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Defining and measuring informal employment in South Africa


  • Derek Yu


There is limited consensus on how to define informal employment in South Africa, but in the South African and international literature the three most common ways of capturing informal employment are the enterprise, employment relationship and worker characteristics approaches. This paper reviews the methods used by Statistics South Africa to measure informal employment before and after the introduction of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, and other recently proposed methods. It then investigates the congruence, if any, between five measures of informality used in 2009. It finds that 94.7% of the self-employed are informal according to at least one definition, but only 62.6% according to all five combined. In addition, these two proportions are only 67.7% and 6.9% respectively in the case of informal employees. Econometric analysis is conducted to further investigate the differences between these measures.

Suggested Citation

  • Derek Yu, 2012. "Defining and measuring informal employment in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 157-175, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:29:y:2012:i:1:p:157-175
    DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2012.645649

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    Cited by:

    1. Elif Öznur ACAR & Aysıt TANSEL, 2016. "Defining and Measuring Informality: The Case of Turkish Labor Market," Sosyoekonomi Journal, Sosyoekonomi Society, issue 24(28).
    2. Kan, Elif Oznur & Tansel, Aysit, 2014. "Defining and Measuring Informality in the Turkish Labor Market," MPRA Paper 57739, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Sahoo, Bimal & Neog, Bhaskar Jyoti, 2015. "Heterogeneity and participation in Informal employment among non-cultivator workers in India," MPRA Paper 68136, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Haroon Bhorat & Kezia Lilenstein & Morné Oosthuizen & Amy Thornton, 2016. "Vulnerability In Employment: Evidence from South Africa," Working Papers 201604, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.

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