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COVID-19 Economic Recovery: Enhancing the Economic Recovery and Empowerment of Informal Women Workers in Kenya

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the informal women workers due to lockdowns, curfews, school closures, and all other containment measures- most of which missed the feminist lens in their formulation, enforcement, and reporting. All recovery efforts, therefore, ought to deliberately consider the informal sector.

What is at stake?

Globally, the informal economy employs approximately two billion people, representing about 61 percent of global employment. Notably, women are over-represented in the informal urban economies. Possible drivers of informality for women workers include gender-based discrimination in the labor workforce, unequal responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work, fewer opportunities for skills development, lack of resources, and social norms that limit their choice of work (World Bank, 2018; Holmes and Scott, 2016; International Labor Organization, 2013).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on economies, especially the informal economy. In addition, the pandemic has compounded the vulnerabilities of informal women workers and their families. The economic vulnerabilities have negatively impacted the social, physical, and mental well-being of the workers in the informal economy.

Women constitute the majority (66 per cent) of the informal workforce. By excluding them from planning and implementation, economic recovery is significantly hampered. Macro- and microeconomic stimulus packages and policies must intentionally target and address their unique working conditions and enterprises.

In policy formulation, excluding informal women workers, who constitute the majority workforce in all the informal sub-sectors, hinders economic recovery efforts. Hence, the macro and microeconomic stimulus packages and policies must address the needs and priorities of the informal sector to unlock and accelerate their post – pandemic economic potential and pathways to recovery.

Key Takeaways

  • Informal women workers are central to post COVID-19 economic recovery.

  • Economic recovery policy efforts must deliberately target informal women workers for enhanced and inclusive recovery.

  • Recognition of the informal sector’s contribution to the economy is important in creating resilience mechanisms that support adaptation and scaling up.