Informal domestic workers, informal construction workers and the state: What prospects for improving labour standards?

Tilly, Chris.

In The Informal Economy Revisited, pp. 246-250. Routledge, 2020.


Around the world, both domestic workers and informal construction workers have actively organised in recent years. Domestic worker organsations’ accomplishments have been particularly remarkable, including winning ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers’ rights and establishing the unprecedented International Domestic Workers’ Federation. After summarising recent organising and advocacy initiatives to secure and strengthen labour standards for these vulnerable groups, this chapter goes on to discuss four active projects, both conceptual and strategic, that emerge from these organising processes. First, organising domestic workers inevitably involves classification struggles, fights to establish such workers as true workers deserving of rights. Second, there is active debate over the appropriate forms and levels of regulation of informal work. A third topic of discussion centres the wide range of organisational forms these and other informal workers have adopted. A fourth, very generative set of questions engages how informal worker organisations win; it turns out that in addition to relations with the state, informal worker groups’ relations with traditional trade unions can be decisive in achieving progressive reforms.

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