ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Money or Medium?

Women, Informality, and the Role of Political Institutions

Women’s empowerment in the informal economy is mainly understood through a solution-based approach: improving access to finance or giving informal women workers avenues to express and acquire their political voice. Yet, little consideration is given to the root cause of their precarity, which, in the end, disempowers the very tools that can secure women’s rights in the informal economy.


In the informal economy, women are objects of favouritism. Not because they are loved but because of their precarity and insecurity which can be easily exploited for the firms’ benefit. Women are given hard choices—either seasonal work with no protection or no job at all; either working long hours or no salary. Chant and Pedwell (2008) termed this as the feminisation of informal labour. In other instances, when women are self-employed, their insecurity emanates from lack of access to fin­ance and the absence of insurance ­(Levin 2002).

Proposals on supporting informal women workers can be divided into two main routes: financial inclusion or political voice. The former relies on the role of access to credit as a facilitator of empowerment. The latter considers voicing concerns about the rights of social protection, decent pay, and fair treatment at work as the most effective strategy to pursue empowerment.

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Updated On : 24th Apr, 2021
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