Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Aspects of the Informal Sector in Tanzania

Global statistics show that more than 60 per cent of the world’s employed population earns their informal economy livelihood. In Africa, for instance, it is recorded that every eight out of ten people work in the informal sector. The informal economy segment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains one of the largest in the world, even though this share has been very gradually declining, as seems to be the case globally. In Tanzania, it makes 75 per cent of total employment and over 80 per cent of total GDP. Evidence shows that most people enter the informal economy not by choice but due to a lack of opportunities in the formal economy and the absence of other means of livelihood. Moreover, it is widely accepted that a large informal economy has adverse economic effects at the macro and micro-levels. Such economic impact includes poor labour conditions, insufficient tax basis, inadequate coverage of social protection, lower earnings, higher gender gaps and a negative influence on macroeconomic growth. Moreover, some specific sectors are highly dominated by women and others by men. In SSA, women are concentrated in informal economy segments where productivity and earnings are low, hampered by inadequate access to capital, public services, social protection and infrastructure, and often face a skills deficit. There is a much more significant proportion of women in informal work areas such as production for own consumption, home-based and domestic work, where their invisibility reduces their capacity for collective bargaining and increases their exposure to exploitation. The types of informal work women do as market or street vendors, hawkers or homeworkers, expose them to risks to their physical safety and health. This policy brief focuses on examining the impact of COVID-19 on gender aspects of Tanzania's informal sector.