Make Taxes Work for Women in the Informal Economy!
Now is the time for states to recognize the contribution of informal women workers, fulfill their rights and accord them what is long over due!
Over two billion people in the world work in the informal economy.* Of this, 1.3 billion of the world’s informal workers are in Asia Pacific. Although the share of women in the informal economy is lower than the share of men in the informal economy globally, it cannot be said in the case of the regions of the Global South, including Asia. Women are overrepresented in Asia’s informal economy: 90.7 per cent of women workers in South Asia and 75.4 per cent of women workers in Southeast Asia are doing informal work.
Women are more likely to be found in vulnerable sectors, such as in domestic work, home-based work, and unpaid family work, than their male counterparts in the informal sector. This can be attributed to the prevailing patriarchal norms that confine women in such roles as well as the social exclusion and rampant discrimination that prevent women from accessing their rights, including to right to public services, education, skills development, and decent work.
In addition to having no job security, low and irregular incomes, and undefined work hours, majority of the workers in the informal economy are not covered by labor laws and social protection. Thus, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit many countries in Asia, informal workers felt the severe impacts of the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic and had no safety nets to alleviate its sudden, hard impacts. The ILO estimated that almost 1.6 billion informal workers globally are significantly affected by the lockdown during the first few months of the pandemic. Among them, women are the most adversely affected as they are concentrated in high-risk sectors, such as retail trade, manufacturing, tourism, and food services.
The COVID-triggered crisis pushed marginalized informal women workers deeper into poverty. Day by day, women in the informal economy are fighting for survival, left with no choice but to face the risk of contracting the disease in order to work and feed their families.
Yet, in many developing countries in Asia, the contribution of the informal workers to the economy is not rightfully recognized, even if they comprise the majority of the countries’ economic activities. Informal workers are deemed as citizens who do not pay taxes, even if they pay indirect taxes and other formal/informal fees to local government authorities. Partly because of this non-recognition, women workers in the informal economy are among the last to receive essential public services that they need.
Now is the time for states to recognize the contribution of informal women workers, fulfill their rights and accord them what is long over due! Make taxes work for women! Increase public spending for gender responsive social services! Reduce unjust tax burdens on women! Uphold the rights of women workers in the informal economy!