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Women in Informal Employment:
Globalizing and Organizing

Available now for download:

Statistics on the Informal Economy

by Joann Vanek, Martha Alter Chen, Fran�oise Carr�, James Heintz and Ralf Hussmanns.
WIEGO Working Paper No. 2, 2014, Cambridge, MA, USA: WIEGO.


About this publication


Statistics on the Informal Economy: Definitions, Regional Estimates & Challenges presents new regional estimates on informal employment based on direct measures from 40 countries and indirect measures from another 80 countries. James Heintz (University of Massachusetts) prepared the regional estimates.

The publication serves as a companion to a publication jointly produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and WIEGO titled Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture, 2nd Edition. The first edition of Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture, published in 2002, contained regional estimates based on data from just 25 countries. The new regional estimates represent advances, including the availability of more and better data and the use of a more sophisticated, robust analytic approach that combines direct and indirect measures.


The new publication contains four sections:

  • The first describes the official international statistical definitions related to the informal economy.
  • The second presents the latest regional estimates of informal employment in developing and transition countries. These show that informal employment comprises more than one-half of non-agricultural employment in most regions of the developing world - specifically 82 per cent in South Asia, 66 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, 65 per cent in East and Southeast Asia and 51 per cent in Latin America. In addition, informal employment is 33 per cent of non-agricultural employment in urban China. Estimates of the composition and segmentation of the labour market for the regions are also presented.
  • The third section discusses the application of the concept of informal employment to developed countries; a large share of employment arrangements in these countries offer unpredictable duration, limited benefits and social protection, and would likely be considered informal in developing countries.
  • The final section provides a plan of action for how statistics can be improved for the purposes of research and policy development. It also makes the case for applying a common statistical framework - specifically, the informal employment framework - to both developed and developing countries, while acknowledging related challenges.  

For more WIEGO Working Papers and to access WIEGO Statistical Briefs please visit WIEGO's website.


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