WOMEN IN THE INFORMAL SECTOR: ALWAYS A POVERTY PHENOMENON
About 50- 60% of the workforce in developing countries are found in the informal sectors. While in some countries over 90% of their labour force work in the informal sector. Some characteristics of the informal sector include smallness in scale, heterogeneity in activities, entry and exit are easier than in the formal sector, capital investment is usually minimal, work is mostly labour- intensive requiring low- level skills, there is usually no formal training as workers learn on the job, and employer-employee relationship if often unwritten and informal with little or no rights. The informal sector provides jobs for people who have no access to the formal sector and absorbs the poorest of the poor who have no social protection and therefore are further excluded socially. The problem is that the majority of workers in developing countries are in the informal sector and this leads a large part of the population in developing countries unprotected and socially excluded from protection schemes.
Actually men and women are socially excluded in the informal sector but women are even more vulnerable due to numerous historical, social and economic factors. Women have always been working in the informal sector, but within the last two decades, there has been a growing awareness of women’s contribution to the informal sector, hence their increased visibility. Some reasons for the increase in women entering the informal labour force include increased economic crises, structural adjustment programs, and technological innovation, which have reduced job opportunities in the formal economy and increased the need for supplementary family incomes. Other reasons are that recently, there has been a steady increase in female-headed households due to numerous circumstances such as separation from their husband due to civil war, migration, increase in instances of divorce, etc, so women become the main breadwinners to sustain their households. Women are disadvantaged in many because they enter the labour market with pre-existing inequalities such as lower levels of education and training, poorer health and nutrition, less participation in decision- making, etc. Therefore, women are forced to take up low skilled jobs in the informal sector with little or no social protection.
Unions and other protective measures are less effective for women because although they may be even better organized, they may be seen as a threat and therefore their efforts may be subdued, ‘women workers are the majority in the informal economy, but they are the least represented group in the trade unions. This places them in a situation of precariousness. Indeed, they are left without the possibility of protecting their rights and of bargaining over better working conditions.
The lockdown, which followed the corona disease, devastated the economy. All production units were shut down. Commerce, trade, distribution and consumption are all at stake. The government is now unable to concentrate on the unorganized sector. Governments should be able to provide food and financial assistance to workers in the unorganized sector. But the government spends more money in the public sector. For this, the government should be prepared to grant tax concession, other loans to employers and should take measures to help small and medium enterprises. But the measures taken by the government in this regard are genuinely fraudulent. By focusing solely on production, they ignore other factors. It completely ignores the timing and nature of work. Such problems are mostly experienced by workers in the unorganized sector. The government ignores farmer income issues in agriculture. The past two years have seen a serious decline in agriculture. This problem can now be seen in other important sectors, including industry. This is what really caused the recession. These crises were revealed in the wake of the corona disease, but the truths are yet to come out. When problems arise, it is imperative to feed the people. At the same time, it is necessary to solve the agrarian crisis.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anjali P. is Research scholar, at the School of Indian legal thought, MG University, Kerala.
You can contact them at- https://www.linkedin.com/in/anjali-p-74399a1a9/
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