François Roubaud on the informal economy in developing countries: measurement issues and economic challenges

WIDER Seminar Series

François Roubaud on the informal economy in developing countries: measurement issues and economic challenges

François Roubaud will present at the WIDER Seminar Series on 25 September 2019. 

Abstract – The informal economy in developing countries: measurement issues and economic challenges

Most jobs in developing countries (DCs) are found in the informal economy which plays a predominant role within the economy. Better understanding how the economies of these countries work thus requires a better knowledge of the informal sector. This knowledge is also indispensable in the fight against poverty which is at the heart of political development preoccupations. Understanding the informal sector is of utmost importance from a political, economic and social point of view. In spite of the efforts made in this domain by the ILO over the last decades,1 the vagueness which continues to surround the informal economy remains a big obstacle which prevents its being taken into account in economic policies.

DIAL-IRD researchers have designed a general framework, the 1-2-3 Surveys, to address the informal sector in its multiple relationships with the rest of the economy, in terms of both employment and informal product supply and demand. The 1-2-3 Surveys adopt the mixed (household/enterprise) approach. This framework was developed in line with international recommendations and tailored to the context of different countries (in Latin America, Africa and Asia) where it was implemented. It has permitted to provide accurate statistical data and in-depth analyses on the informal sector and informal employment, on their role in the economy, as well as its actual and potential contribution to improving the population’s living conditions.

The presentation will focus on the methodological issues: the concept and the measurement challenges. Some illustrative analytical results derived from survey data collected in various developing countries will be also presented. What are the characteristics of production units in the informal sector? What are the working conditions which prevail in this sector? Which types of business are more inclined to register their activity? Working in the informal sector: is it a free choice or an obligation? What are the causes and the impacts of corruption in the informal sector?

About the speaker

François Roubaud is an Economist and Statistician, Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute of Research for Sustainable Development (IRD), and a member (and former Director) of DIAL research unit (IRD and Université Paris-Dauphine) in Paris. He specializes in and has published widely on development economics with special interest in labor market and informal economy, governance and corruption, and impact evaluation and political economic of development policies. In the statistical field, he has been the pioneer in the conception and the implementation of mixed surveys (household/enterprise) and initiator of the 1-2-3 survey to measure the informal economy implemented in dozens of LDC’s (in Africa, Latin America and Asia). He also played a leading role in governance measurement through the development of governance and democracy modules grafted on official household surveys, one of the instrument adopted recently by the GPS-SHaSA initiative at the Africa level, and the Praia Group at the global (UNSD), to monitor SDG16. He is associated professor at Paris-Dauphine University. He has been posted in national institutions in Mexico, Madagascar and Vietnam for long term assignments.

WIDER Seminar Series

The WIDER Seminar Series showcases recent and ongoing work on key topics in development economics. The weekly sessions held in Helsinki are open to local and visiting researchers, policy makers, and others interested in development topics. Click here to learn more.

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