Every day for 30 years, Gloria Solorzano has left her small house before dawn to set up a fruit and vegetable stall at a street market in Lima, Peru. She pays a man with a station wagon to drive her and the produce she sells to the market, where she pays another man to load her crates of produce onto a trolley and take them to her stall. Around sunrise, she starts selling, under the protection of a security guard she pays to ensure she and her clients are safe, on streets she pays to be cleaned, under lights she pays to be turned on.
Gloria is just like most workers in the world – that is to say, informally employed. She is embedded in dozens of economic relationships, paying for the services she needs in order for her business to run and paying a daily fee in exchange for the right to work in the street. At any moment, despite the investments she has made both in her business and in the market itself, the local government could take away that right.
Slightly more than 60% of all working people in the world are informally employed. This means that they lack the labour and social protections that help smooth income, protect against risk, and keep households out of poverty. Without access to economic and social rights, it is difficult for informal workers to actively contribute to building open, vibrant, democratic societies.