Chapter 13: The informal economy and informal employment
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Social policy and development studies are both concerned with poverty and the improvement of well-being, but on the whole neither integrates a consideration of the specific working conditions of informal workers in their analyses or their programmes. The majority of those who work in the Global South are informal workers, and the majority of them, in turn, are self-employed, and poor. The chapter suggests that informal workers and the informal economy must receive greater attention in the frameworks and fields of study of both social policy and development studies. Summarized data about the size of the informal economy are presented, as well as the now widely accepted standard definition of status in employment, and the relationship between position in the informal economy, gender and poverty risk. Three issues are: the critical role played (or not played) by the local level of governments in working conditions of the working poor; the links between women’s unpaid care work, informal labour markets and ‘women’s economic empowerment’; and the need for informal workers and their organizations to have greater representation and voice in policy reform and implementation. The chapter identifies research methods on the informal economy that have been used with good effect – among others, time use studies, case studies and value chain analysis. It also identifies lines of enquiry for further for further quantitative and qualitative research.

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