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Informal Economy Topic(s): Statistics on the Informal Economy

Statistical Picture

To inform economic and social policies, statistics on the size, composition, contribution, and other dimensions of the informal economy are needed. As a relatively new area of statistical development, until recently only limited data have been available on informal employment and the informal economy.

What follows is a summary of available data on the size and composition of the informal economy in developing countries and non-standard work in developed countries.

The Development of Statistics on the Informal Economy

The Development of Statistics on the Informal Economy

Developing Concepts and Definitions

At the 1991 International Labour Conference, the informal sector was a topic for tripartite debate. This was the first time the informal sector was featured as a major agenda item in an international conference. In 1992, the ILO Bureau of Statistics prepared a report called “Statistics on Employment in the Informal Sector” as the basis for discussion at the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) the following year.

Concepts, Definitions & Methods

This section of the website provides interested users of statistics on informal employment with information to maximize the use of available data and to begin discussions with producers of these statistics to better meet their data needs. Dialogue and collaboration between statisticians and users of statistics is key to producing timely data that informs policy. (See, for example, "Improving statistics on informal employment in India: the role of users.") 

Challenges of Gathering Statistics on Street Vendors

Finding reliable data on the size of the street vending population in any given city can be challenging. Official statistics on street vendors are available only in a few countries. The box below explains.

Economic Contribution of the Informal Economy

The contribution of economic activities in the informal sector to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or Gross Value Added (GVA) provides a key indicator for measuring not only the performance of the informal economy but also the economy as a whole.

WIEGO and WIEGO-Related Publications on Statistics

The following recent WIEGO and WIEGO-related publications provide data on informal employment and employment in the informal sector, as well as information on measurement methods relating to these concepts.

Gender Differences in the Structure of Employment

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed this set of indicators for monitoring progress of the Millenium Goal 3 on gender equality and the empowerment of women.






Share in total employment (both sexes = 100.0 %)

Statistics Meetings on the Informal Economy

International Expert Group on Informal Sector Statistics,
"The Delhi Group"

Delhi Group on Informal Sector Statistics - Brief History and Purpose
All meeting reports

Measuring Informal Employment in Developed Countries

Harvard University
Cambridge MA, USA
October 31-November 1, 2008

Closing the Gender Data Gap

On July 19, 2012, the US State Department and Gallup co-organized a conference in Washington, DC on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap”.