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A key aspect of facilitating a transformation to a more just and equitable society should be the facilitation of decent work, through the adoption of labour standards. Yet the majority of workers in the global South are engaged in vulnerable, informal work that offers very little (if any) welfare protection While there are many possible ways to improve the conditions of work in the informal sector, this paper focuses on organizing workers as an agent for change. Organizing the informal sector is particularly important given the general lack of labour law enforcement in the developing world; unions and non-governmental organizations can work to support decent work conditions while raising public awareness of labour issues and lobbying for increased enforcement capacity. The pressure to enforce labour laws and regulations can thus spread through multiple levels of civil society. Toward this end, we undertake an analysis of two Asian countries with particularly high proportions of informal sector employment—Indonesia and India. In so doing, we highlight the variety of possible strategies for successfully organizing informal sector workers, and we also show that similar barriers to organizing the informal sector may be manifested differently across countries according to country-specific institutional structures and cultural norms.

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LABOUR, Capital and Society