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Informal Workers and Skills and Training for Sustainable Development

Evidence from the Asia-Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean 

Professor Peter Kelly (Deakin University), Dr Seth Brown, and Dr Scott Phillips (UNEVOC Centre at RMIT University)

Recently we completed a background briefing paper for the Section of Youth, Literacy and Skills Development, at UNESCO in Paris.

The paper, titled Informal Workers and Skills and Training for Sustainable Development: Evidence from the Asia-Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean,  examined the historical and contemporary characteristics of the ‘informal economy’, ‘informal work’, and the challenges and opportunities for skills development for ‘informal workers’ in different regions. Including the ways in which the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the public health, social, and economic policy responses to the pandemic, have impacted informal workers in different regions in different ways.

The main body of the report presents region based – the Asia Pacific, Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), Central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) – reviews (illustrated where appropriate by country and city examples) of such things as:

Digitalisation – including debates about the intersections and relationships between the Fourth Industrial Revolution/Industry 4.0, the formal and informal economies, skills and training opportunities and challenges for informal sector workers, the limits and possibilities of ICT based projects, skills training, access to technologies/bandwidth;

Financing Skills Development – including debates about equity, access, and cost for informal workers, and organisations of undertaking skills training and the relative merits of ‘Demand-side funding approaches…for example, voucher programmes and study loans…[and]…Supply-side funding approaches include training-cum-production and vocational education and training funds’.

Skills development enablers and barriers for informal workers – where the importance of developing the skills of informal workers as a pathway to more secure employment, must acknowledge and account for the barriers to achieving this, including: ‘lower levels of foundational skills to formal educational entry requirements, costs of training and opportunity costs such as foregone income, and location – and gender specific-factors which impede access to learning opportunities especially for girls and people in rural communities’

A concluding chapter canvasses the possibilities of Life Long Learning for informal economy workers, and presents a model for skills and training that can contribute to progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The full report can be downloaded here:

By Peter Kelly

I am a Professor of Education at Deakin University.

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