This paper explores the perceptions and experiences of women and men who work as informal waste collectors in four different cities. The purpose of this paper is to map out how…
This paper explores the perceptions and experiences of women and men who work as informal waste collectors in four different cities. The purpose of this paper is to map out how and to what extent occupational, political-legal, economic and social dynamics are experienced differently by gender in a highly vulnerable segment of the urban informal economy, and explore gender differences in these workers’ coping strategies and the levels of action they develop to protect their livelihoods.
The analysis is based on a mixed methods study which combined a quantitative survey of informal workers with a qualitative participatory methodology. Study participants were drawn from a purposive sample of informal workers who belong to, or are affiliated with, membership-based workers’ organisations. The sample consists of waste pickers (n=614) from Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Bogotá, Colombia; Durban, South Africa; and Nakuru, Kenya.
The data show that despite significant differences between women and men upon entry into (informal) employment, their perceptions of key drivers and impacts are largely similar, with the exception of concerns around various types of physical security among women. They also indicate that levels of action among men and women waste pickers are only moderately influenced by gender, but are strongly influenced by the degree of organisation in the sector and the symbolic assets held by workers. The findings also illustrate the way in which gendered power dynamics operate within the informal recycling sector and how different levels of sector organisation and development often contribute to opportunities for collective action and, in turn, a reduction in gendered vulnerabilities.
The study offers a new policy angle which connects the level of sector organisation and development with the levels of action taken by informal workers in adapting to different types of shocks, as well as what this means in terms of gender empowerment.
In this chapter, we aim to illustrate some of the forms taken by informal employment in the global south and how these can best be understood by adopting a wider analytical lens…
In this chapter, we aim to illustrate some of the forms taken by informal employment in the global south and how these can best be understood by adopting a wider analytical lens than has been applied in much of the precarious employment literature. We draw on the findings of a recent study of the working conditions of urban informal workers from 10 cities in the global south. The study consisted of focus groups (15 in each city) conducted through the framework of a participatory informal economy appraisal as well as a survey of 1,957 home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers. Our findings illustrate a number of ways in which these three groups of informal workers are embedded within the formal economy. While they are not engaged in wage employment, they play subordinate roles to both formal sector firms within global production networks and unequal production relations and to the state through, inter alia, constrained access to public spaces and regulation. In order to interpret these findings, we apply Agarwala’s (2009) “relational” lens to demonstrate how risks and costs are transferred to workers who constitute the “real economy” in much of the global south. Given the often disguised connections between informal employment and the formal economy, this approach also provides a bridge to understanding precarious working conditions and the effects of globalization outside of the industrialized north.
Industry platforms can alter relations among exchange partners in such a way that the industry structure is changed. The focus of much industry platform research has been on how…
Industry platforms can alter relations among exchange partners in such a way that the industry structure is changed. The focus of much industry platform research has been on how platform creation and leadership offers advantages to the most central firms, but platforms can also be advantageous for small specialist firms that compete with the most central firms. We examine book publishing as an example of an industry in which the central players – large publishing firms – are losing power to self-publishing authors because the distributor Amazon has a powerful platform for customers to communicate independently, and the non-publishing platform Twitter also serves as a medium for readers to discuss and review books. Our empirical analysis is based on downloaded sales statistics for Amazon Ebooks, matched with Amazon reviews of the same books and tweets that refer to the book or the author. We analyze how Ebook sales are a function of publisher, Amazon reviews, and tweets, and we are able to assess the importance of each factor in the sale of book titles. The main finding is that Amazon reviews are powerful drivers of book sales, and have greater effect on the sales of books that are not backed by publishers. Twitter also affects book sales, but less strongly than Amazon reviews.