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30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World

In this article, we take a look at 30 countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world. If you would like to skip our detailed analysis of vulnerable employment, you can directly go to 5 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World.

Defining Vulnerable Employment

The UN and ILO define vulnerable employment as the sum of own-account workers and contributing family workers. Own-account workers are self-employed individuals who do not work under a formal employer. Contributing family workers refer to individuals working within a family business or farm without formal pay. While there are several ways to interpret vulnerable employment, the phrase mainly refers to less-than-ideal working conditions. These individuals are considered vulnerable because they may lack some of the protective benefits that come with formal employment, such as unemployment benefits, paid leaves, and workers’ compensation, among others.

According to the definition by the International Labor Organization, individuals who are vulnerably employed may have inadequate earnings, lower productivity, and challenging work conditions. Because these individuals are less likely to have formal work arrangements, they have a higher chance of working in indecent conditions and lacking effective representation through organizations such as unions. The ILO further states that assessing vulnerable employment is as essential as unemployment because the former allows one to understand work deficits among the employed population. A high rate of vulnerable employment signifies higher deficits. According to World Bank data, 45% of the global population was vulnerably employed in 2022, most of which was concentrated in the developing world. The bulk of vulnerable employment resides in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 75% of the employed population is in vulnerable employment. In contrast, the least can be seen in North America, where vulnerable employment is only 5%.

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The World Bank states that a large proportion of own-account workers signifies that the formal employment sector is struggling with low growth. It also is an indication of a large agricultural industry. Similarly, a large proportion of contributing family workers signifies a largely rural economy populated by weak development and minimal job growth. Due to a lack of formal work arrangements, these individuals are highly likely to fall prey to economic shocks which renders them much more vulnerable to poverty.

Gender Disparity in Vulnerable Employment

Vulnerable employment is severely disproportionate in terms of gender. In 2017, although the overall vulnerable employment rate was similar for men and women (slightly below 43%), the differences were substantial among the two sub-categories. The ILO reported that 68% of own-account workers were male, and 63% of contributing family workers were female. This meant that women were more likely to work without pay in businesses operated by someone else in the household, whereas men were more likely to work for themselves. The overall rate of vulnerable employment showcased a gender-specific difference only in the African region, where vulnerability in employment was 58% for men and 76% for women, presenting a difference of 17 percentage points. On the other hand, you can also check out some of the best countries to work in.

Rise in Own-Account Workers

The overall share of vulnerable employment has decreased since 2000. According to the World Bank, vulnerable employment comprised 51% of total employment in 2000, 48% in 2007, and 45% in 2022. However, within the category, the percentage of own-account workers has risen. In the ten years from 2007 to 2017, there was an 11% increase in this employment category. During the same time period, employment as contributing family workers decreased by 16%. One of the reasons behind this rise in own-account employment is the prevalence of freelancing platforms such as Upwork Inc. (NASDAQ:UPWK) and Fiverr International Ltd (NYSE:FVRR).

In 2023, the 6th annual Freelance Economic Impact Report was published by Fiverr International Ltd (NYSE:FVRR). The report revealed that 6.7 million independent workers in the US collectively earned $286 billion in 2022. These earnings made up 1.1% of the country’s GDP. Fiverr International Ltd (NYSE:FVRR) itself has 4 million customers from around the globe, all of whom have worked with freelance talent from the website. The company offers professional services across 550 categories, some of the most popular of which are logo design, voiceover services, illustration, translation, and data entry. On March 7, 2024, Fiverr International Ltd (NYSE:FVRR) introduced the option of vetted freelance tax experts who could help businesses comply with tax requirements before Tax Day. These included enrolled agents, financial consultants, tax attorneys, and licensed CPAs.

Upwork Inc. (NASDAQ:UPWK) revealed its 2023 Impact Report in April 2024, which mentioned that the company had 851,000 active clients during 2023. Total talent earnings in the year amounted to $3.8 billion. Upwork Academy launched five new learning paths in the year, and almost 6,000 freelancers received coaching on the platform. Freelancers on the platform completed 119,000 learning paths and 30,000 courses during the year. Freelance Forward 2023 is another report recently revealed by Upwork Inc. (NASDAQ:UPWK), which unveiled that in 2023, 38% of the US workforce delivered freelance services, which makes up 64 million people. Together, these individuals contributed $1.27 trillion to the US economy.

While people have been generating considerable income through such freelancing platforms, being an own-account worker still has its vulnerabilities, as discussed previously. This is why it’s imperative to notice trends in vulnerable employment, so governments can aid their workforces accordingly. In this context, we have compiled a list of 30 countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world. These are different than countries with the highest unemployment rates, but you can also check them out.

30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World 
30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World

30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World

Our Methodology

To formulate this ranking, we utilized 2022 data on vulnerable employment compiled by the ILO and presented by the World Bank. The countries have been ranked in ascending order based on the percentage of total employment that can be categorized as vulnerable. Further information from the ILO and the World Bank has been added for additional context. Based on this methodology, here are 30 countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world:

30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World 

30. Cote d'Ivoire

Vulnerable Employment: 71% 

According to a 2024 study by the IOM, there is a huge gender disparity in the Ivorian labor market, as well as a mismatch between the demand and supply of skillsets. This has led to several young people migrating abroad in search of better jobs. Currently, 71% of the employed workforce in Cote d'Ivoire is vulnerably employed.

29. Cameroon

Vulnerable Employment: 72%

The Cameroonian government has closely coordinated with the ILO to establish projects such as the construction of the Kumba/Mamfe Road, which has increased employment opportunities for local residents. However, Cameroon is still one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment globally.

28. Gambia

Vulnerable Employment: 73%

From 2015 to 2017, ILO ran the Decent Work Country Programme in Gambia in order to improve decent employment opportunities. Two main aims of the program were to reduce poverty and eliminate child labor, especially in its worst forms.

27. Haiti

Vulnerable Employment: 74%

Haiti is one of the world’s worst-performing economies, with an annual GDP growth rate of only 0.3%. Rising social insecurity and a massive vulnerability to natural hazards are two of the main reasons the country lags behind in its development.

26. India

Vulnerable Employment: 74%

With 74% of its employed workforce in conditions of vulnerable employment, India is one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world, ranking 26th on our list.

25. Papua New Guinea

Vulnerable Employment: 75%

Employment in Papua New Guinea heavily relies on the agriculture industry, which is one of the characteristics of countries with a high rate of vulnerable employment. With a 75% vulnerable employment rate, Papua New Guinea ranks 25th on our list.

24. Uganda

Vulnerable Employment: 75%

Business Insider Africa reports that seven in every ten individuals in Uganda work without signing a proper contract, which leaves them open to labor law violations and employment insecurity. This is why Uganda has one of the highest rates of vulnerable employment globally.

23. Republic of Congo

Vulnerable Employment: 75%

The Republic of Congo is also one of the countries with the highest unemployment rates in the world. In 2022, the country had an unemployment rate of 21.8% and a vulnerable employment rate of 75%.

22. Liberia

Vulnerable Employment: 77%

On March 12, 2021, the World Bank announced that it had approved financing for the Recovery of Economic Activity for Liberian Informal Sector Employment Project. The project’s main goal was to enhance employment opportunities by providing business training and grants to 4,000 vulnerable households and temporary employment to 15,000 individuals.

21. Nepal

Vulnerable Employment: 77%

Due to stringent regulations and high unionization, employers in Nepal lose the incentive to hire individuals through formal contracts. This creates underemployment as well as a high percentage of informal jobs, making Nepal one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment rates in the world.

20. Lao PDR

Vulnerable Employment: 78%

Within the employed workforce in Lao PDR, 61.4% work in agriculture, which means a huge chunk of this population is susceptible to vulnerable employment. In 2019, 49.5% of the total workforce was characterized by own-account workers, which made up the largest employment group in the country.

19. Equatorial Guinea

Vulnerable Employment: 78%

Equatorial Guinea has a vulnerable employment rate of 78%, which is why it ranks 19th on our list of countries with the most vulnerable employment. It is also one of the most censored countries in the world, which may prevent such issues from coming to light in mainstream media.

18. Benin

Vulnerable Employment: 78%

The economic instability in Benin is worsened by violent conflicts in the region, which in turn is strengthened further when people lack adequate access to necessary resources. Thus, Benin is one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world.

17. Guinea

Vulnerable Employment: 79%

Guinea is one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world. In 2022, 78% of the country’s total workforce was vulnerably employed, either as contributing family workers or own-account workers.

16. Afghanistan

Vulnerable Employment: 80%

According to the ILO, the August 2021 administration change in Afghanistan resulted in the loss of more than half a million jobs in the third quarter alone. The total number of hours worked also dropped by 13% in the same quarter. Afghanistan continues to be one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world.

15. North Korea

Vulnerable Employment: 81%

North Korea does not have employment contracts or labor unions, which leaves the country’s employed workforce in a highly vulnerable situation. This is why 81% of North Korea’s workforce is employed in vulnerable conditions.

14. Burkina Faso

Vulnerable Employment: 83%

Low skills and low pay levels are two of the main issues plaguing the workforce in Burkina Faso, 81% of which is vulnerably employed. According to the ILO, 70% of the country’s active urban population is employed in the informal sector, which significantly contributes to vulnerable employment.

13. Democratic Republic of Congo

Vulnerable Employment: 83%

Mining and agriculture are the two primary industries in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The International Trade Administration reports that DRC was the world’s largest cobalt miner, with a share of 68% in global cobalt mining. Despite these natural resources, it continues to be one of the countries with the highest rates of vulnerable employment.

12. Mozambique

Vulnerable Employment: 83%

Mozambique’s latest labor law took effect on February 21, 2024, as reported by SHRM. The law covers several concepts essential for a modern workforce, including paternal leave, teleworking, and private employment agencies. Mozambique currently has one of the world’s highest rates of vulnerable employment.

11. Nigeria

Vulnerable Employment: 84%

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics classifies 40.1% of the country’s population as poor. This means that at least 82.9 million Nigerians live below the country's poverty line. Nigeria also has an 84% rate of vulnerable employment, which is one of the highest in the world.

10. Tanzania

Vulnerable Employment: 84%

Despite economic growth, lack of decent employment has been one of the biggest challenges in Tanzania, especially for the country’s youth. In 2022, the country had a vulnerable employment rate of 84%.

9. Burundi

Vulnerable Employment: 84%

The ILO estimates that 95% of Burundi’s population is employed within the informal sector, mainly in small-scale agriculture. Overall, employment in the country is characterized by low wages and low labor productivity.

8. Mali

Vulnerable Employment: 85%

As per ILO data, 73% of Mali’s economically active population is employed within the informal sector. One-third of the country’s workforce is young and is between 15 and 39 years old. Bamako, the capital city, has a youth unemployment rate of 32%, which is much higher than the rest of the country (12%). Thus, Mali is ranked 8th on our list of countries with the highest vulnerable employment in the world.

7. Ethiopia

Vulnerable Employment: 85%

In 2022, 85% of Ethiopia’s total workforce was vulnerably employed either as own-account workers or contributing family workers, which makes it one of the countries with the highest vulnerable employment rates in the world.

6. Madagascar

Vulnerable Employment: 85%

Madagascar has a large informal sector, which is why employment within the country severely lacks legal or administrative compliance and is plagued by violations of wages and occupational health standards. Madagascar ranks sixth on our list of countries with the highest vulnerable employment.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World.

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Disclaimer: None. 30 Countries with the Highest Vulnerable Employment in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.