Women, gender and the informal economy: An assessment of ILO research and suggested ways forward

Published: January 2008

This discussion paper provides an overview of ILO research on women, gender and the informal economy which was undertaken during the last two decades. It examines methodological and analytical frameworks used in various studies, identifies research gaps and proposes directions for future work. It ultimately aims to enhance ILO's work in developing consistent, coherent and coordinated policy advice to constituents across the four pillars of the ILO Decent Work Agenda: standards and fundamental principles and rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue.

Key Findings

  • A holistic and integrated strategy is required to promote gender equality and decent work within informal and formal economies.
  • Coordinated efforts to address all areas in tandem are required in order to ensure that gender-sensitive initiatives have a chance of transforming social and economic exclusions, including gendered inequalities, on the ground.
  • Future research programmes should seek to redress thematic, regional and sectoral imbalances in existing research.
  • More emphasis needs to be placed on generating studies dedicated to social security and protection and organization, representation and social dialogue from a gender perspective.
  • It remains crucial to enhance the conditions of informal work, especially for poor women workers and other marginalized groups.
  • More attention should be paid to developing, and consistently applying, a critical gender perspective which interrogates constructions of "women" and "men" as pre-determined or fixed categories and pays careful attention to the operation and effects of gendered relations of power in particular contexts.

Populations Women

Publishers London School of Economics and Political Science

Funded by International Labour Organization (ILO)