Informal Economy

Asia Pacific: Unions undertake commitment to organize informal workers

Press release | Colombo, Sri Lanka | 09 August 2016
COLOMBO (ACTRAV INFO)– Organizing informal workers is crucial to implement ILO Recommendation 204 on the transition from the informal to the formal economy, according to the conclusions of a 3-day seminar held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss strategies to implement ILO Recommendation 204. Participants also shared different good practices implemented by unions to facilitate the transition from the informal economy:

  • In Bangladesh, trade unions teamed up with human rights and civil society organisations to create a Domestic Workers' Rights Network (DWRN) in December 2006 .After a campaign they ran for 10 years, they managed to convince the Government to introduce a “Domestic Workers Protection & Welfare Policy (2015)”.
  • In China, trade unions have promoted decent work for informal workers through the drafting and formulation of Employment Promotion Law (2007), Labor Contract Law (2008), Social Insurance Law (2010) and Amendment of Labor Contract Law (2013).
  • Export processing zones (EPZ) Workers in Sri Lanka are well unionized thanks to the effective implementation of ILO C.87 and C. 98 and their unions could sign a number of Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
  • Three wheeler’s drivers in Bengaluru, India are unionized, simultaneously operating their own healthcare insurance scheme.
  • In Nepal, a Social Security Bill was drafted and submitted to Parliament for adoption thanks to the joint effort and solidarity expressed by several unions.
  • The on-going organising investment of Unions in Pakistan resulted in forming and registering the first agriculture Workers’ Union in Sind Province.
  • The International Domestic Workers Federation shared their experience in organizing. . The International Trade Union Confederation for Asia and Pacific (ITUC-AP) highlighted their organising pilot project implemented in India and Bangladesh. The ILO project, ‘Way Out of Informality’ run in Bangladesh, India and Nepal was also presented to participants..
The seminar concluded that compliance with International Labour Standards (especially Conventions n°87 on Freedom of Association and n°.98 on Collective Bargaining), is fundamental for facilitating the transition and social dialogue could be a mechanism to drive this process. Union unity and solidarity at national, regional and global level is essential for influencing society and achieving the goal of decent work in the informal economy.

The meeting was organised by the ILO’s Bureau for Workers ‘Activities (ACTRAV) in cooperation with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). The seminar which was held from 3 to 5 August 2016 brought together 30 union representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

For more information, please contact:
Mr Pong-Sul Ahn, Regional Workers’ Education Specialist, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
[Email: ; Tel: +66 2 288 2247]