Benin’s informal sector

The informal economy in Benin employs the vast majority of the country’s workers; this is mainly because the vast majority of the population are self-employed subsistence farmers, growing a range of foods from maize to cassava to beans to rice.

While the advantages of working in the informal economy are often well-publicised – avoiding tax etc – there are also numerous downsides. Informal workers are often subjected to extremely heavy workloads, unsociable hours, ‘attached’ labour, unhealthy conditions, lack of skills and inability to access training, lack of formal written contracts that provide accountability, harassment and discrimination based on gender, class or locality, and fragile job security.

For Benin specifically, problems include continued wage inequality, forced labour and child labour. While these descriptors remain true, it is difficult to see how Benin can build the foundations of economic progress. With workers exploited and children denied education, the problems look set to persist. Thus, the work of HITT Benin and other similar programmes represent a crucial way to begin redressing these problems, creating a future marked by opportunities rather than exploitation.