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Don't Discount the Informal

How can business, communities and government better support and leverage informal, temporary and alternative employment as part of the solution, not the problem?

Photo of Justin DeKoszmovszky
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The Brief for this challenge was dangerously close to diminishing informal and temporary employment by equating it with unemployment. For instance, saying the informally employed youth "have no rights" is inaccurate.  I agree that permanent employment is preferable most of the time but this challenge should stay open to and aim to better understand and leverage informal part-time and alternative livelihoods. It is not very well understood but some emerging research is happening (eg: 


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Photo of Karolle Rabarison

Right on. That the brief qualifies the informal sector as "a different face of unemployment" doesn't sit well with me. It's problematic to frame the task as finding ways to place youth in alternative jobs. More appropriate might be to ask, as you've done, how we might better support (or "formalize") these existing trades.

Associations for self-employed persons? cooperative financing? campaigns for awareness of government assistance programs? ecosystems that enable micro-entrepreneurs to do business in mainstream markets? what has worked, what doesn't, and what else can we try?

For perspective, consider that the ILO estimates that 72% of non-agriculture workers in Sub-Saharan African, 65% of those in Asia, and 51% in Latin America hold their primary jobs within the so-called informal sector. For urban areas in Africa, that estimate is as many as 9 in 10 workers. Also good to keep in mind is the gendered nature of informality; the vast majority of informal workers are women and girls. In SSA, women and girls account for 84% of non-agricultural informal workers. Whoa.

Thank you for starting this conversation! Beyond insights gathered in this Research phase, I hope it's one that is at the forefront when we move to proposing ideas.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Great provocations Karolle,

I look forward to research posts digging deeper in the questions you are bringing up:

What Associations for self-employed persons, cooperative financing are out there?
Are there campaigns for awareness of government assistance programs that we can be inspired by?

What are the main characteristics to build ecosystems that enable micro-entrepreneurs to do business in mainstream markets? what has worked, what doesn't, and what else can we try?

Super interesting conversation,

Photo of Meena Kadri

SEWA comes to mind as a flourishing association for self employed women in India: You can read more on Wikipedia:'s_Association_of_I In 2008 it had close to 1 million members.

Elsewhere, in New York, the Center for Urban Pedagogy released Vendor Power which decodes the rules and regulations for New York’s 10,000 street vendors so they can understand their rights, avoid fines, and earn an honest living: (designed by social innovator, Candy Chang)

Looking forward to examples from others here on Luisa's great questions. And indeed – this is an important topic loaded with potential opportunities for this challenge. Thanks for sparking the conversation, Justin!

Photo of Karolle Rabarison

SEWA is a great example, Meena. Really impressed with the work they are doing to support both younger and older women.

Have a couple of other possible examples in mind I need to look up and detail in a new post.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Great examples Meena.
This comment also reminds me of WIEGO, an organization that we saw pop up a lot in the Women's Safety Challenge:

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