Growing informal economy and indecent work

Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives and the recognition that all those who work have rights at work, irrespective of where they work. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

Growing inequalities, oppression and the constraint of rights and basic services ultimately resulted in the soaring problems the MENA region faces today: high unemployment especially of youth and women, grave service provision inequalities both urban/rural and rich/poor as well as general insecurity. Despite the different directions the revolutions have taken the different countries, with some regimes awakening, some overthrown and some already overthrown again, they all have a common trait, which is the lack of respect for decent work and social protection. While regimes have introduced short term policies and promises of amelioration etc. the situations have not – or only marginally – improved.

Respect for labour laws, decent work and international standards does not only play into the general well being of the majority of society, it also constitutes a fundamental respect for human rights. To be paid a decent wage, to have reasonable working hours, to work in a safe environment and to organize freely are among the main concerns in decent work standards. To provide not only for the people who are already employed but also those entering into workforce, the systems need to be alleviated of their discriminating effects (ex: against youth and/or women).

Respect for decent work and international labour standards also contributes to greater social stability as the recipients of decent wages working in decent conditions have the ability to not only pay into the welfare state expanding its capacity, but also to consume, which in turn furthers economic prosperity.

Respect for International labour standards (which provide the basis for decent work and inclusive development and contribute to inclusive and equitable wage-led economic growth) requires greater attention, especially as the ratification rate of ILO conventions remains low in the region. Core conventions on trade union rights and non-discrimination are poorly respected (even in countries where they have been ratified), legal restrictions and violations remain widespread and the implementation of enforcement mechanisms are too often weak or nonexistent.

Monitoring this benchmark is important as the quality of a state can also be judged by its ability to promote decent work along the entire continuum from the informal to the formal end of the economy, and in development-oriented, poverty reduction-focused and gender-equitable ways.

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