define employees holding informal jobs as employees not covered by social security as employed persons, or as employees not entitled to other employment benefits.


Files with extension "xls" are Microsoft Excel workbooks compatible with Excel versions 1997-2003. Files with extension "xlsx" are Microsoft Excel workbooks only compatible with Excel versions of 2007 and after. Both files formats can be opened using most spreadsheet software, including the free spreadsheet software included in the open office suite that can be downloaded from: http://www.openoffice.org/.