Informal Workers in the Developing World: Organizing in the Global Economy

Informal employment is back on the policy agenda. Not only is it rising steadily in developed countries—it also already represents the majority of the workforce in most developing countries. Adding to policy concerns are the lingering impacts of the Great Recession on employment and the global crisis of youth unemployment. In all parts of the world, the reality is that the majority of informal workers are poor, and the majority of working poor are informally employed. Historically, labor law, labor statistics, and labor organizing have all centered on the notion of a recognized employer–employee relation- ship. But in addition to self-employed workers, increasingly, many wage or salaried workers are no longer in a clearly recognized employer– employee relationship. These two groups are generally referred to as “informal workers” in developing countries and “nonstandard workers” in developed countries.

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