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Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights - Informal Labor

The challenge

“Informal labor is not a marginal issue in Arab countries. It is a core component of modern Arab economies and the distribution of work therein and is doomed to expand under current policies.”
-Samir Aita, lead researcher

The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) launched the third issue of the Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights report, which focuses on informal labor from a human rights and social justice perspective. Its findings are based on two workshops, one that was held Beirut in cooperation with the Issam Fares Institute (American University of Beirut) and the other in Cairo in collaboration with the American University in Cairo, the Economic Research Forum, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement. Those workshops brought together a group of experts, researchers, academics, and civil society activists. The report was produced with the support of the Ford Foundation, Diakonia, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Norwegian People’s Aid, and IM Sweden.

What’s in the report

The report contains two sections. The first covers the global and regional context through the analysis of national reports and international data and statistics. It also contains studies on the relationship of informal labor with neoliberal policies, migration, and gender. The second section contains national reports from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The report reaches several vital conclusions. Particularly noteworthy is the conclusion that the “highest percentages of lack of formality are in countries with the least strict laws and bureaucracies and vice versa. This goes against the stereotype that says that informality is a result of strict laws and bureaucracies.” Another finding worth highlighting is that “informal labor in Arab countries is mostly waged labor, except in rare cases, which contradicts another idea that says that informal labor is a choice, as young people entering the job market have no choice but to find any type of livelihood, no matter how fragile or temporary.”


ANND is a regional network, working in 12 Arab countries with nine national networks (with an extended membership of 250 CSOs from different backgrounds) and 23 NGO members. ANND was established in 1997 and its headquarters has been located in Beirut, Lebanon, since 2000.

ANND aims at strengthening the role of civil society and sustainable development in the region, advocating for more sound and effective socioeconomic reforms that integrate the concepts of sustainable development, gender justice, and a rights-based approach.