Statistical Picture

Statistics on the size, composition, contribution, and other dimensions of the informal economy are needed to inform economic and social policies.

The first-ever global estimates on the size of informal employment, published by the ILO in 2018, show 61% of all workers are informally employed. That’s 2 billion workers worldwide. The estimates reveal a clear relationship between low levels of GDP and high levels of informal employment in countries.

Counting the World’s Informal Workers: Key Facts

61% of world's workers are informal
Download WIEGO's snapshot pamphlet


Informal employment as a per cent of total, rural and urban employment 

Countries by income level*

 Total   Rural   Urban 
World 61 80 44
Developing 90 90 79
Emerging 67 83 51
Developed 18 22 17
*2018 World Bank definitions based on country levels of gross income per capita.


Informal employment as a per cent of total employment by region (excluding developed countries)

Region %
Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding Southern Africa) 92
Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole 89
Southern Asia 88
East and South-eastern Asia (excluding China) 77
Middle East and North Africa 68
Latin America and the Caribbean 54
Eastern Europe and Central Asia 37


The advocates and policymakers who work with WIEGO need statistics on informal workers to support their demands. However, at the city level where many policies, regulations and plans directly affect informal workers, data on informal workers have not been available. WIEGO now produces more comprehensive data on informal workers in cities in its Statistical Brief Series:

Statistical tables WIEGO commissioned on informal employment and workers in 19 cities, originally published in 2016 in the WIEGO Dashboard.

Additional Data for India

The results of the 2017-18 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of India showed a sharp drop from 2011-12 in the rates of women’s employment. This survey, however, introduced changes in design and operations from earlier surveys. To understand the impact of these changes on rates of women’s employment, WIEGO commissioned Dr. Govindan Raveendran to prepare a history of the methods and operations of labour force surveys in India, with a focus on those methods that could affect the measurement of women’s employment. (See Measurement of Labour and Employment in India- Conceptual and Procedural Framework). In addition, Dr. Raveendran updated the statistical tables for 2017-18 with the 2018-19 PLFS data (see below).

Tables on employment, informal employment, and groups of informal workers based on the India Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2019-2020 to 2022-23 (Download)



Globally, men have higher rates of informal employment than women. However, in 56% of countries, rates of informal employment for women are higher. Women’s rates of informal employment are higher than men’s in the lower-income countries. Lower rates of employment and/or informal employment for women in many emerging countries contribute to the higher global average for men.

Informal employment as a per cent of total, women’s and men’s employment

Countries by income level Total Women Men
World 61 58 63
Developing 90 92 87
Emerging 67 64 69
Developed 18 18 19


Globally, 56% of all workers are wage employed, while 44% are self-employed. However, among the world’s informal workers, 64% are self-employed.

Composition of informal employment by status in employment (per cent)

Countries by income level

Wage Employment Self-employment
World 36


Developing 21


Emerging 37


Developed 51


For more data by status in employment, age, and branch of industry, download the pamphlet Counting the World's Informal Workers: A Global Snapshot (available in English, French and Spanish).


Additional analysis in Women and Men in the Informal Economy, 3rd edition shows that not all informal workers are from poor households and not all formal workers are from non-poor households. However, there is significant overlap between being informally employed and being poor. Higher percentages of informal workers than formal workers are from poor households, in developing, emerging and developed countries. Also, a higher percentage of workers from poor households, compared to non-poor households, are informally employed in all country income groups. In developing and emerging economies, anywhere from just over 50 per cent to nearly 100 per cent of workers from poor households are informally employed, while less than half of workers from non-poor households are informally employed.

For questions or comments about the data here or WIEGO's use of statistics, please email the Statistics Programme.

Informal Economy Topic