The workforce or labour force (labor force in American English; see spelling differences) is the labour pool in employment. It is generally used to describe those working for a single company or industry, but can also apply to a geographic region like a city, state, or country. Within a company, its value can be labelled as its "Workforce in Place". The workforce of a country includes both the employed and the unemployed. The labour force participation rate, LFPR (or economic activity rate, EAR), is the ratio between the labour force and the overall size of their cohort (national population of the same age range). The term generally excludes the employers or management, and can imply those involved in manual labour. It may also mean all those who are available for work.
Formal labour is any sort of employment that is structured and paid in a formal way. Unlike the informal sector of the economy, formal labour within a country contributes to that country's gross national product. Informal labour is labour that falls short of being a formal arrangement in law or in practice. It can be paid or unpaid and it is always unstructured and unregulated. Formal employment is more reliable than informal employment. Generally, the former yields higher income and greater benefits and securities for both men and women.
The contribution of informal labourers is immense. Informal labour is expanding globally, most significantly in developing countries. According to a study done by Jacques Charmes, in the year 2000 informal labour made up 57% of non-agricultural employment, 40% of urban employment, and 83% of the new jobs in Latin America. That same year, informal labour made up 78% of non-agricultural employment, 61% of urban employment, and 93% of the new jobs in Africa. Particularly after an economic crisis, labourers tend to shift from the formal sector to the informal sector. This trend was seen after the Asian economic crisis which began in 1997.
Gender is frequently associated with informal labour. Women are employed more often informally than they are formally, and informal labour is an overall larger source of employment for females than it is for males. Women frequent the informal sector of the economy through occupations like home-based workers and street vendors. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World shows that in the 1990s, 81% of women in Benin were street vendors, 55% in Guatemala, 44% in Mexico, 33% in Kenya, and 14% in India. Overall, 60% of women workers in the developing world are employed in the informal sector.
The specific percentages are 84% and 58% for women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America respectively. The percentages for men in both of these areas of the world are lower, amounting to 63% and 48% respectively. In Asia, 65% of women workers and 65% of men workers are employed in the informal sector. Globally, a large percentage of women that are formally employed also work in the informal sector behind the scenes. These women make up the hidden work force.
Formal and informal labour can be divided into the subcategories of agricultural work and non-agricultural work. Martha Chen et al. believe these four categories of labour are closely related to one another. A majority of agricultural work is informal, which the Penguin Atlas for Women in the World defines as unregistered or unstructured. Non-agricultural work can also be informal. According to Martha Chen, informal labour makes up 48% of non-agricultural work in North Africa, 51% in Latin America, 65% in Asia, and 72% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The agricultural sector of the economy has remained stable in recent years. According to the Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, women make up 40% of the agricultural labour force in most parts of the world, while in developing countries they make up 67% of the agricultural workforce. Joni Seager shows in her atlas that specific tasks within agricultural work are also gendered. For example, for the production of wheat in a village in Northwest China, men perform the ploughing, the planting, and the spraying, while women perform the weeding, the fertilising, the processing, and the storage.
In terms of food production worldwide, the atlas shows that women produce 80% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa, 50% in Asia, 45% in the Caribbean, 25% in North Africa and in the Middle East, and 25% in Latin America. A majority of the work women do on the farm is considered housework and is therefore negligible in employment statistics.
Paid and unpaid work are also closely related with formal and informal labour. Some informal work is unpaid, or paid under the table. Unpaid work can be work that is done at home to sustain a family, like child care work, or actual habitual daily labour that is not monetarily rewarded, like working the fields. Unpaid workers have zero earnings, and although their work is valuable, it is hard to estimate its true value. The controversial debate still stands. Men and women tend to work in different areas of the economy, regardless of whether their work is paid or unpaid. Women focus on the service sector, while men focus on the industrial sector.
The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, published in 2008, stated that in Madagascar, women spend 20 hours per week on housework, while men spend only two. In Mexico, women spend 33 hours and men spend 5 hours. In Mongolia the housework hours amount to 27 and 12 for women and men respectively. In Spain, women spend 26 hours on housework and men spend 4 hours. Only in the Netherlands do men spend 10% more time than women do on activities within the home or for the household.
The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World also stated that in developing countries, women and girls spend a significant amount of time fetching water for the week, while men do not. For example, in Malawi women spend 6.3 hours per week fetching water, while men spend 43 minutes. Girls in Malawi spend 3.3 hours per week fetching water, and boys spend 1.1 hours. Even if women and men both spend time on household work and other unpaid activities, this work is also gendered.
In the United Kingdom in 2014, two-thirds of workers on long-term sick leave were women, despite women only constituting half of the workforce, even after excluding maternity leave.