Social protection ‘from below’: Petty traders and their collective associations in Tanzania

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This paper explores the social protection coverage, needs, and preferences of informal petty traders in Tanzania. In particular, it examines the social protection models implemented ‘from below’ by traders’ own collective associations. Despite attempts at expanding access to formal social protection, formal schemes are often inadequate and inappropriate for informal traders, and coverage remains very low. Informal traders instead often organize collectively in associations that provide a variety of social protection measures to their members. Using original survey and interview data, the paper shows how social protection offered by public channels suffers from narrow scope and fails to correspond with the key challenges experienced by informal traders. In contrast to public social protection models, social protection models ‘from below’ implemented by the traders’ own associations, are directed towards timely, flexible, but also limited cushioning against multiple relevant needs. They may also provide possibilities for investment, income enhancement, and representation. By giving attention to the collective agency, wider portfolio, and flexible mode of bottom-up social protection forms provided by traders’ own associations, this paper calls for a broadening of both academic and policy discussions in this field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Development Studies
Publication statusSubmitted - Jun 2021

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