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VISET Launches Time Survey Report for Informal Sector Workers in Zimbabwe

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Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) launched its Time Use Survey Report of Informal Sector Workers in Zimbabwe on June 14, 2024.

The report, which is part of the Valuing Women’s Work project, unpacked findings from research done between November and December 2023, covering 10 locations in Zimbabwe, namely Binga, Bulawayo, Beitbridge, Chinhoyi, Chipinge, Chiwundura, Goromonzi, Gweru, Harare, and Masvingo.

The main objective of the report was to identify program and policy solutions to promote women’s economic empowerment by acknowledging, reducing, and redistributing women’s unpaid care work. The paper presents findings of time use data and unpaid care work for women working in the informal sector in Zimbabwe. It also identifies gaps and provides recommendations for policy makers and development actors to support women in the informal sector.

The research involved a mix of questionnaires and surveys across a sample of 179 informal economy workers. This research report provides an overview of the research, its findings and the issues arising from the study. In particular, it contributes to the understanding of time-use patterns of women in the informal sector and in particular, the amount of time women spent doing unpaid care work. A total of 200 questionnaires were administered and 179 responses were received. Of these, 60.89 percent of the responses were from females while 39.11 percent of respondents were males.

Survey findings revealed informal economy workers spend the majority of their time (45.25 percent) outside their trading duties cooking and cleaning at home. They spent significant time (19.55 percent) preparing children for school, taking them to and from school and assisting them with homework.

Informal economy workers also spent a lot of time caring for children (17.88 percent) and others including the sick and the elderly at home, followed by laundry duties which take up about 17.32 percent of their time. On the work front, findings showed many informal traders begin their day as early as 4am daily so as to accommodate a mix of unpaid care responsibilities and their normal vending duties.

Some traders, especially in the fruits and vegetables sector wake up early to go to the market to buy their stock at wholesale prices and then go back home to do various unpaid care duties such as preparing children for school and cooking and cleaning and so on. The majority of vendors (65) finish work after 8pm followed by those who shut down operations at 9pm and 10pm respectively. This data shows that informal traders spend long hours at work partly due to a mix of work they carry out during the day which includes unpaid care work.

An overwhelming majority (144 out of 179) of informal traders believe that they should be paid for unpaid care work. They feel that it is a lot of work that takes away a significant portion of their time daily and hence should be rewarded.

As part of recommendations, informal traders think a number of things have to change. They think that government should step up and help with conducive and empowering policies and programs that recognise and reward unpaid care work.

They also expect local authorities to play a role in making the operating environment more friendly and accommodative to their needs. Informal sector workers also look up to NGOs, the private sector and churches to help them with services, resources and opportunities to thrive.

In addition to the multi-sectoral approach to ease the burden on women in the informal sector, this study revealed that societal attitudes towards unpaid care work and the traditional patriarchal system exacerbate the burden of unpaid care work especially on women.

It was also felt that government should:

  1. Develop policies and programs that recognise the importance of unpaid care work and adopt strategies to deal with the structural problems that perpetuate them.
  2. Implement policies that recognize and value unpaid care work, such as providing social protection measures for informal sector workers. Invest in public services like healthcare, childcare, and education to reduce the burden of care work on women.
  3. Provide support for infrastructure development to ease the workload of caregivers, such as access to clean water and energy sources.
  4. Amend labour legislation so that it reflects the problem of unpaid care work and spell out the necessary corrective measures.

With regards the development partners it was felt that they should design programs and projects that empower women and educate communities about unpaid care work and provide solutions on how to lessen burden.

In conclusion, as part of further advocacy initiatives, VISET will share full and abridged versions of the report with Parliament, government ministries, and development partners.

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