The ILO has released an edited version of a Manual to help constituents around the world, especially in statistical offices and ministries of labour, to define, quantify and characterize the contribution of the informal sector and informal employment at national level.
Informal employment and employment in the informal sector are widely acknowledged to represent a significant part of total employment in many countries, and the need for a better understanding has long been accepted by the statistical community. Excluding employment in agriculture, it is estimated that employment in the informal sector and informal employment, taken together, comprise between one half and three quarters of employment in developing countries.
The 15th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) mandated the ILO to “prepare a manual to provide technical guidelines” based on lessons learned from national experiences. The ILO manual presents the current international standards on the informal sector adopted by the 15th ICLS in 1993, as well as the guidelines on informal employment adopted by the 17th ICLS in 2003 which extended the statistical concepts to be addressed.
In 2002, the International Labour Conference also discussed the topic of Decent Work and the informal economy. Member states, employers and workers organizations discussed and supported the innovations in measuring informal employment that were to be presented to the 17th ICLS. They explicitly urged the ILO to provide research and technical assistance to countries to help them quantify and assist workers and employers in informality. To this end, the ILO Department of Statistics has been supporting statistical offices around the world by promoting the new concepts in order to provide a comparable basis for identification of this part of the economy and for the formulation of appropriate policy responses.
Increasingly, countries have been able to adopt and follow the international standards and the manual capitalizes on the lessons learnt. It provides recommendations on best practices concerning main alternative measurement methodologies, and presents examples based on the most up-to-date national experience. It also includes guidelines on dissemination of the statistics.
The ILO manual was written by national and international experts. Significant contributions were made by the Delhi Group on Informal Sector Statistics, which was established in 1997. The pre-edited version will shortly be replaced by a final edited version.