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Women Working in the Shadows: The informal economy and export processing zones

Art.-Nr.: 2010-22

Year of publication: 2010

Large areas of women’s work in the world economy takes place in a shadowy realm not covered by labour market statistics, media headlines and research projects. Information on socially vulnerable sectors of the economy in which women’s work is performed is scanty. The amount of employment which is largely beyond the pale of protective measures of the state has increased dramatically over the last few decades. Such forms of employment, also referred to as informal, atypical, unprotected or precarious, are also sharply on the rise in the industrialised countries as well.

Almost two-thirds of paid employees in the world work in the informal economy today. These usually include street vendors, small producers, domestic employees and home workers in the South, and casual employees, temporary workers, part-time and non-permanent employees and frequently micro-entrepreneurs in the North. Two-thirds of them are considered poor in the world. The majority of employees in the informal economy are women. There is also a dearth of data on the working conditions of the primarily female employees working in export promotion zones worldwide. There is scarcely any public awareness of the fact that workers’ and women’s rights are being systematically violated in many of these tax and customs enclaves in more than a hundred countries.

This publication provides basic information on the informal economy and export processing zones, exploring their development in the context of globalisation and the prevailing gender order. It offers proposals for action to be taken by church and women’s groups, trade unions and youth organisations taking the example of campaigns relating to the global textiles and clothing industry, in which women’s work in the informal economy and in export processing zones is very widespread.

(Ingeborg Wick, 60 Pages)

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Women Working in the Shadows: The informal economy and export processing zones

Art.-Nr.: 2010-22

Year of publication: 2010

Large areas of women’s work in the world economy takes place in a shadowy realm not covered by labour market statistics, media headlines and research projects. Information on socially vulnerable sectors of the economy in which women’s work is performed is scanty. The amount of employment which is largely beyond the pale of protective measures of the state has increased dramatically over the last few decades. Such forms of employment, also referred to as informal, atypical, unprotected or precarious, are also sharply on the rise in the industrialised countries as well.

Almost two-thirds of paid employees in the world work in the informal economy today. These usually include street vendors, small producers, domestic employees and home workers in the South, and casual employees, temporary workers, part-time and non-permanent employees and frequently micro-entrepreneurs in the North. Two-thirds of them are considered poor in the world. The majority of employees in the informal economy are women. There is also a dearth of data on the working conditions of the primarily female employees working in export promotion zones worldwide. There is scarcely any public awareness of the fact that workers’ and women’s rights are being systematically violated in many of these tax and customs enclaves in more than a hundred countries.

This publication provides basic information on the informal economy and export processing zones, exploring their development in the context of globalisation and the prevailing gender order. It offers proposals for action to be taken by church and women’s groups, trade unions and youth organisations taking the example of campaigns relating to the global textiles and clothing industry, in which women’s work in the informal economy and in export processing zones is very widespread.

(Ingeborg Wick, 60 Pages)

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