Through a Tanzanian case study, this paper challenges the claim, along with the statistics that support it, that self-employment is the dominant employment status in the informal economy. The paper begins by reviewing key insights from the relevant literature on the informal economy to argue that conventional notions of ‘wage employment’ and ‘self-employment’, while unfit for capturing the nature and variety of employment relations in developing countries, remain central to the design of surveys on the workforce therein. After putting statistics on Tanzania’s informal economy and labour force into context, the analysis reviews the type of wage employment relationships that can be found in one instance of the informal economy in urban Tanzania. The categories and terms used by workers to describe their employment situation are then contrasted with those used by the latest labour force survey in Tanzania. The paper scrutinises how key employment categories have been translated from English into Swahili, how the translation biases respondents’ answers towards the term ‘self-employment’, and how this, in turn, leads to the statistical invisibility of wage labour in the informal economy. The paper also looks at the consequences of this ‘statistical tragedy’ and at the dangers of conflating varied forms of employment, including wage labour, that differ markedly in their modes of operation and growth potential. Attention is also paid to the trade-offs faced by policymakers in designing better labour force surveys.
Can Smallholders benefit from the new market opportunities from the extractive industry in Tanzania?
The recent discovery of huge oil and gas reserves in Tanzania has created a new opportunity for economic growth and development of the country. Tanzania is expected to be one of the leading producers and exporters of natural gas in the coming decade. However, 88 percent of poor Tanzanians live in rural areas and two-thirds […]
This study has explored how quality issues in delivering family planning services (supply side), and attitudinal and behavioural issues of the potential users (demand side) merge together to influence adoption of family planning methods. The subject was explored by blending Bruce’s (1990) quality of care of family planning services framework with an access framework with […]
We use methods developed by the Commitment to Equity and data from the 2011/12 Household Budget Survey to assess the effects of government taxation, social spending, and indirect subsidies for poverty and inequality in Tanzania. We also simulate several policy reforms to assess their distributional consequences. We find that Tanzania redistributes more than expected given […]
Challenges and the way forward Tanzania’s industrial sector has evolved through various stages since independence in 1961, from nascent and undiversified to state-led import substitution industrialization, and subsequently to de-industrialization under the structural adjustment programmes and policy reforms. The current development agenda, however, has brought industrial development back to be one of the policy priorities.