Stories from Women Working in Informal Sector; Unpaid, unprotected

From : Ruby Kholifah / Secretary General of AMAN

informal sector
Image from Womenweb. – 4.1 Million Garment industry workers in Bangladesh are in critical condition at the moment. Although the Bangladesh government did not announce the lockdown, many orders from global fashion companies were canceled and contracts were postponed due to the Corona crisis, as reported by the Center for Global Labor Rights Study and Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRS). The majority of workers are women, most of whom are the main breadwinners.

Although the Bangladesh government has never explicitly announced a lockdown policy, slowly all garments, textile and shoe factories announced closing. Countries where factories work such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, also feel the impact that is not much different.

Chul Sreymom, a worker at the Sangwoo Factory, Phnom Penh Cambodia, has long worked in a famous brand fashion factory. Chul sees that 60 of his friends have been laid off, even though they make a living in his family. He was afraid of her next turn. “I don’t know what job I want to work at, working in a garment company for a lifetime,” the 40-year-old woman told the Nikkei Asian Review.

In Indonesia alone, around 3 million workers were seriously affected due to social restrictions. As reported by CNBC Indonesia ( that many workers have been laid off due to the reason of reducing production. KSPI has predicted that there will be massive layoffs in the next two months because the availability of raw materials for the manufacturing industry is running low, especially imported raw materials from countries affected by corona. This is not to mention the weakening of the rupiah against the dollar that also affected the industrial collapse.

Not only in the garment industry that is affected, women who are informal workers, such as vegetables, fish, and daily food sellers that usually exist in the market, will also lose their economic chains slowly but surely. India which enforces lockdown for 21 days, greatly affects the daily workers who are mostly immigrants. Not only closing businesses that are not essential but also gathering places such as schools, places of worship, cafes, restaurants, including traditional markets are also declared closed. The security officers did not hesitate to carry out beatings and other forced actions on traders who were still trying to do activities in the markets.

The women vegetable traders in India have to walk door to door to their customers to be able to keep making enough money. Compared to trading in the market, of course, door to door drains extra time and energy for women, so the longer she is outside the home.
The policy of closing schools in Indonesia also affects small traders who usually sell at schools. Nurni, a mother who works in one of the elementary canteens in Rawamangun. Because the school is on vacation, he is also closed but does not receive a salary. If he works, he gets a wage of Rp. 60,000 per day. At present, she lives with her child, but her child does not work anymore, her husband wanders in Pekan Baru without any news (

Even for Humaira from Kashmir, who is still experiencing conflict, finding transgender groups, other minorities are starting to lose their jobs due to restrictions on going out. Not only lost their jobs, but this group is also increasingly vulnerable because of their social status in the eyes of the public is also not getting enough attention. They are considered deviant groups so it is possible to get discrimination in the current conditions.

Women in the formal sector that are most vulnerable to be affected are the health sector. WHO reports that 70% of medical workers in the world are women. Unfortunately in the report Human Resources for Health Observer Series No. 24 entitled “Delivered by Women, Led by Men, A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce ’emphasizes that Global health is delivered by women and led by men, and that is neither fair nor smart (global health is done by women, led by men, this is neither fair nor smart).

In reality, even though there are more women, they are low and underpaid, vulnerable to discrimination and violence. They are also vulnerable to protection in their reproductive health. Especially in the very rapid work during handling cases in hospitals, many medical workers are not allowed to go home because of the prevention of transmission, so they certainly need hygiene pads during menstruation.