Statistics on the informal economy

In many countries, informal employment represents a significant part of the economy and labour market and plays a major role in production, employment creation and income generation. However, informality puts workers at a higher risk of vulnerability and precariousness. Indeed, informality has a strong adverse impact on the adequacy of earnings, occupational safety and health and working conditions in general.

In the context of fragmented labour markets or insufficient social safety nets or where wages and/or working hours in formal jobs are low, workers may resort to informal employment. Thus, key labour indicators such as the unemployment rate and time-related underemployment would fail to convey a full picture of the labour market.

Statistics on informal employment provide valuable information on the quality of employment and are crucial to a comprehensive understanding of the labour market, in both developing and developed countries.

Table of Contents

Featured publication

Spotlight on Work Statistics: aid employment vs vulnerable employment

Paid employment vs vulnerable employment

Find out the latest trends in employment by status category and how paid employment compares to vulnerable employment around the world in Paid employment vs vulnerable employment, the third issue of our series Spotlight on Work Statistics.



Indicator description: Informal employment and informal sector

Indicator descriptions provide a concise overview of concepts and definitions, uses, sources and limitations.

Guidebook on SDG Labour Market Indicators

Decent Work and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Guidebook on SDG Labour Market Indicators

This Guidebook provides a detailed overview of the labour market indicators included in the Sustainable Development Goals Global Indicator Framework. It is intended to serve as a manual of best practices for calculating and interpreting the SDG labour market indicators, with a view to monitoring progress made at the national and international levels towards the achievement of the SDGs.

Decent Work Indicators: Concepts and definitions

Decent Work Indicators - Guidelines for producers and users of statistical and legal framework indicators

Decent work is central to sustainable poverty reduction and is a means for achieving equitable, inclusive and sustainable development. The ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization recommends the establishment of appropriate indicators to monitor the progress made in the implementation of the ILO Decent Work Agenda. The ILO is supporting member States through technical assistance and capacity building at national, sub-regional and regional levels in this regard.

A statistical manual on the informal sector and informal employment

Measuring informality: A statistical manual on the informal sector and informal employment

This manual is intended for national statistical offices and other producers of statistics planning programmes to produce statistics on the informal sector and informal employment. The manual provides technical guidance on implementing international standards, presenting alternative measurement methodologies along with examples based on national experience, and includes guidelines for the dissemination of statistics on the informal sector and informal employment.

Guidelines concerning a statistical definition of informal employment

Guidelines concerning a statistical definition of informal employment

Adopted by the 17th ICLS (2003), these guidelines complement the resolution concerning statistics of employment in the informal sector of the 15th ICLS, and encourages countries to test the conceptual framework on which they are based.

Resolution concerning statistics of employment in the informal sector

Adopted by the 15th ICLS (1993), this resolution provides technical guidelines as a basis for the development of suitable definitions and classifications of informal sector activities and the design of appropriate data collection methods and programmes, in the hopes such standards will enhance the international comparability of statistics.

Discussion paper from the Working Group for the Revision of the standards for statistics on informality

The ILO established a working group for the revision of the standards for statistics on informality.  The revision will lead to the replacement of the existing standards of informality with a coherent set of statistical standards which conceptually and operationally define the different concepts necessary for measurement of work and economic activity the informal economy.

Need Help?

Here are the basics to use the data catalogue

For more info, visit our Get started page!

Or feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.

Use filters above the table

Use the search feature to enter key words. On the data page, you can also filter the database and select a frequency to find monthly, quarterly, or annual indicators. While all indicators are available for annual periods, only a subset are available as monthly or quarterly. 

Options to access data

Data available in the Excel summary files are for indicators only (not available for countries or regions) for selected classification items for 2010 onward for annual data and 2018 onward for short-term indicators. For historical data or additional classifications, either use the Data Explorer or download the CSV file. 

Download a zipped CSV file (gzip) to get data in bulk. These files contain only codes. Download the dictionary with labels here

There are other options to access data in the data tools section

The option provides an intuitive interface to filter the selection, including for all available breakdowns (e.g., sex and age), and export the data into various formats.