Eva B. Arcos
Decent Work Agenda of the ILO and the Informal Economy
The Role of Trade unions and Informal Economy Associations
Summary/Highlights of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Experience
Johannesburg, South Africa
10-14 December 2007
The informal sector is composed of home-based workers, vendors, craftsmen and
craftswomen, micro entrepreneurs, small transport operators, drivers, and other unskilled or
low skilled laborers. Many rely on a single micro-company or middleperson for their survival.
Others are almost invisible, making them even harder to find, talk to and organize. The vast
majority of them do not enjoy a traditional employee-employer relationship.
The sector is estimated to account for 52 percent of the Philippines’ 30-million workforce. Not
surprisingly, its economic activities constitute some 25 to 30 percent of the country’s Gross
On the average, 57 percent of those in the informal sector are in the agriculture sector, 33
percent in the services sector and 6 percent in the industry sector. Women dominate the
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines has been…
1 Effectively using existing tripartite or multi-sectoral structures or mechanisms to
address informal economy issues and concerns. For example: extension of coverage
from private sector employees only to self-employed and volunteer contributors under
the Social Security System; setting minimum wages for agricultural and non-
agricultural workers under the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards;
policy and program formulation and monitoring of women specific and related concerns
under the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women; affordable decent
housing at low interest rates under the Pag-ibig Home Development Mutual Fund,
among many others.
2 Collaborating with other trade unions and affiliates …
…setting up of a Workers’ Development Fund
…assisting the development of savings-based community organizations
…developing cooperatives that provide savings and loan services, credit
extension services on prime commodities and service and job
…improving access to low-interest and non-collateral loans and protecting them
from usurious lending schemes
…advocating for personal tax exemptions for minimum wage earners; removal
of sales tax for prime commodities and services; reduction of excessive
business transaction costs
3 Collaborating with various government agencies, for example, with Department of
Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, Technological Education
and Skills Development Authority and certain universities or institutions to improve
access to technology, training and entrepreneurship for productivity, increased income
opportunities and better living.
TUCP has also been in partnership with the Department of Health and the Department
of Labor for access to safety and health services and education, including reproductive
and HIV/AIDs programs.
4 Initiated and sustained the formation of a coalition of trade unions, informal economy
associations and people’s organizations that became the Informal Sector of the
Philippines (ISP) to participate in formulation, implementation, monitoring and
evaluation of policies, laws, rules and regulations, programs affecting workers. The
work includes advocacy to ratify relevant ILO Conventions.
The ISP became part of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) where there is
a Council for Workers in the Informal Sector, to participate in the development of
sectoral and national policies affecting the informal economy workers. There are also
trade union, migrant, women and youth representatives in NAPC.
TUCP and partner organizations also expect the full operationalization of the created
sub-committees for the Informal Economy in national, regional and local development
5. Engaged in various advocacy and capacity-building activities, and social partnerships
which have resulted to:
a. The creation of Barangay (the country’s smallest political unit) Council for the
Protection of Children in some areas
b. The creation of Women and Children’s desks or centers in selected communities
c. The implementation of the law appropriating at least five (5)% of the government
agency or unit budget to finance women’s programs (called Gender and
d. An agreement with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority mandating locators not
to engage contractors, subcontractors and suppliers who employ children; and to
create Committees on Decorum and Investigation to address violence against
e. The restructuring of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Rural Workers into
Bureau of Rural and Informal Economy Workers and mainstreaming Informal
Economy in its programs.
6. Conducting research , advocacy activities, forging social partnerships that have
put the concerns for the Informal Economy in the country’s legislative agenda: Magna
Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy
7. Practicing international solidarity and cooperation for workers’ issues and
concerns across geographical boundaries.
8. Operating the TUCP Workers’ College for skills training in identified critical
industries or occupations and job networking for the young, retrenched or the
9 Breeding a culture of decent work, dignity, credit discipline, productivity,
entrepreneurship, economic independence, sensitivity and non-violence.
10 Empowering workers especially the women in both Formal and Informal Economies in
being able to define themselves, mobilize resources, create opportunities, make
informed decisions, and being active participants in the charting of their work life,
relationships and development.
1. Purposive expansion of trade union affiliations from organized agricultural or rural
workers to include informal economy (IE) associations across industries and
2. Actual integration or mainstreaming of IE workers in union structures, policies,
programs and representations.
3. Sustaining initiatives at all levels of organization, organizing and servicing given limited
trade union resources
4. Obtaining decent work and quality life for workers and their families, both in the formal
and informal economies
5. Building another generation of committed, critical and able leaders in trade unions and
informal economy associations
6. Building independent, capable, responsible and strong unions and Informal Economy
7. Effectively respond to the demands of globalization, the changing socio-economic-
political structures in order to continue the struggle for decent work and decent life for