Informal employment in Namibia 2008

This paper reports on analysis of data from Namibia’s 2008 Labour Force Survey (LFS) so as to describe and compare informal and formal employment in the country. The paper is based on an understanding of informal employment which goes beyond the traditional concept of “informal sector”.

The concept of informal sector was developed in the 1970s. In 1993 the 15th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) adopted a resolution that provided a standard definition of the concept and recommended how it should be operationalised in statistical data collection and analysis. The ICLS definition was subsequently included in the revised international System of National Accounts of 1993. It is thus the accepted definition from the viewpoint of both labour statistics and national accounts.

The definition is based on the characteristics of the enterprise rather than the characteristics of the persons who own or work in that enterprise. Informal sector enterprises form part of the institutional sector “households” in national accounts i.e. they are “household unincorporated enterprises”. Stated differently, these enterprises are not constituted as separate legal entities and do not have accounts separate from the households to which they are linked. Employment in the informal sector is then defined to include all those who, in a given reference period, are employed in an informal sector enterprise, regardless of their conditions of work, etc. Because the informal sector includes own-account enterprises where there are no permanent employees as well as others which have permanent employees, employment in the informal sector encompasses a range of different statuses in employment, including own-account worker, employer, employee and unpaid family worker.