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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentNote on terminology and abbreviations
View the documentSummary
close this folderI. Urbanisation: recognition and response
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUrbanisation and poverty
View the documentResponse to urbanisation
View the documentRecognition of ''Self-help'' initiatives
close this folderII. Insights derived from community-based programmes
View the document(introduction...)
close this folderUrban informal sector
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMicro-enterprise promotion
View the documentWorking conditions in the informal sector
View the documentThe ILO experience
View the documentLow-income housing
View the documentInfrastructure and basic services
View the documentHealth and HIV/AIDS prevention
View the documentNon-formal education and functional literacy
View the documentWomen, gender and development
View the documentChildren of the street
View the documentImplications for VSAs
close this folderIII. Towards a community-based strategy for VSAs
View the documentParticipation: how and for whose benefit?
View the documentA sense of ''community''
View the documentGeneral characteristics of low-income urban communities
View the documentFactors determining support possibilities
View the documentGeneral characteristics of CBOs
View the documentSupport channels and intermediaries
close this folderIV. Programming concerns for VSAs and UNV
View the documentGuidelines for involvement
View the documentSuccess criteria for volunteer involvement
View the documentTaking the initiative
View the documentFlexibility
View the documentMeeting personnel and associated needs
View the documentChannels of operation
View the documentUnited Nations Agencies and their partners
View the documentFunding and other programme concerns
close this folderV. Principles and characteristics of volunteer use
View the documentFunctions and volunteers
View the documentQualities of VDWs
View the documentTeams
View the documentSkill requirements and experiences
View the documentSelection and placement process
View the documentAcculturation and language training process
View the documentEpilogue: follow-up, 1995
View the documentAnnotated reference list
close this folderAnnex: Excerpts from background papers
View the documentUrban development policy issues and the role of united nations volunteers
View the documentWorking with the urban poor: lessons from the experience of metropolitan Lagos, Nigeria
View the documentBrief account of my experience as a DDS field worker and a UNV in Sri Lanka and Jamaica
View the documentSpecial consultation on volunteer participation in working with the urban poor

Working conditions in the informal sector

Dismal working conditions are among the most pressing problems of the urban informal sector, which affect individuals who are self-employed, wage-workers, apprentices, as well as those involved in outwork (piece-work usually at home) or unpaid family labour. In many cases, these problems are associated with the lack of primitive levels of services and utilities - the absence of which presents even higher costs to informal sector enterprises (transport, fuel, electricity, warehouses). The extreme shortage of work-space and marketing space in densely populated low-income settlements, for example, is a major setback to the potential expansion of the informal sector.

Nevertheless, there are examples of successful community initiatives to improve working conditions. Arising out of credit schemes, three women's groups in India (Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, the Annapurna Mohila Mandal in Bombay, and the Working Women's Forum (WWF) in Madras) have established excellent reputations in working with low-income urban groups to help them improve their working conditions, using credit schemes as an entry point for organisational assistance. Assistance in organisation has been one of the major requirements of groups struggling for higher wages, such as the workers in Nipani, India who assemble local cigarettes or "beedis." By developing links of solidarity, workers, women's groups and others have been able to establish multi-purpose consumer cooperatives, dispensaries etc., and, more importantly, to develop a process of local participation to address their self-defined concerns. In this process, VDWs were key catalysts in assisting groups in organising themselves to address their concerns, which extended beyond those of their workplace.

A similar example is the work of the Church Missionary Society Friendly Taxi Drivers' Association in Lagos, which was able to organise itself to address work-related and other concerns of its members. Starting with an urgent need to have a common stop-off point where they could count on support facilities, which developed into the Lagos Taxi Park, the Association has been able to expand into areas of credit and storage, and establish marketing stalls and various forms of mutual support. In other situations, motivated and committed VDWs have been key in the organisation of Mobile Creches, operating in India's major cities, for the welfare of migrant worker families - particularly through infant and child care facilities for working parents, which also deal with issues of nutrition, pre-school and adult education and family planning.

In all these examples, there was a direct correlation between the success of the initiative and favourable government policies. It is clear that governments could do more through favourable legislation, extension of credit facilities, provision of training, technology and marketing outlets, as well as directly improving community services for the informal sector, to create a conducive environment to improve working conditions. In addition, NGOs and VDWs could play a greater role in organisational assistance to self-help initiatives and awareness-raising of community rights.