Elderly Poverty in Mexico
In today’s society, people sometimes see the elderly as excess baggage rather than actual human beings. A place where this unfortunate reality is present is in Mexico, where 7.8% of the population is over the age of 65. Within this percentage, 41.1% live in poverty, 34.6 in moderate poverty and 6.6% ($1.90 a day) live in extreme poverty. Here is some information about elderly poverty in Mexico.

Poverty and Mental Health

About 29.2% of all elderly people live alone or with their spouses, be that in a small house or on the streets. The government covers only 46% (which only consists of the formal economy) of the elderly; the other 54% must struggle on their own. With no welfare, retirement plan and aid from the government, over 32,000,000 have no choice but to work past their prime. It is not uncommon for these elders to experience abuse, or for customers, employers or employees to take advantage of them. Due to this, many elderly are vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, stress and loneliness that come from poverty. The day-to-day struggle to scrape up money and food for themselves and their families is at times a burden too heavy to bear. Results from an analysis of suicide rates in Mexico go as follows; from January 2014 to December 2015, 990 residents died from suicide, with 78.28% being males and 21.72% being females. The highest death rates amongst males were 20-24 and 75-79. For females, the highest mortality rate was from 15-19 years old.

Of course, there are ways both the elderly and their families can do to improve mental health. For the elderly that live with families, positive family dynamics (conversations, actions of kindness and a feeling of contribution) can greatly aid their mental health. For many seniors, nothing compares to the support from family. Another type of support is social support, which is support that comes from outside immediate family. This commonly comes in the form of encouragement from community members, co-workers and strangers.

Solutions

One reason elderly poverty in Mexico persists is that only 46% of them (within the Formal economy) have access to assistance programs. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to state that Mexico does nothing to help its elderly. INAPAM (Instituto Nacional para las Personas Adultos Mayores) is a popular program that allows any Mexican resident (over the age of 60) to acquire worthwhile discounts (10%-50%) on a wide range of goods and services such as food, medicine, transportation, clothing and recreational activities. Mexicans can apply easily if they have the necessary requirements. One specific requirement states that the person in question must present a form to confirm their address. Many elderly have no official home, so that fact can immediately disqualify them from applying.

Aztin is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing needs such as education, nutrition, water and health. Since 1977, Aztin has worked closely with families trapped in poverty in the village of Tlamacazapa, Guerrero, Mexico, providing programs that vary from helping with dental hygiene, providing aid to those with special needs and implementing sanitation programs. Locals run Aztin with the idea of social participation in the hope that a sense of personal empowerment will begin with an inner spark of possibility and continue to grow.

Informal Workers and Poverty

For formal workers (workers officially hired, have a set salary, receive health benefits and work benefits), taking a day off is an option. However, 60% of Mexico’s workforce is informal and within this percentage there are 32,000,000 elderly that work informally, thus eliminating any chance of receiving the benefits listed above. It is not uncommon to find a woman well past her 80s working 60-hour shifts in a supermarket without it officially hiring her. As a result, her only way to earn money is from the tips from her customers. For informal workers old and young, this is the lifestyle that poverty has burdened them with. Some may have money, but it is often not enough to call savings. At most, the money may last a week, but after that, these individuals may not have any choice but to work. Necessity and poverty corners the elderly.

A popular program that helps the informal population is called Seguro Popular. This program is an income-based health-insurance program that is available to all non-salaried people who cannot access social security due to not having employment under the government. This includes independent workers (freelancers), people with disabilities and the elderly who do not participate in the labor force. This program provides financial assistance to over 50,000,000 Mexicans and is slowly improving access to health care, especially for the poor.

The Mexican government and its people are diligently working to find ways to provide for their elderly population. Through the continued work of Aztin and the Mexican government, elderly poverty in Mexico should reduce.

– Aaron Samperio
Photo: Flickr

Township BusinessesAlthough South Africa’s apartheid system ended in 1994, the effects of its segregationist policies against non-white citizens can still be seen today. Townships, settlements created by the government to segregate black South Africans from whites, are one of the most visible and lasting scars of the apartheid system. South Africa’s Population Registration Act in 1950 and Group Areas Act defined “non-white” racial groups as black South Africans, Coloreds and Indian South Africans, and forced their eviction from areas designated “white only” to three formally established townships. Today, more than 76 larger townships, each containing township businesses, border several South African cities.

According to the World Bank, townships today contain about half of South Africa’s urban population and 38% of its working-age citizens but as much as 60% of its unemployed. The communities were intentionally developed on the periphery of larger cities. These locations were chosen to separate them from the economic bustle of city centers. This socioeconomic isolation resulted in the development of what is considered an “informal” economic sector containing nearly 6 million businesses across the country.

Businesses in the Informal Economy

These township businesses, according to a 2018 report by the First National Bank, operate in the six primary sectors of grocery stores and stores stocking fast-selling consumer goods, taverns, hair salons, educational centers, micro-manufacturing and motor and cellular repair services. The majority of these enterprises are cash businesses that can make up to millions of rand in revenue. This is particularly true for those that operate in retail. For example, Ram Thapa’s is a South African beauty store and fast-food vendor that has an annual turnover of about 19 million rand ($1.36 million).

Despite a large amount of cash in circulation, the businesses in South Africa’s townships have been historically ignored by the country’s formal economic institutions, such as banks and corporations. These businesses operated untaxed and unregulated. However, the recent recognition of untapped business opportunities in townships and the benefits of collaboration between “informal” and “formal” businesses is marking a turning point in the relationship between these economic sectors in South Africa.

Hardships Within Townships

The recent movement to connect South Africa’s formal and informal economic sectors is closely linked with several issues townships face. These issues regard lack of credit, crime and poverty. The high unemployment and poverty rates in townships could be improved through the growth of township economies and informal institutions. Using poverty lines developed by Statistics South Africa, a 2012 report by T.J. Sekhampu from North-West University in South Africa found that 77% of households in townships were below the upper-bound poverty line. In addition, 50% are below the lower-bound poverty line. With the growth of township businesses through partnerships with formal economic institutions, these startling rates could decrease.

Additionally, a lack of access to credit has discouraged investments in township businesses that are necessary for growth. It has ultimately hindered the development of township economies. Government initiatives are focused on developing physical infrastructure and encouraging regulation. This would create the base for a safer, investment-friendly business environment without the constant threat of crime.

Financial Partnerships

The World Bank estimates that of the 5.78 million informal businesses in townships, which range in size from micro to medium, less than half have a bank account. However, formal institutions are taking steps to offer these businesses financial legitimacy and inclusion, starting with the cities they border. In 2018, FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank partnered with startup financial-tech company Selpal. It uses software and tablets to connect local stores with suppliers. The goal of this partnership is to use zero-fee offerings, as opposed to the traditionally high fees needed to set up business accounts, to attract owners of businesses located in townships.

Ultimately, this partnership signifies a push to connect informal businesses with external suppliers and formal economic institutions that will fuel economic growth for both parties. Economic advancements in townships foster lower crime rates, especially with the lesser amounts of cash business owners will have on-hand. In addition, they help to lower poverty rates by encouraging the growth of businesses that will require more employees.

I Am Emerge

However, Selpal and First National Bank are not the only firms providing township businesses with opportunities for increased economic inclusion and legitimacy. I Am Emerge, an agency specializing in connecting township markets to big business and vise versa, created “Vuelka”, an award-winning app that facilitates bulk purchases of goods sold by businesses in townships. Informal business owners order goods in bulk with cashless purchases.  This further enforces the necessity of Selpal and First National Bank’s goal to increase the number of owners with business accounts.

With continued efforts from organizations such as these, the economic limitations of informal township businesses can begin to lessen. They can pave the way for further equality across South Africa.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America
The informal economy is a fluid area of work that people may drift in and out of. Certain companies may live in both the formal and informal job sector as well. The International Labor Organization (ILO) distinguishes between the informal sector and informal employment, stating that the former is an “enterprise-based concept and is defined by the characteristics of the enterprise in which workers are engaged” while the latter occurs on a case-by-case basis regarding the employee’s relationship to the enterprise. For example, some companies operate within the formal sector but hire certain employees “informally.”  In other words, one can define the informal economy as “firms and workers that stand outside a country’s tax and regulatory systems.

It is important to note that the informal economy is not synonymous with the black market or the underground economy. Additionally, the informal market is not necessarily illegal. However, many countries do not mandate the social benefits and protections included in the formal economy. Informal work can include a variety of jobs including street vendors, subsistence farmers, seasonal workers, industrial workers and others. Given this characterization, below are nine facts about the informal economy in Latin America.

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America

  1. A total of 140 million people work in occupations involving social vulnerability, limited rights and precarious conditions. According to the ILO, this number translates to roughly 50 percent of total employment in the region. It is a little less than the global average but more than double for the developed region.
  2. The percent of informally employed workers varies greatly across the region. Costa Rica had the lowest rate of informally employed workers as of 2013 at 30.7 percent. In addition, Guatemala had the highest at 73.6 percent.
  3. An International Monetary Fund study found four main contributing factors to the expansive informal economy in Latin America. Some of these factors include the heavy tax burden on corporations and individuals as well as minimum wage constraints. Another factor is the importance of agriculture because informal employment is much higher in the agricultural sector.
  4. Although there are poor and non-poor alike across the informal and formal sectors, empirical research has displayed that those working in the informal economy may be at a higher risk of poverty than those employed in the formal economy. The exact relationship between the informal economy and poverty is difficult to determine. This is due to a variety of circumstances that can affect poor households. For instance, the income an individual brings home may not technically be below the poverty line, however, it may not be sufficient to support five people. Regardless, informal employment is often unstable due to inconsistent wage earnings and a lack of social protection.
  5. The informal economy affects youth in Latin America. According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 56 million Latin Americans in the age range of 15 to 24 in the workforce. A little over 7 million are jobless and 27 million are working informal jobs. Many quit without much of a choice as six out of the 10 jobs available to them are in the informal economy.
  6. In 2013, 44.5 percent of the non-agricultural informal employment in Latin America was male while 49.7 percent was female. However, globally males make up a higher percentage because they make up a larger portion of the workforce. In contrast, when looking across developing countries, 92 percent of all women have informal employment compared to 87 percent of all men.
  7. The informal economy in Latin America represented 34 percent of its average gross domestic product (GDP) from 2010-2017, which is higher than any other region in the world. This is true despite Latin America being in possession of one of the lower percentages of informal work, 40 percent compared to the 85.8 percent of employment in Africa.
  8. The informal economy has been reducing in Latin America and the rest of the world for the past 30 years. This could partly be due to a reduction in the challenges to register a business.
  9. Improving transit infrastructure and access to education can reduce the size of a country’s informal economy. A case study of Mexico City found that high transit costs can lead to an increase in the percentage of workers on the outskirts of cities choosing informal work. Furthermore, by improving access to cheaper and more efficient transit services, informal employment can decrease. Meanwhile, a case study in Peru showed that it is easier to obtain formal employment if one has higher education. This was true even for indigenous groups in the country who often face discrimination when entering the formal sector.

Informal work remains an ambiguous topic requiring more research. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that the informal economy is not inherently bad. While many struggle because of their informal work, they often cannot afford the costs of transitioning to the formal sector. For instance, one may deem small businesses that have under 10 workers as informal, and therefore, they would not have to pay social benefits, thus saving them money. In other words, in some circumstances, informal workers may require additional support, but would not necessarily benefit from transitioning into the formal sector.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

informal economy in South AfricaIf you walk down a busy street in any of South Africa’s major cities, you are bound to witness some type of informal economic activity. Whether it be a fruit stand, street-hawker selling earphones or an informal car wash business, the informal economy in South Africa is a crucial part of life for many of its residents.

The Importance of Informal Trade

Informal trade refers to any unregulated, unregistered, unprotected and untaxed activities, enterprises, or transactions. Informal jobs are an essential source of income for many poor South Africans—18 percent of working citizens work in the informal sector—a total of over three million workers. Additionally, the sector accounts for 18 percent of South Africa’s GDP. While these numbers are smaller than those of other developing countries, they emphasize the importance of informal trade in an economy with stark unemployment rates—26.6 percent as of 2016. Informal markets, like Durban’s Warwick Markets, provide jobs for those who are unable to find formal employment. Thousands depend on these markets for produce, cooked meals and clothing at affordable prices. Furthermore, the informal workforce in South Africa is overwhelmingly poor, young females. In fact, the poverty level in an area correlates positively with the proportion of people working in the informal economy.

The government recognizes the informal economy in South Africa as a viable and important form of employment and enabler of economic mobility for the country’s poor. Experience in the informal sector can help untrained people acquire skills, potentially aiding future integration into the formal sector. According to economist Loane Sharp, the informal economy in South Africa is growing faster than its formal counterpart. This prompts the government to pass policy encouraging and protecting the sector. The National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy of 2014 set up a framework of government assistance with skills development, marketing, technical support, infrastructure improvements and management training. This “inclusive growth” strategy focuses on enabling South Africa’s poor to participate in the economy rather than merely redistributing wealth through social welfare programs.

Non-governmental organizations are also working to improve conditions for informal traders. Asiye eTafuleni is an NGO in Durban that works with local government officials and vendors in the informal sector (particularly the Warwick Markets) to assist in developing infrastructure, consultations for urban planning and advocacy for informal workers. The organization also directs tourism to the Warwick Markets, educating foreigners and visitors on the functions and importance of the markets, and bringing the vendors eager customers. Asiya eTufuleni is a member of the Inclusive Cities mission, which focuses on uplifting and strengthening groups of working poor in the informal economy. The Inclusive Cities project aims to support the urban poor through lobbying, policy planning, and research. One of the ways the project does this is by advocating for “waste pickers’ rights,” the legal right of individuals to collect garbage to recycle into sellable goods. These rights are under threat by the privatization of solid waste management in many cities across Africa. Inclusive Cities also conducts research and analysis of the informal economy to support future endeavors and activism.

A Struggle for Informal Business Owners

There are many downsides to informal trade which make its participants particularly vulnerable. Informal business owners are often deterred from registering their enterprises by high taxes and strict regulations. Informal working conditions are unregulated by nature and therefore often poor. Dangerous locations, limited book-keeping skills and lack of insurance put informal traders at constant risk of losing their livelihoods. Average earnings for informal workers are less than half of what the formally employed earn. And although recent policies are attempting to expand this sector of the economy, informal workers still face significant intimidation and harassment by local law enforcement.

In July 2018, hundreds of informal traders protested by-laws which would prohibit trading in certain areas. These potentially harmful by-laws would allow law enforcement to confiscate the goods of traders without permits. The leader of the activist group responsible for organizing a march on Durban City Hall complained that the traders themselves were not included in the creation of these laws. The permit allocation procedure, he says, is corrupt, with officials soliciting bribes in exchange for permits.

It is clear that despite efforts by the government and NGOs, conditions of the informal sector have remained unsatisfactory. The disconnect between national policy, like the National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy, and local municipalities is one obstacle in the way of a safer, healthier informal sector. The informal economy in South Africa provides crucial wages for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable populations; resources should be channeled to encourage and protect laborers and merchants in the sector.

– Nicollet Laframboise

Photo: Flickr

Dharavi slum redevelopmentThe Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project was approved by the state government of Maharashtra on October 16, 2018. The new proposal plans to renovate the entire slum as a whole while previous failed attempts planned to divide the slum into 12 parts. The new plan must take into account the previous failures in order to succeed in the redevelopment of such a populated area.

About Dharavi

Dharavi is considered Asia’s largest slum, spanning almost 600 acres of land. Located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, it is a long stretch of shanty houses, dirt roads and open sewage. It is estimated that the percentage of people in Greater Mumbai living in slums may be as high as 41.3 percent. Dharavi has a population of around one million people. Because Mumbai has some of the highest rental prices in the world, Dharavi has become a more affordable option for those moving to the city.

The slum was founded in 1882 during the time of British rule during the country’s urbanization. When the plague spread through India, the British government transferred much of its industry to Dharavi. What began as a fishing village has since grown into a densely populated, culturally rich and diverse area. It has an active informal economy where businesses will employ many slum residents for leather, textiles and pottery products.

About the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project

Redevelopment plans for Dharavi have been on hold for the past 15 years, beginning in February 2004. There is hope now that the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project will follow through after a Dubai-based firm called Sec-Link Technology Corporation (STC) won the global tender to renovate Dharavi for good.

Sec-Link Group is a special purpose organization working to redevelop slum around the world. This project is largely backed by the UAE. The Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project will cost around Rs 22,000 crore, which is over $3 billion. However, if the project continues to be delayed, the cost could grow to Rs 40,000 crore. STC proposed that slum residents will have larger, carpeted homes with 350 square feet as a minimum. Those above 300 square feet will get 400 square feet, and those over 500 will get an additional area of 35 percent.

The Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project includes using 200 acres to rehabilitate residents and build commercial units, 100 acres for a community garden and the remaining 300 acres will be for sale and commercial complexes. This also means that new infrastructures will be implemented, such as water systems and container housing.

Previous Issues

The reason that past redevelopment projects have failed is largely due to resistance from slum residents who felt the plans were not in their interest. Because Dharavi is so condensed, it has grown into its own ecosystem. Residents rely on the micro-enterprises in the slum, some of which take part in homes and outdoor spaces being used for places of work and social interaction. It is important to residents that the economy of Dharavi and their own livelihoods are supported during this change.

In order for a housing upgrade to work for all residents, it’s important the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project allows for the economic and social activities that thrive in slums. By converting slum buildings into industrial centers, Dharavi can grow from deprivation into a magnet of commerce. STC will begin working on the project in 2019 and plan to finish it in nine years.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

Informal Sector in India
The socio-economic landscape in India is largely informal. According to the International Labor Organization, close to an estimated 81 percent of all employed people in India are engaged in the informal economy, most of which is in the agricultural sector.

The Informal Sector in India

Contrary to popular belief, the informal sector in India has seen improvements in productivity and employment and, to some extent, wages. The informal sector contributes to the economy and also helps the formal economy; however, informal economy workers continue to earn lower wages, lack social security and have less protection than their peers in the organized sector. The informal sector attracts the workforce because it offers easy access; the formal sector, on the other hand, hosts barriers to entry that are often costly and tedious to get through.

The informal sector in India is socially regulated rather than state-regulated; however, the government is attempting to gather data and regularize the informal sector through the process of digitization. This will allow for effective regulation of cash transfers and provide the government with the tools to better understand the informal sector. By mapping the vast informal sector, the government will have more information about the real growth in India’s economy.

Women Workers in India

Around 94 percent of total women workers are employed in the informal sector, most of whom work as agricultural workers, construction labor and domestic help. Many women are able to gain entry and jobs in this sector, as there are no barriers with regards to skill. This then acts as a way for women to provide for their families. Women find it difficult to enter the organized sector, and their gender exposes them to political, economic and social discrimination, which is why they enter the informal sector.

There is hope that women’s participation in the workforce will reduce gender inequality and that integrating women into the labor force will allow for social and economic empowerment. However, there is a  lack of recognition of the role of women in both their homes and at work.

Equality, Gender and Children

It might appear that there is little gender discrimination in the informal sector, as it is commonplace to see women working alongside men, carrying heavy loads on construction sites or in brick kilns. However, closer examination reveals that amongst the more skilled and higher-paid jobs — such as that of masons, plumbers or carpenters — the workforce is predominantly male.

There are also concerns about the welfare of children —  women are often left with no option but to bring infants to the workplace, where they exist largely unattended. Non-governmental organizations are now setting up mobile creches so that the children of migrant workers receive some care; but this option is limited in its current status as an urban phenomenon, confined to the metropolises.

Goal for Growth

Women’s collectives are agencies which provide women with the space to grow and demand rights. This provides women with legal training to seek social services and adequate work conditions. In recent years we see greater activity here, especially in the field of legal aid, and women-only police stations make it easier for women to seek justice.

Some areas, however, remain untouched; domestic workers, for instance, have no written contracts, they enjoy no mandatory weekly off days nor any regulated working hours. Thus. one can see that there is a need to create regulations in the informal sector in India to measure growth, empower women and improve working conditions.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

women in poverty
Economic inequality is an issue that has existed for years around the world, especially in developing countries. Sometimes dubbed “global capitalism,” this inequality can be argued to have, in turn, created social classes that have ultimately influenced women in poverty around the world.

Such women often find themselves in situations of informalization, flexibilization and feminization as capitalism causes a high discrepancy between earning wages and living affordability in certain countries. Developed countries could arguably do more to help those in developing countries so that women in poverty do not find themselves relying on the informal sphere to survive and make a living.

What is Informalization?

Any economic activity that isn’t regulated, legal or outside of the formal sphere is considered work in the informal economy. This work usually isn’t ideal as it is not monitored, regulated or taxed by the government; it is considered a labor activity lacking authority where cash is barely exchanged. This work ranges from household child- and elder-care, to domestic labor and community projects, which are often seen as examples of “invisible” informal work.

Interestingly, it can be irregular activities where payment is expected that legal regulation is difficult to enforce. These activities can range from street vending, petty trade, home-based industries, sex work, drug dealing and arms trade — most of which are seen as illegal informal work. Since it’s usually dangerous or precarious work, these scenarios lack major benefits to the employee other than an income. Women working in this sphere lack protection, labor laws or even social benefits. In fact, they often work in unsafe working conditions with risk of sexual harassment.

This type of work environment also has long-term effects on women — if workers don’t have pensions globally, many find themselves in situations of poverty in their old-age as well; in other words, this system creates a never-ending cycle for women in poverty. In fact, “today researchers estimate that informal activities constitute more than one-half of all economic outputs, and equal 75 percent of the GDP of some countries.” According to U.N. Women, 95 percent of women in South Asia, 89 percent of Sub Saharan Africa and 59 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean work in the informal sphere.

How Does Informalization Lead to Flexibilization and Feminization?

Flexibilization and feminization are sources of inequality that derive from informalization. Flexibilization is usually non-permanent or part-time work that ends up feminizing the workforce. People in these situations tend to be women, which is where feminization comes into play.

These minimum wage jobs require docile but reliable workers who are available for part-time/temporary work and willing to labor for low wages. Although women generally aren’t most of these qualifications, gender stereotypes depict women as perfect candidates for these informal jobs, especially in developing countries.

How Can the Women in Poverty be Alleviated From These Situations?

When women in poverty aren’t getting paid enough for their labor, they aren’t able to support themselves and their families. Consequently, these women then need to get second jobs or find themselves in situations of informalization, flexibilization and feminization. Thankfully, many are finding ways to help women out of these jobs through news outlets, organizations or simply word of mouth.

Often, developed countries are viewed as not doing enough to help developing countries. Increases in the wealth gap lead to an increase of women in these precarious jobs. Therefore, organizations like the U.N. Women, Me to We, The Borgen Project and numerous others try to address this inequality and help women around the world.

U.N. Women started a project towards this goal that trains women and families to become entrepreneurs by creating their own businesses. This is an example of just one organization and project working towards improving the lives of women in poverty working in the informal sphere.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr


On December 1, 2016, the BBC reported that Albania’s clandestine drug industry may be producing almost half of the nation’s total GDP on a yearly basis. The recent aspiration of the Albanian government to become admitted into the European Union, though, has successfully and drastically accelerated efforts to crack down on the mafias, corruption and poverty in Albania which allow these occurrences to take place.

But first, the events beg the question: how has the situation gotten so bad? Albania has been stable in recent decades, although not on a large enough scale. For instance, while the capital of Tirana had seen significant growth in services and order, most of the rest of the country was neglected. Poor and impoverished citizens in the rural regions were left to fend for themselves – and found a better life through the growth of illegal drugs. These are just a few examples of the effects of poverty in Albania backed by research.

In response to this, Prime Minister Edi Rama showed eagerness in establishing prosperous policies and projects. For instance, the government of Albania is attempting to curb issues mentioned heretofore by providing financial services to rural areas, establishing consumer protection and promoting tourism throughout the nation. Also, police salaries have risen between 10 and 17 percent to steer away bribery.

Of course, more turbulent methods are also being pursued — Rama has promised to deal with the more aggressive concerns by expanding currently existing assets. With the help of the Italian government, and significantly more senior officers, keeping track of and attacking these illicit organizations has become easier. For instance, Rama oversaw the besiege of Lazarat in 2014, a village in southern Albania, where civilians ineffectively utilized military-grade weaponry against police.

At this rate, the flow of certain drugs throughout Europe should significantly decrease since Albania is one of the root causes of this spread. Today, Albania has opened up more government jobs to citizens while it also works to rebuild and refurnish once-neglected regions. Programs to promote rehabilitation are also a must to not only help in reducing poverty in Albania, but to also further the nation as a whole. As a result of these efforts, Rama hopes Albania will be accepted into the EU in the early 2020s.

– Kristopher Nasse

Photo: Flickr

Informal EconomiesInformal economies are all too often associated with deviance and insecurity, with people making money outside of formal sectors, not paying taxes, increasing poverty and lacking labor and social protection.

However, from the floating markets of Nigeria to the burgeoning markets of India, informal economies, or what Robert Neuwirth calls “system D” economies, are filling the void left by globalization. Secure jobs are becomimg more and more scarce, as multinational corporations control ever more of the production and distribution of goods across the globe. As these practices continue to drive up economic inequality and leave people battling unrelenting poverty, informal economies are quickly reversing the course and offering alternative economic practices that are quelling the tide.

An informal economy, as defined by the International Labor Office (ILO), is “all economic activities by workers or economic units that are — in law or practice — not covered or sufficiently covered by formal arrangements.”

Informal economies are on the rise across the globe, although accurate statistical data is hard to come by. They are estimated to be worth $10 trillion a year.

Terence Jackson reports that the informal economic sector in Africa “represents about three-quarters of non-agricultural employment, and about 72 percent of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa.” In India, informal economies are estimated to generate 90 percent of jobs and half of the national output. In both Africa, Asia and the world at large, many GDPs are heavily reliant on informal economies.

As talk of new and emerging economies fill the airwaves, informal economies offer alternative means to lift local people and communities from the coercive and restricting structures of globalization. Ironically, globalization is credited as having increased the size and importance of informal economies while these very economies stand to threaten the reign of multinational corporations and globalization.

A study by Martha Alter Chen, a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and international coordinator of Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), explores how in today’s economy, formal jobs are not being created in sufficient quantities, and existing jobs are being made informal. “Informal employment is here to stay in the short, medium, and probably long term. It is the main source of employment and income for the majority of the workforce and population in the developing world,” her study states.

Informal economies across the globe are expanding, and increasing numbers of people are dependent on the profits generated. As informal economies seem to be here to stay, it is imperative the world embraces the revolutionary entrepreneurship pouring out of the sector. It holds the potential to not only fill the labor void left by globalization but to offer an alternative way forward that addresses local problems with local answers.

Joseph Dover
Photo: Flickr