Definition and other design issues

  • The XVth ICLS definition of the informal sector and the fourth revision of theSystem of National Accounts (1993 SNA) have defined a uniform framework withinwhich data on informal sector are to be collected and compiled. The paperspresented in this session were examining some of the problems raised by theapplication of this framework.
  • Ralf Hussmanns (ILO) in his paper on "The impact of questionnaire design and fieldoperations on the quality of informal sector survey data: a not on lessonslearnt from past survey experiences" stressed that these issues were likely tobe more challenging than those of definition and sample design. Small size,mobility, and seasonally of informal businesses are among the main problems tobe addressed. Referring to the mixed household-enterprise surveys. He mentionedsome of the main difficulties to deal with the endurance of exhaustiveness ofpersons enumerated as operating in the informal sector at the first stage, thereference period of one week for the measurement of employment may be too shortto take proper account of seasonal variations; the listing of households may beinsufficient and a parallel listing of establishments in the sample areas may beuseful: the attrition rate is high between the two stages and biases are likelyto be introduced by replacements: the quality of data is better when therespondents are interviewed at the workplace but some respondents are unwillingto be interviewed in their place of work; interviewers must be well andintensively trained; questionnaire design is an important issue; the length ofTh questionnaire is not always a problem if the questions are simple, languageand formulation are also important issues.
  • In thediscussion, it was stressed countries experiences addressed many of theseissues; in particular, seasonality can be captured through the distribution ofthe sample all the year round; and street vendors may be listed and interviewedin their place of work, even if it is more difficult.
  • ZiaAbbasi (Australia). Presented a paper on "australian views on the internationaldefinition, minimum dataset and selected data collection issues on informalsector statistics". In particular, he discussed the significance of the conceptand its operationalization in the context of his country. Reviewing thedifferent proposed criteria, he considers that no registration may causeproblems for international comparisons and that preference may be given toemployment size. Finally, the informal sector is identified as comprised ofthose enterprises which are registered but not regulated, and those which arenot registered. Thus were laid the basis for future discussions on operational purposes.
  • Lourdes Urdaneta Ferran (Venezuela) addressed the issue of a specific segment of labourforce, by presenting Concepts and classifications to improve statistics onhome-based workers". In the 1993 recommendations the InternationalClassifications of Status in Employment (ICSE) relegates this segment to a lowerlevel and the author would want to raise the category of homeworkers in the theICSE to higher one one digit level home-based workers. Also called outworkers.may be independent or dpendent, according to the existence or not ofsubcontracting relationships. As statistical data intend to serve policy needsand recommendations, but the constliness of surveys may allow only theapplication of the first digit of classifications the author proposed to includedependent homeworkers at the first digit of ICSE at the same level as employers,employees own-account workers and family workers.
  • In thediscussion ILO mentioned that ICSI has always been one of the most difficutlsubject the ICLS has had to deal with The current five categories are only thefirst digit of a more detailed classsification proposed in the 1950s but notadopted. The meeting was informed that the 16th ICLS (Geneva. 6-15October 1998). Would review the experiences made in the use of current ICSE andthat could be an occasion to propose modifications. The main issue is how todistinguish home-based workers from homeworkers it was stressed that thisquestion was precisely an important gender issue and that the place of work andthe sub-contracting and payment procedures may concdrn the employers andown-account workers as well as the employees. It also raises the question of thecut-off point between the informal and the formal sectors.
  • The author insisted on the fact that her recommendation is minimum which, after allrefers to the coverage of the ILO convention on homeworkers and should thereforebe taken into account by the labour force concepts.
  • It was also underlined that if sub-contracting enterprises such as "maquiladoras" areconsidered as enterprises, why then should we not consider the home-basedworkers as economic units as well? All the more so as these workers are notregistered on the payrolls of the firms.
  • In the last presentation, Professor Tuncer Bulutay (Turkey) summarized "Views on theinformal sector", with special reference to Turkey Distinguishing threeapproaches (low productivity, small businesses and policy-relevance) headdressed the question of the inclusion of agriculture in the informal sector,given this sector is characterised by low productivity and rural urban migrationand that agriculture mya be considered as the source of an increasing number ofpersons employed in the informal sector. According to his estimates the informalsector (including the establishments with less than 10 employees) in Turkeywould represent more than 16% of the total labour force, and more than 26% ofthe urban labour force He finally announced the next venue of two seminars onthis topic emphasizing the importance of this question in hiscountry.
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