World's poorest workers fall further behind: study

Published Mar 23, 2011 10:44am

  

poverty asia
A vendor arranges electronic appliances in Manila on March 23, 2011. - Photo by AFP

 

MANILA: Scavengers, street vendors and other informal workers are falling further behind as the global economy recovers, amid rising competition from hordes of new working poor, a study released Wednesday said. 

A survey of people struggling in the so-called “informal job sector” in nine Asian, African and Latin American countries found they had largely missed out on the benefits of the rebound from the 2008 financial crisis. 

“Incomes have risen for some workers in absolute terms to mid-2009 levels, but not to pre-crisis levels and not at the rate of rising living costs,” said the study by Inclusive Cities, an international coalition of groups supporting the working poor. 

“Persistent unemployment and underemployment in the informal economy continues to drive new entrants into informal employment.” 

The sector includes waste pickers, street vendors, construction workers and maids, as well as home-based workers who make clothes and other low-cost products for global brands. 

Half the respondents in the survey saw their incomes fall between mid-2009 and 2010. 

Home-based subcontractors did see stronger demand from the big manufacturing companies for their products, but this was largely offset by the rising prices of fabrics, dyes and other raw materials, according to the study. 

Street vendors reported no increase in local demand, while scavengers said the amount of useful waste they could source had not returned to pre-crisis levels. 

Meanwhile, six in 10 found new competition, after workers in the formal labour market who lost their jobs during the financial crisis joined the informal sector. 

One in six respondents had a family member lose his or her job, with the same number forced to withdraw one or more children, more often girls than boys, from school. 

To cut costs they trimmed their food intake last year. 

To help their plight, the report said that street vendors needed low-cost loans and a secure place to sell their wares, home-based workers wanted cheaper electricity, and waste pickers needed more recyclable waste volumes. 

The research conducted in 2010 covered Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Thailand.

The study said there were no definite numbers for people working in the informal sector.

But an International Labour Organisation study released in January said that apart from the record 205 million who were jobless amid the global recovery, 1.54 billion were trapped in so-called “vulnerable employment”.


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