top of page
  • Writer's pictureMarie S.

Analytical Macroeconomics Insight: The Informal Sector and Unemployment in Liberia

The informal sector plays a critical role in the Liberian economy, accounting for a significant portion of the country's workforce. Despite the challenges associated with measuring and regulating this sector, it is vital to understand its impact on unemployment rates and overall economic growth. In this analysis, we will examine the size and importance of the informal sector in Liberia, and how it relates to unemployment and economic performance.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the informal sector in Liberia constituted around 68% of total employment in 2020 (ILO, 2021). This high percentage is not unique to Liberia, as many sub-Saharan African countries face similar circumstances due to limited formal job opportunities and lack of comprehensive social protection systems. As a result, the informal sector becomes the primary source of income and employment for a large part of the population.

The informal sector is characterized by its lack of regulation, which makes it difficult to collect accurate data on its size and economic contribution. However, recent estimates suggest that the informal sector contributes to approximately 40% of Liberia's GDP (World Bank, 2021). This significant contribution underlines the importance of the informal sector in the country's overall economic performance.

When analyzing the relationship between the informal sector and unemployment, it is crucial to consider underemployment, as well. In 2020, the unemployment rate in Liberia was estimated to be 3.4%, while the underemployment rate stood at 24.9% (World Bank, 2021). These numbers indicate that while the informal sector provides jobs for a substantial portion of the population, the quality of these jobs is often low, leading to underemployment and insufficient incomes.

The informal sector's prevalence in Liberia presents both challenges and opportunities for policymakers. On the one hand, the sector's large size and contribution to the GDP make it an essential driver of economic growth. On the other hand, the lack of regulation, social protection, and job security in the informal sector poses risks to workers and the economy as a whole.

To address these challenges, policymakers could focus on formalizing the informal sector, improving social protection systems, and creating more formal job opportunities. By doing so, they could potentially reduce underemployment and improve overall economic growth and stability. Additionally, a better understanding of the informal sector's role in the Liberian economy could help inform future policies and interventions aimed at promoting inclusive and sustainable economic development.

In conclusion, the informal sector is a significant part of the Liberian economy, contributing to a large portion of the workforce and a substantial share of the GDP. Analyzing the informal sector's role in the country's economy and its impact on unemployment and underemployment is critical for understanding Liberia's economic landscape and developing effective policy interventions.

In 2017, the informal sector accounted for 63.4% of total employment (World Bank, 2018). The informal sector is made up of small businesses, street vendors, and other self-employed workers. These workers are often paid in cash and do not have access to social benefits such as health insurance and pensions.

The informal sector plays an important role in the Liberian economy. It provides jobs for a large number of people and helps to boost economic growth. However, the informal sector also faces a number of challenges. These challenges include:

  • Low productivity. Workers in the informal sector are often less productive than workers in the formal sector. This is because they have less access to capital, technology, and training.

  • Low wages. Workers in the informal sector often earn low wages. This is because they are often competing with each other for a limited number of customers.

  • Lack of regulation. The informal sector is often not regulated by the government. This means that workers in the informal sector are often exposed to exploitation and abuse.

The informal sector has a number of implications for unemployment in Liberia. First, the informal sector provides a safety net for unemployed workers. If a worker loses their job in the formal sector, they can often find a job in the informal sector. Second, the informal sector can help to reduce unemployment by creating new jobs. Third, the informal sector can help to boost economic growth, which can lead to more job creation.

There are a number of things that can be done to improve the informal sector in Liberia. These include:

  • Investing in education and training. The government should invest in education and training for workers in the informal sector. This will help them to become more productive and earn higher wages.

  • Providing access to credit and markets. The government should provide access to credit and markets for workers in the informal sector. This will help them to start or expand their businesses.

  • Regulating the informal sector. The government should regulate the informal sector to protect workers from exploitation and abuse.

Improving the informal sector is essential for Liberia's development. By investing in the informal sector, the government can help to create jobs, boost economic growth, and reduce poverty.


International Labour Organization (ILO). (2021). Informal economy in Liberia. Retrieved from

World Bank. (2021). Liberia - Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (modeled ILO estimate). Retrieved from

World Bank (2018). Liberia Economic Update: Boosting Growth and Jobs in the Informal Economy. Washington, DC.


Get Involved

Do you have additional facts to add to this insight or have an opinion that you would like to express?

Email Us

35 views0 comments


bottom of page