The Statistics Programme collaborates with official statistical agencies, statisticians and organizations of informal workers to develop official national statistics that make visible the size and significance of the informal economy and the situation of those working in it.
Improving Statistics to Make Workers Visible
When WIEGO was founded in 1997, the informal sector was a relatively new concept in labour statistics and few national statistical offices collected data on it. Another challenge was that the concept of the informal sector did not include certain types of wage employment that shared the risks associated with informality, but were outside informal enterprises.
WIEGO’s founders recognized the power of statistics to draw attention to the size and situation of workers in the informal economy, to facilitate understanding of the economy as a whole and to monitor changes over time in informality. Statistics on the informal economy are needed by organizations of informal workers in their engagements with policymakers: aggregate estimates on the size and contribution of the informal economy to capture policy makers’ attention and disaggregated estimates of different sectors of the informal economy to inform policy. Today, WIEGO plays an important role in the development of statistics on all aspects of the informal economy. Find here the latest data on the informal economy. An evaluation of the Statistics Programme noted:
the use of statistics to drive arguments is not uncommon among activists, but to place it as the forefront of their work agenda is rare.
Goals and Activities
The Statistics Programme seeks to mainstream the measurement of the informal economy in official statistics at the national, regional and international levels.
To achieve this, we aim to:
- improve classifications, concepts and methods for data collection on informal workers and informal enterprises, and for estimates of the contribution of informal employment to national economies to increase the availability and reliability of these data and to improve cross-national comparability
- encourage countries to include informal employment in their data collection activities and motivate donors to fund these activities
- assist in the training of statisticians and data users in methods of data collection and tabulation
A second objective is to make data available in easily accessible formats. This involves:
- preparing statistical data and analysis on the size, composition and contribution of the informal economy and the characteristics and situation of those who work in it
- promoting statistics-based research on the informal economy and related topics.
Collaboration between producers of official statistics and users of statistics is key to the success of WIEGO’s statistical work. The Statistics Programme works directly with both producers of official statistics and users, including membership-based organizations of informal workers, NGOs, research institutions and development agencies.
WIEGO builds on the efforts of, and works collaboratively with, statistical agencies at the international, regional and national levels. WIEGO was an active member of the Expert Group on Informal Sector Statistics, called the Delhi Group, which was formed in 1997, through to its last meeting in October 2017. The group was established by the United Nations Statistical Commission for countries interested in improving statistics on the informal sector. The Delhi Group contributed to the introduction of a chapter, “Informal Aspects of the Economy” in the 2008 System of National Accounts. The Group also initiated and collaborated on the preparation of the 2013 Measuring Informality: A Statistical Manual on the Informal Sector and Informal Employment.
The Programme’s most important partner is the International Labour Organization (ILO), which under the international statistical system is responsible for labour force statistics. WIEGO consistently participates in ILO working groups preparing revisions of the main conceptual frameworks of labour statistics that are presented to the International Conference of Labour Statisticians for their review and recommendation. Presently the Programme serves on the Working Group for the Revision of Statistical Standards of Informality. The proposals of this group will be presented to the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in 2023. WIEGO also works with the ILO in the preparation of statistical publications on informality and groups of informal workers, in widely accessible formats.
WIEGO is currently collaborating with the ILO and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in a project to develop labour statistics with a focus on informal employment in Arab countries. A survey questionnaire that incorporates informal employment, as well as the new standards relating to employment, is being developed and tested in four countries in the region: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
WIEGO is a long-standing member of the Quality of Employment Group of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Through this group, the Programme has worked toward the application of the concept of informal employment to developed countries as well as greater harmonization of the categories for measurement of employment in developed countries.
As for its partnership with users of statistics, WIEGO collaborates most directly with membership-based organizations of informal workers and their global and regional networks. These include the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), StreetNet International, HomeNet South Asia, HomeNet International, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), and national/regional/global associations of waste pickers. These users need data to draw attention to their situation and to inform their efforts to influence policy. WIEGO compiles and analyzes data and provides it to them in readily-accessible formats. However, the data they need are often not available in official statistics, so the Programme engages with statisticians in the long process of changing standards and practices to produce the requested statistics.
Creating a Statistical Picture
WIEGO has worked closely with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the development and publication of statistics on the informal economy in readily accessible formats, beginning with the first edition of Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture, in 2002. In 2018, this collaboration led to the ILO publication of the first-ever global estimates on the size of informal employment, in the 3rd edition of Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture. WIEGO, in collaboration with the ILO, published the main findings in a more concise report entitled Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Brief. Find here these publications developed in cooperation with the ILO.
To support the needs of activists, government and agency officials and researchers, WIEGO developed a series of statistical briefs that present data at the national, urban and selected city level in a concise, brief format. Find the briefs here.
The International Classification of Status in Employment of 2018 (ICSE-18) includes new categories and recommendations that better identify informal workers and their working arrangements in national surveys. The Statistics Programme contributed to the revisions, in particular relating to the new category of “dependent contractors”, including homeworkers.
Measuring Informality: A Statistical Manual on the Informal Sector and Informal Employment, published by the ILO in 2013, is the main guide for countries on the technical issues in undertaking surveys on informal employment and employment in the informal sector. WIEGO’s Statistics Programme had an integral role in the preparation of this guide.
On Measuring Place of Work, published by the ILO in 2002, was the result of a collaborative project of the WIEGO Statistics Programme with the United Nations Statistical Division and the ILO Statistics Bureau. An objective of the project was to provide methodological guidance relating to the variable “place of work” to improve the measurement of home-based workers and street vendors. Many years later, in 2018, the place of work variable was given priority in an important statistical standard: the International Classification of Status in Employment-18.
Learn more about the Statistics Programme Past Activities here.
For questions or comments about this webpage or WIEGO's statistical publications, please email the Statistics Programme.
Senior Advisor, WIEGO
Senior Advisor, Statistics