| 24 April 2023

PSDI experts lead Australia Awards panel discussion on Pacific informal economy

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Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) experts have addressed an Australia Awards Women Leading and Influencing (WLI) event on the vital role women play in the Pacific informal economy, and the barriers and opportunities for formalization.

PSDI Economic Empowerment of Women Analyst Madeleine D’Arcy on 4 April 2023 facilitated the WLI Learning and Networking event Empowering Women in the Informal Economy, attended online by almost 100 people from across the region. 

Ms D’Arcy outlined PSDI’s research on the Pacific informal economy, to be contained in an upcoming series of PSDI informal sector policy briefs, and the importance of considering the informal economy (and women’s role within it) in policymaking. 

Ms D’Arcy was joined on the event panel by Sarah Boxall, PSDI Economic Empowerment of Women Specialist; AdiAna Vesikula, PSDI informal economy consultant; and Jennifer Lakoa, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund Investment Manager.

Screenshot 2023 04 04 at 13.13.28 PMPSDI's Madeleine D'Arcy facilitates the Empowering Women in the Informal Economy panel discussion.

The event heard that almost 2 billion people globally operate in the informal economy, with Pacific informal employment rates ranging from 29% (Cook Islands) to 81% (Tonga).

The panel discussed the contribution of the informal economy to Pacific life, including its ability to sustain livelihoods during crisis; its capacity to provide affordable labor, goods, and services; and its importance as an income-generating tool for women.

However, the panel discussed numerous challenges to supporting women in the Pacific informal economy, including women’s disproportionate unpaid care and domestic responsibilitiestheir limited access to social safety nets, retirement and superannuation funds, formal financial products, decision-making networks, and government contract opportunities; and their difficulties with registration and formalization.

The panel also discussed the lack of business structures in the Pacific that align with women business owners’ objectives, needs, and ways of working.

“Women are a huge group and are very varied in their needs, so, it’s important to think about all the ways in which people want to run a business and how that aligns with the business structures that exist,” Ms Boxall said. 

PSDI is an Asian Development Bank (ADB) technical assistance program in partnership with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. It supports ADB’s 14 Pacific developing member countries to improve the enabling environment for business and to achieve inclusive, private sector-led economic growth, including through reforms designed to enhance the economic empowerment of women.

WLI is an Australian Government initiative that aims to develop the skills, confidence, and connections of leaders to drive positive change in the Pacific region. WLI offers a range of developmental leadership offerings to Pacific scholars studying at Australian universities and institutions, and to repatriated Pacific alumni.