Women's employment in transition countries, notably Central and Eastern Europe has become increasingly informal and flexible. The first growing trend is that women are more involved in cross-border trade, known as 'suitcase' trade, often keeping women away from home for days or months. They buy mainly consumer and household goods usually unavailable in their home countries, to sell to street vendors on their return home. The second growing trend is women's involvement in sub-contracting, particularly work such as hand sewing for the textile and shoe industries. There is a need for more data, particularly gender-disaggregated data, on both women's and men's involvement in the informal economy. States must also create more economically, politically and socially enabling environments if informal economy workers are to receive the support they need. The next steps for governments may include undertaking policy advocacy on informal employment; establishing more dialogue with key policymakers and researchers to ensure that informal employment is on the agenda; and helping female home-based workers to organise and develop their own organisations.
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BRIDGE is a research and information programme located within IDS Knowledge Services. We are part of a global movement whose vision is a world where gender equality, dignity and social justice prevail, where poverty is eliminated and where human rights – including women’s rights - are realised.