In recent months, we have seen an increase in the attention paid to informal workers, both in policy and media circles. Some of these narratives have been positive, recognising the essential nature of informal work—such as in care or waste management—during the crisis. However, there has also been a rise in panic about the supposedly ‘unhygienic’ nature of informal work, with informal workers being singled out as potential carriers of the virus.

These negative narratives that are dismissive of informal work are not new and one of the reasons they persist is because informal work often remains invisible to policymakers. As we already know, while countries are increasingly attempting to measure informal employment as a share of GDP, it often remains excluded from national indicators and economic assessments, such as GDP or employment. Not only does this lead to an underestimation of the actual numbers, it also has other wide-reaching implications, including for poverty and environmental assessments which rely on government statistics. As a result, governments are unable to meet the needs of under-counted and invisible populations.

Critically, and likely as a consequence of some of these wider discourses, informal workers themselves often do not recognise the value of their work and contribution to the economy. In our work at the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD), we have often seen informal workers—and particularly women—use language that devalues their contribution to both their own households and the national economy.

Read the full article about women's work informal sector by Aiman Haque, Max Gallien, Vanessa Van Den Boogaard at India Development Review.