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Informal economy

Millions of people around the globe scrape a living working outside the formal economy. Whether they are street vendors, market vendors, rubbish collectors, home-workers or work in numerous other unregulated jobs, they provide society with vital services but are afforded little protection or legal rights.

Despite the common misperception that informal economy workers opt to stay outside the system to evade taxes, the vast majority have no choice in the matter. They are merely trying to make a living via legal activities that happen to be unrecognised in the system they are in.

Some workers cannot afford the licences or taxes necessary to work in the formal economy, whilst others have been pushed into the informal economy due to economic restructuring destroying the formal sector and resulting in massive job losses. The consequences are often devastating: abysmal pay and safety conditions, job insecurity, and a complete lack of representation. They are denied the right to work in the city.

Similarly, shack dwellers are denied the right to the city as they cannot afford to rent private housing and are forced to live in shacks in so-called slums or 'informal settlements'. They are often stigmatised as 'squatters' and face eviction from areas in which they have lived for long periods of time. In the absence of adequate alternative housing offered by government, they have no choice but to continue to live in shacks.

War on Want’s informal economy programme fights for the right to the city for all through improving the working and living conditions of informal workers, shack dwellers and township residents. War on Want works with organisations and movements campaigning for better working and living conditions in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia.

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Tags: informal economy | kenya | malawi | overseas work | right to the city | south africa | zambia