Published on Jobs and Development

Crafting Policies Where Informal is Normal – Part 1

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Martha Chen is a Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and International Coordinator at WIEGO Network.

In the developing world, where the informal workforce is at least half of the total workforce, a major debate centers on how best to help these workers. The big problem is that informal sector work is associated with low incomes, high risks, no formal contracts or benefits, and limited economic rights and a representative voice. We recently spoke with Martha Chen, a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the International Coordinator of the WIEGO Network — a global action-research-policy network that seeks to improve the status of the working poor in the informal economy, especially women.

Informal sector construction workers in India. © Martha Chen.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, she argues that "informal is normal." This means that in developing countries not only are the majority of workers informally employed — with the highest levels in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa — but also that most jobs are created in the informal economy and most informal workers are trying to earn an honest living. She gives her thoughts on the challenge of accurately measuring the size of the informal sector and the types of workers in it to enable policy makers to better craft economic policies and labor laws that help lift the working poor out of poverty.

This post was first published on the Jobs Knowledge Platform.

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