The COVID-19 pandemic underscores, now more than ever, that social justice and economic recovery cannot be achieved until every worker has decent working conditions and the contributions they make to society are understood and recognized. Workers in the informal economy are on the frontlines as domestic workers providing care, home-based workers manufacturing personal protective equipment, street vendors and market traders selling food and basic necessities, and waste pickers keeping cities clean.
Women informal economy workers are also taking on more unpaid care work due to school closures. Workers in the Informal economy, including those in informal employment due to a lack of compliance by their employers, are bearing the cost of this pandemic with little or no support. Yet, all the women and men in the informal economy – whether subcontracted, employed in an enterprise or household, or self-employed – contribute by generating demand across the economy and bringing earnings into their households and communities.
Informal economy workers also contribute through taxes, fees and operating licenses required to undertake their economic activity, yet most do not have access to quality public services or benefit from any form of social protection in return. Austerity measures imposed by the IMF and governments will undermine the potential for economic recovery and shift the costs further onto the working poor.
This position paper explores the actions which must be taken in order to ensure that workers in the informal economy survive the pandemic and are able to recover their earnings and livelihoods.