The European Commission’s (EC) thematic programme called as ‘Investing in People’ has been developed with a broader aim of reducing poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are several components and themes under this programme to address various development issues in poor and developing countries. One of these themes also includes the need to promote social cohesion, employment and decent work conditions in low-income regions of the world. The Commission has prioritized this area on its agenda and also highlights the fact that “full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, is now a firm target under MDG 1.”
In poor and developing countries, informal economy plays a critical role for generating employment for most of the people. A large portion of the population depends upon informal work to carry out livelihood activities. Informal economy can include various small and medium-sized enterprising activities, but they do not fall under any of the formal structures of government taxes, labour laws and social protection schemes. It could include unregistered companies or self-employed, small-scale activities carried out mostly by low-skilled and poorly financed people.
Informal economy in developing countries creates its own difficulties and challenges for the poor involved in it. As women comprise of a majority of these workers, they are vulnerable to different socio-economic, health and cultural hazards. Besides women, the poor, indigenous people, migrants, people with HIV and AIDS, persons with disabilities etc face long-term insecurity due to lack of appropriate social protection measures. Ensuring social protection for the poor and the vulnerable is one of the crucial targets for the achievement of MDGs.
In this context, the European Commission has issued a call for proposals to provide financial support for organizations to implement actions in least developed countries for enhancing social protection for those people working in the informal sector and also those belonging to the vulnerable groups.