Informal Economy

Future of trade unions depends on organizing the informal economy

A new report reveals that organizing workers in the informal economy may spark the renewal of the trade union movement. This can be done by expanding membership and collective bargaining coverage in the informal economy in order to protect labour rights, project a united voice and influence social and economic policies.

Press release | ILO Geneva | 20 June 2019
ACTRAV INFO, 20 June 2019 (Geneva)—Addressing decent work deficits that affect 2.5 billion workers in the informal economy is vital to renewal of the trade union movement, according to a new report jointly prepared by the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) and the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA).

Entitled Organizing Informal Economy Workers into Trade Unions, the report states that organizing informal workers into trade unions provides opportunities to expand membership and collective bargaining coverage to protect labour rights, strengthen workers’ collective voice, and influence social and economic policies.

“The future trends and dynamics of the informal economy have important implications for workers’ organizations. As such, the trade union movement in general must remain committed to promoting workers’ rights in the informal economy, ensuring the improvement of their working conditions and enabling them to play a decisive role in the economic and social development process of their respective countries. The ILO Recommendation No. 204 is a unique instrument that provides guidance to a rights-based approach on the transition from the informal to the formal economy”, said Mohammed Mwamadzingo, ACTRAV Desk Officer for Africa.

The report identified the six main challenges to the integration of the informal economy into the trade union movement:
  • Who to organize
  • How to organize
  • Constitution and representation
  • Dues structures and collection
  • Services and benefits to offer
  • Fostering democratic practices
Presenting best practice and case studies from trade unions worldwide, Organizing Informal Economy Workers into Trade Unions seeks to improve the technical knowledge and skills of union leaders, educators, organizers and representatives of organizations of informal economy workers on the need for formalizing the informal economy.

“The aim of this study is to offer practical guidance on how to address institutional challenges in organizing the informal economy into trade unions. The study relies on practical and important lessons from around the world on how to integrate the diverse group of informal economy workers and operators into the formal structures of the trade union movement,” said Jorgen Assens from the DTDA.

Organizing Informal Economy Workers into Trade Unions is part of a series of ACTRAV publications intended to help workers’ organizations understand and address decent work deficits in the informal economy.

A recent ILO report shows that the informal economy accounts for 85.8 per cent of employment in Africa, 68.2 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region, 68.6 per cent in the Arab states, 40.0 per cent in the Americas, and 25.1 per cent in Europe and Central Asia. In addition, Women and men in the informal economy:

A statistical picture  indicates that 93 per cent of the world’s informal employment is based in emerging and developing countries.

For more information:
Mamadou Kaba SOUARE
Communication and Information Officer
Tel.: +41 22 799 74 08