What is a Worker? Framing People in the Informal Economy as Part of the Trade Union Constituency: A Study of Organising Efforts in Kenya and Tanzania

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This paper investigates the ongoing efforts of trade unions in Kenya and Tanzania to enlarge their constituency by reconceptualising workers to include people in the informal economy. How this process plays out is of immense importance as it challenges established understandings of who a worker is; this in turn poses very difficult questions about rights, representation and the distribution of power both internally in the union movements and in society at large. Based on original interview data, the paper unpacks this highly contested and politicised process. The paper shows how union efforts reflect different ways of tackling the need to constitute people working informally as workers and union members in order to increase the social base, and thereby increase political clout. However, these processes are juxtaposed with the urge to maintain traditional boundaries and protect established privileges and power structures, both internally in the unions and externally in the fragile compromise inscribed in the existing tripartite structures.
TidsskriftGlobal Labour Journal
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)209-228
Antal sider20
StatusUdgivet - maj 2022


  • informal workers
  • informal economy
  • trade unions
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania

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