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Informal workers in India, Africa, LatAm, Asia represents half of non-agricultural GDP: Report

Cities have historically stigmatised informal workers as avoiding taxes and regulations, representing unfair competition to formal firms.


PTI 29 May 2018, 10:49 AM India
  • The report noted that a limited but growing number of cities is adopting a more inclusive approach to informal workers and their economic activities. (Image Credit: Wikimedia)

There are millions of informal workers across growing cities of India, Africa, Latin America and Asia which represent around 80 percent of the urban workforce, and nearly half of non-agricultural GDP, says a report.

According to WRI Cities report on the urban informal workforce and economy written in collaboration with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), with the growing number of informal workers in cities, more inclusive approaches are needed to create better cities for all.

"Informal workers – from street vendors and waste pickers to home-based workers that manufacture garments and other goods – represent 50 to 80 per cent of urban employment worldwide and generate up to half of non-agricultural GDP," the World Resources Institute report said.

Cities have historically stigmatised informal workers as avoiding taxes and regulations, representing unfair competition to formal firms, appropriating public space, and creating congestion, unsanitary conditions, and public health risks. As a result they are largely invisible.

As per the report, 27 per cent of urban informal workforce is in the trade segment, 27 per cent in manufacturing, 12 per cent in construction, 9 per cent in transport and 24 per cent in other services like (domestic work and waste).

The report advocates more inclusive cities, wherein informal workers will get legal identity and standing, economic and social rights, access to core infrastructure services, social protection and representation.

"The best way forward is to include organisations of informal workers in the formal processes of urban governance and management to negotiate policies and plans that balance competing interests and promote social and economic justice.” said Martha A Chen, co-author of the study, International Coordinator at WIEGO.

The report noted that a limited but growing number of cities is adopting a more inclusive approach to informal workers and their economic activities.

Citing examples, the report said for the last 45 years, India's Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a trade union of 1.5 million women informal workers, has collaborated with city governments to provide core public infrastructure services by organising workers and linking them to specific city government departments responsible for housing, electricity, sanitation, and water.

Moreover, the city government in Bhubaneshwar, India, designated vending zones for street vendors in 2006.

"Cities will add 2.5 billion more people by the middle of the century,” said Ani Dasgupta, Global Director for WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

“Finding more ways to bring informal workers out of the shadows – to recognise their worth and encourage greater public benefit from their labour – is essential to a future that’s productive, equal and sustainable," Dasgupta added.

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