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When work isn’t 'work'

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Arriving in an African city, you are greeted with the sounds of people selling anything and everything from tomatoes to shoes.

When work isn't 'work' leaflet coverTo earn enough to feed their families, people sell their wares anywhere they can set up shop long enough to make a sale, be it dodging cars in rush hour, sitting on the pavement with their children or in dilapidated sprawling markets.

Many of these traders were forced out of work in the formal economy. Millions of workers across sub-Saharan Africa lost their jobs as a result of ill conceived economic policies, including public spending cuts. These cuts left people with no choice but to scrape a living in the informal economy.

With no safety net to fall back on, the majority of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa now has to resort to the informal economy for survival. Ignored by their governments and with no other jobs available, traders have to work long hours in the blazing sun with no guarantee of making a sale.

They face constant harassment and discrimination from the police, who arrest them, confiscate their stock and force them to pay bribes to keep trading. This wipes out a trader’s business, making it nearly impossible to buy new goods and start over. But in the eyes of the authorities, this is not real ‘work’.

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