Global Resources

Mainstreaming Informal Employment and Gender in Poverty Reduction: A Handbook for Policy-makers and Other Stakeholders

Author: M. Carr, M. A. Chen, J. Vanek
Publisher: Commonwealth Secretariat
Publication Date: Jan 2004
What is the relationship between gender inequality and work in the informal economy? How do we promote good working conditions for poor and vulnerable groups? Street vendors, workers in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and small farmers are quite visible in the informal economy. But there are also many less visible informal workers, mainly women, selling or producing goods in their homes (such as processing food, assembling electronic parts, or producing textiles). Conditions for informal workers vary enormously as do the types of work - but all lack economic security and legal protection.

This book argues that a focus on employment is a way to positively address the division between growth and development. It begins by sketching the links between poverty and employment and between gender and the informal economy. It then goes on to discuss recent changes in the nature of work such as the creation of thousands of new jobs in some areas and retrenchment in others. Strategies and examples of good practice are then described of work to promote opportunities, secure rights and protection and promote the voice of informal workers. The International Convention on Homeworkers, for example, sets out minimum standards for pay and working conditions. National policies have also been developed such as in India where welfare funds are set up from taxes in particular economic sectors to support the workers in those sectors. Other NGO, trades union and ethical/fair trade examples are also discussed. The final chapter deals specifically with policy, presenting a policy perspective, goals and key actors in areas of macroeconomic policy, labour policies and social protection. This perspective highlights the need for:

- Improvement of official statistics on the size and make-up of the informal economy to promote an informed understanding of its economic importance;
- Taking into account the gendered nature of the informal economy in terms of the different types of work undertaken by women and men and the implications of this for policy development;
- Enabling the collective action of workers in the informal economy, together with consultation and negotiation between workers and policy makers.