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Innovations to improve OSH in the informal economy: opportunities for microfinance institutions.

Rinehart-R; Ocon-R
Asian Pac Newsl Occup Health Saf 2009 Apr; 16(1):18-20
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a tripartite UN agency that brings together partners to promote Decent Work throughout the world. Decent Work involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income; security in the workplace and social protection for families; better prospects for personal development and social integration; freedom for people to express their concerns, organize, and participate in the decisions that affect their lives; and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men. Some of the aspects of Decent Work under Social Protection include occupational safety and health (OSH). Others include, but are not limited to, child labour, inclusion and gender, enterprise promotion and job creation, risk management, and the formalization of employment and workplaces. This paper describes the beginning of a unique initiative by the ILO Social Finance Program (SFP), a programme that uses financial instruments to promote Decent Work, to stimulate innovations by microfinance institutions (MFIs), and to address Decent Work issues among their clients. Their clients are generally the working poor in the informal economy, including women's groups and microenterprises that create jobs. The ILO estimates that the informal economy comprises 65% of non agricultural employment in developing Asia, 51% in Latin America, 48% in North Africa and 72% in Sub-Saharan Africa. These figures would be significantly larger if they included employment in the agricultural sector. Community leaders, government officials, labour leaders, and others at the ILO and elsewhere believe that MFIs have the potential to make a significant contribution to Decent Work because of their deep reach into the informal economy. MFIs provide small loans and other financial and nonfinancial services to microenterprise owners and the self-employed who otherwise do not have access to capital or business information. Nevertheless, Decent Work is far from being a reality for millions of the working poor. Approximately 1.5 billion people live on less than USD 2 a day. Many also conduct work under extremely hazardous conditions, be it daily exposure to toxic substances or frequent contact with unsafe tools and machines. Thanks to the access to the workplaces of the working poor that MFIs provide, stimulating innovations to improve OSH through their programmes and services could be a triple win opportunity for the (1) MFIs themselves, (2) their clients (mostly microenterprises and self-employed women), and (3) their clients' workers.
Workers; Work-environment; Worker-health; Safety-practices; Health-protection; Environmental-health; Demographic-characteristics; Sociological-factors
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Construction; Manufacturing
Source Name
Asian - Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety