We like to publish an inofficial translation of an article by the magazin El Pueblo from Chile about informal labour that was sent to us.

Informal labour is on the rise while our rights as workers are decreasing


Editor's note: The steady rise of informal employment is characteristic of bureaucratic capitalism and semi-feudalism in countries oppressed by imperialism, such as ours. It is unregulated labour, mobilising surplus product and surplus value which, in the end, is equally concentrated in the financial channels of banking and the stock exchange. The magnitude and extension of informal labour expresses the degree of parasitism and decomposition of the imperialist system, which far from promoting economic development in the oppressed countries, generates a deformed development, an economy strangled by finance capital, further concentration of capital in the big monopolies and the subjection of all production, finance and national consumption to the interests of the latter, while the popular masses must overexploit themselves to support their families. We disseminate this article which has been sent to the editorial office of Periódico El Pueblo as a contribution to the discussion on the problem of employment in Chile.

The latest statistical bulletin on informal labour issued by the National Statistics Institute (INE) in November (Footnote 1) of this year reported an increase of 3.7% in the number of workers in informal labour conditions, which, in figures, corresponds to 2,393,242 people in this labour condition.

According to the INE, "informally employed people are those who work as dependent workers, but without access to social security (health and AFP) due to their employment relationship. They are also those who work independently in a company, business or activity that belongs to the informal sector. Unpaid family members in the household are also considered as informally employed persons".

The most dramatic cases according to the National Employment Survey for the June-August quarter (Footnote 2) are those of the regions of Araucanía with 37%, Arica y Parinacota with 36.6% and Ñuble with 35.9%, which coincidentally are the communes that exceed the national average poverty rate according to the CASEN in Pandemic 2020 (Footnote 3), that ist 10,8 %, this is directly related to the fact that the worse the working conditions, the greater the chances of being in poverty or extreme poverty, in short, 1 out of every 3 workers in Chile is in a condition of informal employment.

Since 2010, the INE has modified the question regarding the measurement of the employment rate, replacing it with the hours occupied by a person, seeking to adapt its methodology to the mandates of the international organisations of imperialism, mainly the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This modification hides a crude reality, as it does not consider the voluntary nature of the workers, thus denying what is known as involuntary working hours, or underemployment, which of course raised employment rates, but made invisible the conditions of self-exploitation and precarious work that a significant mass of workers live in on a daily basis.

In the case of Chile, it is only since 2017 that the INE has incorporated the dimension of informality in the work into the measurement of the National Employment Survey, which has allowed the quantification of the population under this condition, increasing the employment figures that the old measurement did not consider. However, it should be made clear that underemployment and informality are part of the structural conditions of employment in Chile and not necessarily a current phenomenon.

Studies by the ILO show that, in the vast majority of countries around the world, the increase in informal employment has been considerably exponential since the onset of the current crisis of monopoly capitalism and the COVID 19 pandemic, opening up the possibility of a change in the pattern of employment on a global scale, and generating conditions for the perpetuation of the extreme precariousness of the workforce.

To have a comparative idea at the global level, already in 2018 data from African and Arab countries were those with the highest rates of informality, 86% and 69% of total employment, respectively, while the Americas, including the United States, show an informality rate of 40% for Latin America and the Caribbean this figure reached around 53%.

As a repetitive feature in the labour market, it is women who are most affected and swell the figures for labour informality. The positive variation in the informal employed population, by sex, was exclusively influenced by women (11.2%). In the same period, the female informal employment rate was 28.9% and the male rate was 25.7%, with variations of 0.6 pp. and -1.5 pp. respectively; moreover, in terms of the sectors where informality predominates, paid work in the home and domestic work, highly feminised occupations, lead the way.

But what does it mean for the working class and the people to find themselves in informal labour conditions? Of course, the most obvious thing is that they have no fixed remuneration or job stability, and worse still, they have no social security, i.e. no health or social security, no maternity protection, no unemployment insurance (AFC), and many of these jobs are also associated with conditions of insecurity and extreme social vulnerability, since in many cases the employer is also in the same condition of informality.

Another important element to consider for those of us who adhere to the class-conscious and combative current is the "impossibility" of organising in trade unions, eliminating the possibility of improving their conditions of employment through negotiation and strike action.

This phenomenon reflects the deep crisis of the monopoly capitalist system, which is no longer able to absorb all those who are able to work, and the army of the unemployed, of which the old Marx spoke, has had to solve their economic survival not through formal employment, but through their own initiatives.

The representatives of the bourgeoisie and the bosses have recently used the COVID 19 pandemic and what they called the "social explosion" as an excuse to account for the growth of informality in work, and have also argued that progress must be made in making the working day even more flexible in order to be able to generate more jobs, arguments that are nothing more than light bullets that hide behind a veil the essence of the bourgeois class of the generation of surplus value, the maintenance of private property and the overexploitation of the working class with the aim that it is the working class that pays for the current comprehensive crisis of the system of exploitation and capitalist domination.

On the one hand, we, the class conscious, have to demand that INE, in methodological terms, incorporate complementary indicators, that it consider integrality in its measurements when it comes to measuring labour insertion rates. On the other hand, to demand formal employment for all those who require it and therefore the demand for work with a contract and social security must be part of our list of demands, also to promote and defend trade union organisation even when bourgeois legislation does not recognise it, the working class has historically transcended legality in the struggle for their rights. However, the solution to the capital/labour contradiction is solved to the extent that the workers, constituted as a class for themselves, conquer the power and control in the production and distribution of goods, only then will the working conditions be modified and therefore the exploitation of labour and capitalist oppression can be put an end to.


Ariel Orellana Araya

Part of the Union of Technicians and Professionals SITECPRO, member of the Inter-Union Association of Workers and Class Conscious Workers, AIT Social Worker, Master in Government and Local Management; Diploma in Government and Public Management; Social Policies, Poverty and Development; Family Law and Family Mediation; Management Skills.


1 https://www.ine.cl/docs/default-source/informalidad-y-condiciones-laborales/boletines/2022/espa%C3%B1ol/bolet%C3%ADn-informalidad-laboral-trimestre-julio-septiembre-2022.pdf

2 https://www.ine.cl/docs/default-source/prensa-y-comunicacion/resultados-ene-jja-2022.pdf?sfvrsn=6a912425_2

3 http://observatorio.ministeriodesarrollosocial.gob.cl/encuesta-casen-en-pandemia-2020#:~:text=Los%20objetivos%20de%20Casen%20en,%2C%20vivienda%2C%20trabajo%20e%20ingresos