Statement on the Attack of the Informal Economy

Economic Justice for Women Project (EJWP) criticizes in the strongest sense the barbaric and ruthless attack on vendors and the demolition of their structures in a government operation that started last Tuesday. We condemn the heavy handedness and use of force in the process, which is a total disregard of the demographic composition of the informal economy, which is dominated by women and persons with disabilities. This operation is a sign of total disregard of the contribution of the informal economy to basic livelihoods of vulnerable households amidst increasing urban poverty that has been fueled by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses to curbing this virus have seen the closure of the informal sector in a lockdown that lasted more than ten months. The World Food Program recently reported that more than 8 million Zimbabweans are living in extreme poverty and need urgent assistance in a global plea for assistance.

This uninformed process also comes against a background where the Zimbabwean government has failed to provide social security grants to the majority of the affected marginalized communities largely composed of women. The demolitions are a reflection of a system ignorant to the real plight of its citizens. This operation is a direct attack on the 85% of Zimbabwean workforce, which is employed in the informal economy and barely living from hand to mouth. This operation should stop forthwith and priority focus should be put on addressing increasing urban poverty that has made young women drop out of school, increased child marriages, increased ritual murders, armed robberies and reduced access to basic social services in both rural and urban areas.

It is against this background that the Zimbabwean government needs to acknowledge that the informal sector is the space that has raised hope for many Zimbabwean families and is the sole alternative for their livelihoods.

Given this background, EJWP recommends that:

  • An impact assessment is carried out, particularly on marginalized groups such as women and persons with disabilities before such aggressive, barbaric and traumatic responses (operations) are implemented.
  • The Local government councils should reduce bureaucracy and red tape involved in getting operational licenses and allocation of operating spaces. Processes should take into consideration the diverse demographic composition of people in the informal economy, particularly women and persons with disabilities.
  • That the government focuses on addressing the root causes of poverty rather than its effects.
  • Ratification and domestication of ILO Recommendation 204: in 2015 the International Labour Conference adopted Recommendation 204- Concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy. The objectives of the Recommendation are to: (a) facilitate the transition of workers and economic units from the informal to the formal economy, while respecting workers’ fundamental rights and ensuring opportunities for income security, livelihoods and entrepreneurship; (b) promote the creation, preservation and sustainability of enterprises and decent jobs in the formal economy and the coherence of macroeconomic, employment, social protection and other social policies; and (c) prevent the informalisation of formal economy jobs. it provides an enabling and guiding framework for the realisation of decent work in the informal economy where women abound, as it transitions to the formal economy.

Source: Economic Justice for Women Project

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