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Informal Economy

SEWA membership comprises of women working in the informal economy.
Informal women workers are vital to the growth of developing and transition countries, but are often categorized as illegal or underground. SEWA works towards bringing women workers sustainable, dignified, and recognized livelihoods in order to holistically improve their lives.

What is the informal economy?

Economic activities, enterprises, and workers that are not regulated by the state are part of the informal economy.

The informal economy includes:

  • Informal enterprises: unincorporated enterprises that are also unregistered or small
  • Informal jobs: employment without social protection

Who works in the informal economy?

The informal economy is filled with diverse livelihoods and occupations, but these can be broken down into two broad groups:

People employed in the informal economy

  • Self-employed workers in their own enterprises
  • Employers in informal enterprises, and their employees
  • Family members contributing to informal enterprises
  • Members of informal producers’ cooperatives

Wage workers in informal jobs

  • Employees in formal enterprises, but do not receive social protection or entitlements, and are not covered by national labor legislation
  • Domestic workers
  • Family members who contribute to formal enterprise

Why protect and promote the informal economy?

Although the informal economy is associated with low value production, informal workers are greatly contributing to India’s growth.

1. Informal workers are the majority of the workforce

  • Over 90% of workers in India are in the informal economy

2. The Informal economy gives a significant share to the economy

  • Nearly 25% of India’s urban employment is dominated by 4 informal trades: Domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers


13 Year Annual Report Annual Report