Informal sector activities take many forms. At one end of the spectrum is the relatively thriving small-scale manufacturing enterprise employing several workers; at the other end are street vendors, shoe-shiners and other engaged in petty service activities that yield barely a subsistence income. In between are such activities as informal transport services, small shops and laundries.
The sector's existence on the fringes of the law has often led public authorities to confuse it with criminal activities, and to subject it to harassment. Government strategies which have favoured urban development and large capital-intensive enterprises have produced biases which operate to the disadvantage of the informal sector, but ironically preserve it. The informal sector is also the very antithesis of everything that the trade union movement stands for -- huge masses of people living and working in substandard conditions without the protection of the law or of organized labour. A comparable challenge is faced by employers' associations, whose membership until now has consisted largely of enterprises in the modern sector. The prospects for the integration of the informal sector into the mainstream of economic life will to a substantial degree depend on the engagement of both government, and worker and employer organizations.
2. The absence of unemployment benefits forces people to find some way of earning money, for example as a shoeshine boy. Labour in the informal sector is typically characterized by low levels of productivity and income, and must face a high degree of instability of employment. Remuneration tends to be too low to provide workers with an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families.