Invisible Workers

Invisible Workers, Laboring in the Shadows

Making Contact 94.1 KPFA

Length: 30 minutes

What it is about: 

This episode is about an idea that I have just learned about - what they term the “informal labor sector”. I have seen it for years, but never new it had a name. The types work people do to survive or to improve their lives just a little bit. Supplemental income when your job or government assistance is not enough to live on, or when their is hope of improving social status or living situation.

What it looks like in Thailand: 

Informal trash collecting, sorting, and recycling is certainly done here in Thailand, but you rarely actually see it. What we see is women sitting out front of their houses while hand-making brooms, baskets, hats, sticky rice containers, and more. We see innumerable street vendors selling sliced fruit, meat on a stick, grilled bananas, or my favorite snack of sweet sticky rice with tarot in a banana leaf. We also see people selling vegetables, clothes, and inferior products that do not get shipped to more developed countries. Oh, and the women at Hands of Hope would probably still be considered part of the informal market.

What blew me away: 

The whole second half of the podcast. It started with a little piece about a group called Homenet Thailand conducting a study right here in Thailand! You can listen to it, but they took the results to the government, and successfully lobbied for change. I am still amazed that they went to the government about people working off of the grid and likely paying little to no taxes, and the government still made a change to improve their lives.

What inspired me: 

The very final interview of the podcast was about a group of women organizing in Nairobi, Kenya. Finding ways to bring legitimacy to the difficult, necessary, and dangerous work they were doing. 

I will never look at the people emptying out a dumpster in Chicago quite the same way.