Sustainable development is a multifaceted endeavour, across social, political and economic issues. A key part of this is promoting decent work. Jobs which are safe, fair and focused on human development can serve as the foundation for a thriving economy and social wellbeing.
While many initiatives have been created to focus on the promotion of decent work in formal businesses, little work has been done to understand and promote decent work in the informal economy. This is a glaring gap as estimates suggest that 70% of employment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa are in the informal sector.
The informal sector poses a challenge for decent work as it is assumed that the jobs it creates are insecure, poorly paid and often unsafe. Without a good job, workers are unable to take a long-term view and plan for better outcomes in the future. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of dependents fulfilling their potential, and the cycle of poverty continues. Therefore the benefits of economic development are only unlocked through decent work and ‘good jobs’.
From a women and youth perspective, this topic is even more critical as these groups are disproportionately represented in the informal economy. Furthermore, given Africa’s huge ‘youth bulge’, the informal sector is likely to grow even faster as young people enter the job market in increasing numbers.
We believe that re-imagined, the informal sector has tremendous potential to provide decent work for all. This research attempts to kick off a discussion about how to achieve that by conducting in depth interviews with ten informal sector entrepreneurs in Uganda employing 3 to 60 people across a range of sectors in Mbale Town, a large urban settlement in Eastern Uganda.