Informally Yours – defining the informal sector

Informality is everywhere. But what exactly is it? And how can we measure it?  These are some of the questions that Illana Melzer explored in her presentation at the Township Marketing Conference on 17 March 2016 in Johannesburg.

The presentation explores key aspects of the informal sector including labour markets, housing and financial services. Some of the key insights include:

Informal Labour markets: 

  • According to the Labour Force Survey (Q3: 2015), there are 2.9 million adults working in the informal sector in South Africa. However, estimates of the number of informal sector workers and informal business owners differ widely by data source
  • The informal sector in South Africa employs 20% of all employed men and 15% of all employed women in South Africa (LFS Q3: 2015 data)
  • The top occupation for men in the informal sector is bricklayers / stonemasons, while the top occupation for women in the informal sector is street food vendors (LFS Q3: 2015 data). However, this changes if we only look at men and women under the age of 35 years old (see slide 12 in presentation)

Informal Housing: 

  • According to Census data, there has been a slight decline in the number of households who live in shacks not in backyards or areas categorised as informal settlements since 2001 (16% in 2001 vs. 11% in 2011)

Informal Financial services: 

  • According to the 2015 FinScope South Africa data, 48% of adults that are formally served (i.e. they are banked or have other formal financial products) also make use of informal financial products and services

View or download the full presentation below.



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