Informal Sector

Informal Sector

According to the ILO 50 – 60% of the urban workforce in the GMS works in the informal sector, employed in small-scale activities that are often not recognized or regulated. Many different types of work can be classified as informal work, including construction, domestic work, small-scale manufacturing, sex work, fishery work, home based work, and sub-contract work.

Usually the informal sector is more flexible, meaning greater convenience for workers with families. However, for employers, the flexibility often means a lack of standardisaton of labour regulations. Informal sector work is usually labour intensive and may not require extensive training. The relationship between the employer and employee is often unwritten and informal, with little or no appreciation of industrial relations and workers rights.

Many migrants work in the informal sector, in addition to a high number of women. Jobs associated with the work women do, ie cooking, sewing, food vending and garment manufacturing, are the least well protected forms of employment and are for the most part categorized as informal.

Furthermore, informal sector workers are often invisible to labour legislators and enforcers and workers in the informal sector find it extremely onerous to use existing labour laws for protection. Often this is because they have difficulty proving the relationship that exists between themselves and their employer, or proving that they are actually formally employed, rendering it near impossible to file a formal complaint.

This is a particular problem for domestic workers, agricultural workers and workers working in supply chains. The ommission to include workers in the informal sector in labour legislation prevents them from enjoying adequate labour and social protection, impacting on their well-being .

Informal sector workers need regulated working conditions that recognize and support their flexibility, rather than punishing them for it. Different groups of informal sector workers encounter different workplace problems. However, the most common are poor lighting, lack of ventilation, excessive heat, poor housekeeping, inadequate workspace, poor work tools and workplace design, awkward posture, exposure to dangerous chemicals, lack of clean water and other basic welfare facilities, and long working hours. Workers accept this situation because they are simply preoccupied with survival and not fully aware of workplace hazards.

No established mechanisms exist to monitor workplace injuries and illnesses in the informal sector, as they do in the formal sector. Injuries often go unreported and are sett led by operators and workers, sometimes through small cash payments or termination of employment. Even for severe injuries, where they are not enrolled in a social protection scheme, workers are frequently deprived of benefits that would otherwise have been available. It is often hard to establish the relationship between work and the illness the worker might be suffering from.

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