Farmers Market

ASU experts say informal work avenues are critical for meeting basic needs

By

Taylor Woods

What do baby sitters, farmers markets, street vendors and repair services have in common? They fall under the umbrella of our informal economy, a relatively unregulated but essential component that has changed dramatically due to the stress on formal economies in light of COVID-19. 

ASU’s Human Economies Working Group published an article in Medium about informal economies during a crisis, when informal labor often pops up to support basic needs within communities. This team of ASU research scientists, composed of experts in anthropology, sustainability, resilience and globalization, outlines the current status of formal and informal economies, and calls for rethinking the economy to include informal labor.  

“This current period of crisis — including not only the global pandemic and economic disruption, but also uprisings for social justice — has brought many formal markets to the verge of collapse, yet it also provides opportunities to create change,” the research team wrote in Medium. “By embracing a holistic perspective of our economic systems, which involves accepting and appreciating the integral role of informal labor, we may conceive of a human economy moving forward.”

School of Human Evolution and Social Change Associate Professor Christopher Morehart, an environmental anthropologist, contributed to the article along with affiliated faculty member Sarah Graff. Other faculty on ASU’s Human Economies Working Group, part of the larger ASU Global Futures Laboratory, are Nina Berman, Rimjhim Aggarwal, Clea Edwards, Salah Hamdoun, David Manuel-Navarrete, Okechukwy Iheduru, Hallie Eakin, Mary Jane Parmentier, Gary Grossman and Netra Chhetri.