Governments must act now to improve the lives of informal workers – new ODI report

29 January 2018

Governments must act now to improve the lives of informal workers who risk being left behind, experts at the Overseas Development Institute have warned.

In a new paper, experts at the UK’s leading international development think-tank note how informal work really is the new normal, as latest figures show that on average 7 in 10 non-farm workers in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia are in the informal economy.

The paper highlights how regions with a growing youth population, such as sub-Saharan Africa, face particular difficulties in reaching the UN commitment to provide decent work for all by 2030. At the same time, ODI research has shown how the current number of people seeking jobs may in fact be ten times the number of officially unemployed.

The paper is to be launched at an ODI event on Monday (January 29) featuring a keynote speech by Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Future of Work. Her speech will address the challenges facing girls and women in the low-paid labour market globally.

The paper, ‘Informal is the new normal: Improving the lives of workers at risk of being left behind’, argues that supports including those normally linked to a job such as a pension, a minimum wage and recognition of worker organisations would bring much needed benefits to informal workers who are at risk of being left behind.

Report author Elizabeth Stuart, head of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at ODI, said: ‘Developing countries are not going to get all current and future populations into full-time formal waged employment any time soon.

‘While of course, formal employment remains the gold standard, governments must also focus on how to improve wages, working conditions and productivity for informal workers.

‘We urge governments and their partners to recognise the importance of the informal economy, and bring in a range of targeted and universal policies that could help improve the wellbeing and productivity of workers who may otherwise be excluded from progress.’

ENDS

Notes to editor

  • The paper ‘Informal is the new normal: Improving the lives of workers at risk of being left behind’ is to be published on Monday, January 29
  • The event, ‘#GlobalChallenges: providing decent jobs for all’, will take place at the Overseas Development Institute from 11am-12.30pm GMT on Monday, January 29
  • Latest figures on the share of informal workers in non-farm employment in sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia are from Charmes, J. (2016) in Kraemer-Mbula and Wunsch-Vincent (eds.), The informal economy in developing nations: Hidden engine of innovation?
  • A 2016 ODI report Towards a complete jobs picture: a new lens on labour data gaps and on automation by Stephen Gelb and Amina Khan found that the number of people seeking jobs may be ten times the number of officially unemployed, starting that 2 billion working-age people (two-thirds of whom are women) are classified as ‘outside the labour force’

For more information or to arrange an interview with Elizabeth Stuart please contact James Rush on [email protected] or call +44 (0)7808 791265