Informal economy! I’m not sure whether any of the readers have had heard the term ‘informal economy’ ever before. As far as I know, the term is not there in school syllabus. It is apparently absent from Bachelors’ courses too. Informal economy workers are everywhere. Let me also make one thing very clear, that informal economy workers are neither illegal nor illegitimate children of the republic. It is definitely not the other name of black market.
Informal economy, at very basic level, means the economy or sectors which are not regularized or recognized by the state or other state actors. Most of the developing economies are known for large scale informalities in various sectors. South Asia, particularly India, is no different. According to the Employment & Unemployment Survey 2004-05, 84.7 % of Indians work in the informal economy, a majority of those are women and many fall in the category of youth. A street vendor selling vegetables, a cobbler repairing shoes, domestic help, waste picker collecting –sell-able or recyclable waste, agriculture labourer, carpenter and many more are all informal economy workers. They are the backbone of Indian economy. Their contribution to GDP is rarely acknowledged.
Most informal economy workers are poor, marginalized and in context of India, belong to erstwhile lower castes. They live in informal settlements which are disease prone, with no proper water and sanitation facilities. Their access to social, educational and nutritional security is lowest amongst most social groups. In recent years, a few welfare measures like right to food and right to education have come up, but they are too short of addressing the cores issues which make masses vulnerable.
In the troubled times like the ones we are living in, another monster is standing at our door. The monster is Climate Emergency. The nation-states have not taken any stringent action to mitigate the climate crisis. Instead, they agreed to have a 2 degree C rise in temperature without even knowing what it implies. This means that they have agreed to more floods, droughts, irregular rains and falling agriculture production.
The article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and can be read here.