Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Workers in the Informal Sector

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 26: Work > Workers in the Informal Sector


Many women earn money working at tasks — like selling in the marketplace, making home crafts, and domestic work — that are not considered formal jobs. These jobs have very few protections, so women who do them are at risk for being exploited and abused.

Domestic workers

A domestic worker faces many of the same health problems already described in this chapter. Because she works in someone else’s home, she has few rights and little protection. She faces:

  • exhaustion and poor nutrition from long hours and poor pay. Even though she may cook for her employer, she is often given little to eat.
  • constant fear of losing her job and of being mistrusted by her employer. She may lose her job if she becomes pregnant. These fears, and the separation from her family, can cause mental health problems.
  • sexual harassment, especially if she lives in her employer’s house. Because he has power over her job, she may be forced to have sex.
  • painful bone, joint and muscle problems from working on her knees for long periods (‘house-maid’s knee’).


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