Links with Poverty: Data Sources

This summarizes findings from several recent sets of country-level data analyses that considered the average earnings and/or the poverty risk of different segments of the labour force, both formal and informal.

1. The first set is the analysis of national data in five countries – Egypt, El Salvador, India, Russia and South Africa – commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute-Global Policy Network (EPI-GPN) for a comparative workforce development project funded by the Ford Foundation. Following a common framework of questions, these analyses all studied the links between macroeconomic processes and labour force development (though they varied in the measures used). Most importantly, for our purposes here, they also disaggregated the labour force by formal and informal employment, men and women.

2. A second set is the analysis of national data in five countries – Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, and South Africa – commissioned by the WIEGO network for the 2005 issue of UNIFEM’s flagship publication Progress of the World’s Women. Following a common data tabulation plan, these analyses were designed to a) distinguish workers not only by the main categories – formal and informal, agricultural and non-agricultural – but also by the employment statuses within them; and b) link employment data with household income data.

While there is an overlap in three countries – Egypt, El Salvador, and South Africa – between these first two sets of country cases, there are also important differences between them. The EPI-GPN set of country cases was designed to look at broad trends in unemployment; formal and informal employment; and, where possible, earnings. The UNIFEM-WIEGO set of data analyses was designed to look in depth at the links between employment status (formal and informal), earnings and household poverty at a single point in time. In the three countries that were common to the two sets of analysis – Egypt, El Salvador, and South Africa – the data sources and years were roughly comparable.

All of the data for the EPI-GPN and UNIFEM-WIEGO studies were from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The data sources and years for the three common countries were as follows:

  • Egypt/EPI-GPN: Egyptian Labor Market Survey (ELMS 1998) and Labor Force Sample Survey (LFSS) 1990 and 2001
  • Egypt/UNIFEM-WIEGO: ELMS 1998 and the Micro and Small Enterprise Survey (MSE) 2003
  • El Salvador/EPI-GPN: the Multi-Purpose Household Survey 1991-2002
  • El Salvador/UNIFEM-WIEGO: Encuesta de Hogares de Propositos Multiples (EHPM) 2003
  • South Africa/EPI-GPN: various sources before 2000, October Household Survey 2000, and Labor Force Survey 2000-3
  • South Africa/UNIFEM-WIEGO: Labor Force Survey September 2003

The data sources for the two additional countries in the UNIFEM-WIEGO set are:

  • Costa Rica: Encuesta Permanente de Hogares de Propositos Multiples 2003
  • India: National Sample Survey 1999-2000 (55th. round) and 2000 “Report on Statistical Studies Relating to Informal Economy in India” by N.S. Sastry

3. A third relevant analysis is a compilation of data for 14 countries by Jacques Charmes. For all countries, Charmes compares data on the average monthly income of micro-entrepreneurs (i.e., informal employers who hire others) and the average monthly wage of employees of micro-enterprises, both expressed as multiples of the legal minimum wage level in those countries.
The 14 countries whose national data was compiled by Jacques Charmes include: Morocco and Tunisia in Northern Africa; Benin, Burkina Faso (street vendors only), Chad, Ethiopia (urban), Gabon, Kenya, Mali, and Niger in Sub-Saharan Africa; Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico (all urban) in Latin America; and India and Indonesia in Asia. All of the data was from the late 1990s with the exception of Morocco, where the data was from 1992 (Charmes n.d.).

4. The overview of the links between informal employment and poverty also includes findings from recent analyses of national data for urban India and for Tunisia:     

  • India: National Sample Survey 1999-2000 (55th Round) analyzed by N.S. Sastry in 2004
  • Tunisia: 1997 national survey cited by Charmes and Lakehal 2003