“Statistics have power… When statistics are in the hands of activists, then struggles are strengthened.” – Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association.
The Power of Statistics
Statistics on the size, composition, contribution, and other dimensions of the informal economy can help inform economic and social policies.
In fact, data analysis suggests that informal work is the dominant mode of works in most towns and cities in the developing world.
Regional estimates compiled between 2004-2010 show that more than half of the non-agricultural workforce in developing regions is informally employed:
- 82% in South Asia
- 66% in Sub-Saharan Africa
- 65% in East and South East Asia
- 51% in Latin America
- 45% in the Middle East and North Africa
City Level Statistics
Informal employment as a percentage on non agricultural employment:
- 7 West African cities (Abidjan, Bamako, Cotonou, Dakar, Lome, Niamey, and Ouagadougou) on average, 80%
- Lima, Peru, 59%
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 54% (Herrera, et al., 2011)
- Buenos Aires, Argentina, 45% (Esquivel, 2010)
- Gauteng City region in South Africa, 25% (Wills, 2009).
Worker Group Statistics
- home-based workers – 18% of the urban employment in India (Chen and Raveendran, 2011)
- street vendors – 11% of urban employment in India (Chen and Raveendran, 2011); 5% of urban employment in South Africa (Wills, 2009)
- waste pickers – about 1% of urban employment in many countries.
Informal Sector Contribution to Gross Domestic Product
While individual incomes are often low, cumulatively the informal economy makes a significant contribution to economy. The contribution of economic activities in the informal sector to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Value Added provides a key indicator for measuring the performance of the informal economy and the economy as a whole.
Women and Men in the Informal Economy 2nd Edition (ILO/WIEGO 2013) estimates the informal sector’s contribution to the GVA for about 30 countries:
- The contribution is highest in the countries of West Africa. For example, in Benin, Niger, and Togo, the informal sector, excluding agriculture, accounts for more than 50% of non-agricultural GVA.
- In India, the contribution of the informal sector to the economy was 46% of non-agricultures GVA in 2008.
- In Guatemala and Colombia, the contribution of the informal economy to the non-agricultural GVA was over 30%.
In Mexico, the share of the GDP contributed by the informal economy between 2003-2012 dropped slightly from around 27% to a still significant 25%.
WIEGO Working Papers (Statistics):
Vanek, Joann et al. 2014. Statistics on the Informal Economy: Definitions, Regional Estimates & Challenges. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 2.
Wills, Gabrielle. 2009. South Africa’s Informal Economy: A Statistical Profile. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 6.
Chen, Martha and G. Raveendran. 2011. Urban Employment in India: Recent Trends and Patterns. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 7.
Esquivel, Valeria. 2010. The Informal Economy in Greater Buenos Aires: A Statistical Profile. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 8.
Herrera, Javier, Mathias Kuépié, Christophe J. Nordman, Xavier Oudin and François Roubaud. 2012. Informal Sector and Informal Employment: Overview of Data for 11 Cities in 10 Developing Countries. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 9.
Mahmud, Simeen. 2014. Home-Based Workers in Bangladesh: Statistics and Trends. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 12.
Raveendran, Govindan and Joann Vanek. 2013. Statistics on Home-Based Workers in Nepal. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 11.
Raveendran, Govindan et al. 2013. Home-Based Workers in India: Statistics and Trends. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 10.
Aktar, Sajjad and Joann Vanek. 2013. Home-Based Workers in Pakistan: Statistics and Trends. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 9.
Vanek, Joann and Chen, Martha A. and Raveendran, Govindran. 2012. A Guide to Obtaining Data on Types of Informal Workers in Official Statistics. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 8.
Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Measuring Informal Employment in South Africa: The New Quarterly Labour Force Survey. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 7.
Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Ghana. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 6.
Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Kenya. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 5.
Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Brazil. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 4.
Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in South Africa. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 3.
Given their mobility, street vendors are a particularly difficult worker group to collect data on. The WIEGO / Inclusive Cities street vendor sector specialist, Sally Roever, has pulled together a guide and resource pack on how best to conduct street traders’ censuses. These methods were tested in StreetNet’s census of street vendors in the Durban area.
Roever, Sally. 2011. How to Plan a Street Trader Census. WIEGO Technical Brief (Urban Policies) No. 2.