Excerpt from the opinion piece, It's Time for a New Progressive Era, With Informal Workers at the Center by Darren Walker (president of the Ford Foundation) and Sally Roever (International Coordinator, WIEGO) placed in TIME’s Economy section on November 25, 2021.
"Informal work is the essential service that billions of people give to a world that barely notices. These are workers who survive outside the social and labor protections that employees in the mainstream economy enjoy, doing countless invisible jobs. They clean homes and care for children. They sweep streets and collect trash and recyclables. They make and sell clothing, electronic goods and food. They perform manual labor. Their workplaces are inside homes or out on the streets and sidewalks; they are everywhere and yet they are overlooked, forgotten, ignored.
There are about 2 billion informal workers worldwide. They make up more than 60% of all the world’s workforce, and 90% of workers in developing countries. One in five workers in the U.S. is employed informally. Globally, 58% of women who work are engaged in informal employment, a figure that rises to 92% in developing countries.
What all these workers offer—the sweat of their brows, the strength of their arms and backs, their knowledge and skills—has great value, but they are not themselves valued. They work without the benefit of wage and hour and workplace-safety laws, at dangerous and tedious tasks, prone to exploitation by predatory employers and authorities.
The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable these often unappreciated workers are. Lockdowns and unstable economies have forced many more of them into poverty. Society now understands more clearly how much it depends on “essential workers,” many of whom are in the informal economy. But what the world still needs to recognize is how these front-line workers, in defending their own rights and dignity, are upholding these values for everyone."
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