The Survey of Employers and the Self-employed (SESE) is an enterprise-based survey that collects data on micro- and small businesses in South Africa. The survey covers information about the characteristics of businesses in the informal sector to gain an understanding of their operation and access to services. The focus of the survey is businesses who are not registered for Value Added Tax (VAT). These small and micro-businesses are generally excluded from the business frame which is used in surveys of the formal economy conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA).
StatsSA collects SESE information from the third quarter of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) every four years. The information is gathered from household respondents that identify as being self-employed. Prior to 2009, the SESE collected household information from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The first survey in the series (SESE 2001) collected information from the March 2001 LFS. The second survey in the series (SESE 2005) collected information from the September 2005 LFS. The third survey in the series (SESE 2009) collected information from the third quarter 2009 QLFS. This is the fourth survey in the series (SESE 2013), which collects information from the third quarter 2013 QLFS.
The main objectives of SESE are to collect reliable data about people running businesses which are not registered for VAT, identify the non-income tax paying and income tax paying businesses within the non-VAT paying businesses and produce comprehensive statistical information about informal sector businesses, at national and provincial levels. Therefore, SESE data enables research in gauging the contribution made by businesses which are not registered for VAT towards economic growth in South Africa.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data
Unit of Analysis
Individuals and establishments
v1: Edited, anonymised data for public distribution
Version 1 of the survey was weighted according to the original QLFS 2009 person weights that are based on population benchmarks from the 2001 Population Census.
In version 1.1, DataFirst added value labels and removed decimal points from values.
A new version of this dataset was released by StatsSA in 2020. The new version (our version 1.2) was reweighted to reflect the new population benchmarks from the 2011 Population Census. Therefore, the weight variable included in version 1.2 is now based on the 2011 Census.
This survey collects data on the operations of small and micro-businesses including information about their premises, the establishment of the business and start-up finance. Data was also collected on business production and the workforce, expenditure, capital and transport.
The survey has national coverage.
The lowest level of geographic aggregation covered by the data is province.
The survey covered non-VAT registered businesses in the South African informal sector.
Producers and sponsors
Statistics South Africa
Currently, there is no sampling frame on which to base weights and raising factors for unregistered businesses in South Africa. Therefore, SESE is based on a household survey, consisting of two stages. The first stage involved identifying individuals who are running businesses based on the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). The second stage involved a follow-up, when the owners of these businesses were interviewed, to determine the nature of their businesses. For each SESE survey, the criterion for inclusion depends on whether or not the business is registered for Value Added Tax (VAT). Only persons who had businesses which were not registered for VAT were included. This methodology was also used in SESE 2005, 2009 and 2013.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
A sample for the SESE 2013 was obtained from individuals interviewed in the Quarterly Labour Force survey (3rd quarter QLFS, July–September 2013). The screening process involved identifying those persons operating businesses not registered for VAT. The QLFS was conducted in the middle two weeks of the month throughout the quarter. SESE households were re-visited in the last week of a month, throughout the quarter.
The questionnaire covered background data on the small business (from questions 4 to 16 of the questionnaire) , its site of operation (questions 17 to 25), its business management, operations and finances (questions 26 to 43). Data is also collected on business expenditure and turnover (questions 44 to 52), people employed and labour costs (questions 53 to 60), expenditure on fuels, materials and services (question 61), business capital (questions 62 to 67) and transport (questions 68 to 70).
In 2001, SESE was conducted in March and the SESE interview was undertaken immediately after the LFS interview while the enumerator was still at the dwelling unit. In both 2009 and 2013, data collection for the QLFS occurred during the middle two weeks of the month throughout the quarter, while SESE data collection was undertaken in the last week of the month, also throughout the quarter. In 2005, data collection occurred in September over a two-week period while in 2001 information was collected from respondents in March. Because of these changes in the methodology, comparisons should be interpreted with caution.
The 2001 and 2005 SESE estimates have been revised, using the revised LFS estimates. The LFS estimates were revised after the introduction of the QLFS. The 2001 and 2005 datasets only covered those aged 15-64 years, while in both 2009 and 2013, all persons aged 15 years and above were included.
The 2009 SESE estimates have been revised by StatsSA based on new population benchmarks from the 2011 Population Census. However, the 2005 SESE estimates have not yet been adjusted to reflect the new population benchmarks. The adjustment process in this regard is more complex since it involves the computation of new link factors to align the historical LFS series (2000 to 2007) to the QLFS series. Caution is therefore required when interpreting trends based on the absolute numbers which include the 2005 results.
Statistics South Africa. Survey of Employers and Self-Employed 2013 [dataset]. Version 1.2. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa [producer], 2014. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2015. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25828/avpp-mz36