In sub-Saharan Africa, informal employment is the rule rather than the exception: Informal workers make up 89% of the workforce in the region – the current state of labour in Africa is informal! Protecting their rights and facilitating the transition to formality is therefore key to the labour movement. Even though waste pickers, street vendors or artisanal miners play a crucial role in their respective economies, their activities are often criminalised and in many cases, they are not considered workers. Moreover, already marginalised groups like women and youth tend to be overrepresented in informal and vulnerable types of employment.
The trade union movement cannot ignore this growing precariat, but needs to expand its traditional membership base by “crossing the divide” between the informal and formal economy. To initiate such change FES TUCC together with its partners aims at developing a more nuanced understanding of the informal sector, its contributions to communities and economies as well as its specific characteristics. This will not only help unions to adjust their structures and to explore new forms of organizing, but also to represent the interests of workers in broader societal debates and to actively shape political decision-making processes.
We have teamed up with IndustriALL, WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) as well as Pact DRC in order to address decent work deficits and improve working conditions in the informal sector. Our joint activities include projects on the formalisation of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) but also of the so-called Gig Economy through membership-based organising; promoting labour standards and workplace health and safety for the informal workforce; mobilising workers in the informal economy for collective action; and campaigning around equal economic opportunities and rights.