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BRIEF January 9, 2024

Informal Economy Database

The World Bank’s Prospects Group has constructed a global database of informal economic activity. The database includes up to 196 economies over the period 1990-2020 and includes the 11 most commonly used measures of informal economy. 


  • Dynamic General Equilibrium (DGE) model-based estimates of informal output
  • Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) model-based estimates of informal output


  • Self-employment 
  • Informal employment
  • Employment outside the formal sector
  • Labor force without pension insurance


  • One indicator based on World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Executive Opinion surveys   
  • Four indicators based on World Bank Enterprise Surveys of firms
  • One indicator  based on World Value Surveys (WVS) of households

The database includes both indirect, model-based estimates (DGE- and MIMIC-based indicators) and direct measures gathered from labor force or expert, firm, or household opinion surveys.

The CERP discussion paper, by Ceyhun Elgin, M. Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, and Shu Yu, provides detailed information on the construction and sources for the variables included in the database and shows two applications of the database: the stylized facts of informal economic activity around the world and the cyclical features of the informal economy.

Data Download

The informal economy database is available for download in Excel. It will be updated every two years.


When using the database, please cite the following paper as the data source: Elgin, C., M. A. Kose, F. Ohnsorge, and S. Yu. 2021. “Understanding Informality.” CERP Discussion Paper 16497, Centre for Economic Policy Research, London. 


The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in the working paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank and its affiliated organizations.