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The Informal Sector

Thirty years ago, the International Labour Organization coined the term “the informal sector” to describe the activities of the working poor. Today, this sector accounts for nearly half of all workers in the world and it is expanding in both developing and industrialized countries. ILO Television takes a look at how some of the working poor are working their way out of poverty.

Date issued: 11 March 2002
Size/duration: 00:02:27 (5.96 MB)

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Thirty years ago, the International Labour Organization coined the term -the informal sector- to describe the activities of the working poor. Today, this sector accounts for nearly half of all workers in the world and it is expanding in both developing and industrialized countries. ILO Television takes a look at how some of the working poor are working their way out of poverty.

Monica’s day starts early. She’s the sole provider for her four children but she earns barely enough from her full-time factory job to pay her rent and food bills. To survive, she gets up early to make coffee and rolls to sell before her day shift begins.

Monica is one of the millions of people all over the world who are turning to the informal economy for survival. Half a billion of them work for a dollar a day or less.

Around 160 million people world wide are jobless, 53 million of them in industrialized and transition economies. The pressure to find a job, any job, has never been greater.

Unemployed man, S. Africa

Because I am unemployed, I can do any job, I can polish your shoes if I could, as long as I am going to get money. I can do it.

Informal workers are unprotected by labour legislation, unrecognized, unorganized.. Their working conditions are poor, their wages low, their incomes insecure.

Up to 70% of this informal workforce are women like Leonida Antonio.

Leonida Antonio

When I first came here, they had never seen a group doing home-based work. I was the only one making lace so we formed a group. I taught them to make lace so that they could have another income.

Leonida is part of PATAMABA, a national network for home-based workers in the Philippine. As a result of their efforts, informal home-workers are now covered under the Philippine national labour law.

Lin Lean Lim, ILO expert,

If we look at international labour standards, our international labour standards do provide a solid international basis for coverage of those in the informal economy. If they are currently not covered, its not because international labour standards do not apply, its because national legislation, national law and practice at country level are not adequately covering them.

Better organization, better jobs, it all adds up to a better life and a road out of poverty for the most vulnerable people in the global workforce.

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