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03.02.2021 Feature Article

The Informal Sector – You could be the next person to be exploited

The Informal Sector – You could be the next person to be exploited
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I was driving the other time when my car suddenly stopped. The engine was on but when I changed the gear, it simply wouldn’t move.

With the help of others, we pushed the vehicle to safety. I immediately called my Father, who worked for many years as a Mechanical Engineer in a big organization and described the situation to him.

My father told me: “Oh it is the gear lever, there is a string that connects the gear lever, it must have disconnected, just get a ‘fitter’ and tell him to mend the gear lever for you.”

My confidence level skyrocketed on my way to look for a mechanic, I entered a fitting yard and asked for someone who knew about gear box, a middle-aged man was pointed to him.

I approached this man with 100 per cent confidence and described the situation, he agreed to go with me to the place where the car is parked to fix it.

Once we got to the car, he requested that I opened the bonnet, with surprise on my face, I asked him, what he was going to do with the bonnet opening? This ‘fitter’ said he was checking to ascertain what the problem was.

I quickly told him that the problem was not within the bonnet of the car, it was in the console where the gear lever was.

He then opened the console and bought a single super-glue that cost 4.50 cedis, he used it to mend it and told me we should move the car to the shop.

I acted surprised again, what are we going to do at the shop? I asked, Mr. ‘fitter’ said he worked on manual vehicles and since my vehicle was automatic he was going to give it to his colleague who fixed automatic cars to fix it.

When we got to the fitting shop, his colleague dilly-dallied a bit and then got to work, I noticed he was keeping very long on the car so I approached him and asked if there was any other issue, the automatic fitter said no, he had mended it with a glue and was just waiting for it to dry.

I hurried him a bit, when I asked for the bill, this gentleman said he was charging me 80 cedis, wow! I exclaimed, was it not the gear lever, you mended? He said yes, so why 80 cedis? I asked, he said he bought some seal, I knew he was lying but I wasn’t prepared to argue, I was running late for a few things I needed to do, I paid him and left.

I felt exploited but there wasn’t much I could do. On my way home, I pondered about the informal economy and how much exploitation went on there in that economy.

The above example is not the only one where one can engage someone in the informal sector and get exploited, it is everywhere, whether you are engaging plumbers, painters, carpenters or just name it, you stand a high chance of getting exploited.

Meanwhile, we are so loud about unemployment rate, employment to a lot of people should be white colour jobs, banker, insurance broker, clerk, air hostess etc.

Somehow, I believe that what keeps our economy going is the informal sector which has been left unregulated for a long time.

One other informal economy job that I believe has been greatly abused and people tend to get exploited is the domestic worker, house help, nanny, housekeeper, just choose how you would like to call it.

These days, there are people who set up Agencies, that serve as a link between people desiring to work as domestic workers and those desiring to employ them.

However, that industry is another sector beset with exploitation, people open their homes to total strangers in the name of house helps or Nanny’s, feed, sometimes clothe and pay them in addition and yet, many are paid back with ungratefulness, child molestation or something that inflicts emotional and sometimes physical pain.

I remember a friend calling my phone one very early morning, because a Nanny she employed from an Agency just decides that she is leaving because her (Nanny’s) daughter has also given birth and she wants to go and help.

These days, some of the Nannies who live in your house and you feed three times a day plus other benefits take as much as a 1000 cedis as monthly salary and yet there are no regulations on how they behave or what they do within your household.

At most, the House help agency will say, if the person misbehaves and you do not like her, you have a chance to choose another person.

Even the government’s NABCO personnel take about 700 cedis and that does not include you feeding them or housing them and yet they behave in a way that is acceptable to the organization’s code of conduct.

Domestic work is work and it is a job that will not go extinct even with technology, I think it is time to have national conversations on the informal sector because in my opinion, the informal economy is huge and need to be harnessed.

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