Women and Informality


Informal employment is widespread throughout the developing world where it concerns over half to three-quarters of non-agricultural employment. A recent data collection carried out by ILO and Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) provides evidence that women are more likely than men to work in the informal economy, lacking opportunities to access better jobs and social security coverage. As shown in the chart below, the percentage of women employed in the informal economy is higher than the percentage of men in 28 out of 39 countries for which data are available. The definition of employment in the informal economy includes both those workers who work in informal sector enterprises (enterprises that are not officially registered and do not maintain a complete set of accounts) and those workers who hold informal jobs (jobs lacking basic social or legal protection and employment benefits). Women are particularly overrepresented in this second group, representing the majority of the vulnerable home-based workers.

Informal employment is paired with high poverty rates and low social mobility. Effective policies for informal workers require better gender-disaggregated statistics, particularly in those employment categories that are usually unaccounted for, such as domestic and home-based workers.

Sources: ILO (2012), “Women and Men in the Informal Economy – Statistical Picture”, ILO, Geneva, available at: http://laborsta.ilo.org/informal_economy_E.html.

OECD (2012), “Closing the Gender Gap, Act Now”, OECD Publishing, Paris.


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