Launch of the Arab Watch Report on Informal Employment

May 8, 2017 - May 9, 2017

Cairo, Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon

“Informal labor is not a marginal issue in Arab countries. It is a core component of modern Arab economies and the distribution of work therein and is doomed to expand under current policies.” - Samir Aita, Lead Researcher, Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights: Informal Labor

"Injustice to informal workers, as manifested in the iconic case of the street vendor in Tunis who set himself on fire after his goods were confiscated, helped precipitate the Arab Spring revolution. Justice for informal workers, who represent the majority of workers in the region, is a key pathway to reconstruction and peace." - Marty Chen, WIEGO International Coordinator

The Arab NGO Network on Development (ANND) launched the third issue of its Arab Watch Report on Economic and Social Rights on the topic of Informal Employment in Arab Nations on May 8, 2017 at the American University of Beirut, and on May 9 at the Economic Research Forum in Cairo.  Samir Aita, President of the Circle of Arab Economists and Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Paris Dauphine and Saint Joseph, Beirut, was the lead author of the volume. Marty Chen, International Coordinator of the WIEGO Network and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, was invited to write a paper on informal employment from a comparative global perspective for the volume and to participate in both of the launch events. See her comment on the report and the launch below:

Publications/Resources:

ANND issued the following press release on the report launch (from the ANND website): 

"The Arab NGO Network on Development (ANND) launched the third issue of the Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights, with a focus on the question of Informal Labor. The latest Arab Watch release addresses the question of informal labor from a rights-based perspective, which creates another challenge in monitoring these generally missing rights, in addition to the struggle to achieve them and the main role of the state in providing them. It contains two main sections. Section one covers the global and regional context, through the analysis of national reports and international data and statistics. It also contains studies on the relationship of informal labor with neoliberal policies, migration, and the gender aspect. Section two contains national reports from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The report shows that civil and economic rights are at the core of the question of informal labor, especially rights related to health insurance, pensions, and decent living, in addition to the right to housing, clean drinking water, sanitation, social services, and infrastructure. It also impacts the right to education and training in line with economic and technical developments. All such rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Economic Rights, which goes hand in hand with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in addition to the Constitutions of most Arab countries. However, a shrinking number of workers are enjoying such rights.

The report reaches several vital conclusions, namely that the “highest percentages of lack of formality are in countries with the least strict laws and bureaucracies, and vice versa. This goes against the stereotype that says that informality is a result of strict laws and bureaucracies.” It also concludes that “informal labor in Arab countries is mostly waged labor, except in rare cases, which contradicts another idea that says that informal labor is a choice, as young people entering the job market have no choice but to find any type of livelihood, no matter how fragile or temporary.”

The report was launched in two workshops held in each of Beirut and Cairo, which brought together a group of experts, researchers, academics, and civil society activists. On Monday, 8 May 2017, ANND, in cooperation with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, held a workshop to launch the “Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights 2016: Informal Labor” at the Institute’s premises at the American University of Beirut. The next day, the report was launched in Cairo, in collaboration with the American University of Cairo (AUC), the Economic Research Forum (ERF), and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, at the ERF premises in Cairo. In addition to launching the report, the two workshops aimed to initiate a serious and comprehensive debate on informal employment in the Arab region."

Source: Arab NGO Network for development (ANND)

More Information

Watch a video (prepared by ANND and presented at the launch events) summarizing the rights and protections that are generally denied to informal workers: