Engendering the Global Financial and Economic Crisis: Unveiling the Links between Formal and Informal Sectors in the Mining Regions in Zambia and Assessing the Gender Implications


Namatovu, Regina, and Cristina Espinosa. 2011. “Engendering the Global Financial and Economic Crisis: Unveiling the Links between Formal and Informal Sectors in the Mining Regions in Zambia and Assessing the Gender Implications.” International Journal of Business and Social Science 2 (20): 66–79.

Authors: Regina Namatovu, Cristina Espinosa


The history of previous economic crises reveals devastating effects for the poor and vulnerable, with strong evidence of differentiated impacts for women and men. Reports on the recent economic crisis (2008/9) that severely hit Zambia’s mining sector confirm the negative impacts of the crisis on the livelihoods of workers within the formal sector in the mining regions. Female and male workers in the informal sector associated with and dependent upon the formal mining sector have also been impacted by this crisis, although these impacts remain underreported. Due to differentiated impacts of the crisis for women and men, the livelihoods and the gender roles within families in the mining regions have dramatically changed. This case study assesses the implications of the economic crisis in the mining regions of Zambia, from a gender perspective, highlighting the interconnectedness between the formal and informal sectors and how the negative effects on one have a spillover effect on the other. The study makes visible the gendered impact of the economic crisis on local livelihoods in Africa, for those engaged in tradable and in non tradable sectors, debunking the assumption that local populations that are not directly engaged in economies linked to global markets experience less severe consequences of the global crisis.


  • Policy recommendations: economic diversification to guard against shocks, greater allocation of financial resources to healthcare and infrastructure, gender-responsive budgets to “lighten burden of unpaid care work” (76)


“The research question guiding this inquiry is: How did the livelihoods and gender relations of the families depending either on direct employment or on the informal sector servicing the mining sector change after the economic crisis handicapped the mining sector in Zambia’s Copperbelt?” (67)

“Women’s over-representation in the informal sector, which offers lower wages and no social protection or benefits, made them more vulnerable to the negative effects of the crisis, as compared to men employed mostly in the formal sector.” (67)

“Between 2009 and 2010, regional mining output was anticipated to further decline by 23 percent and by 2020, the aftermath of the crisis would spread to manufacturing, construction and service sectors with broader impacts on national economies of countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, the DRC (200,000 jobs lost), and South Africa (30,000 jobs lost).” (68)

“In addition to a negative economic environment, women in the informal sector faced the competition from male workers laid off from the formal sector. Dramatic cuts in the public health sector budget (25.3 percent) resulted from the fall in government revenue and contributions from donor agencies. The care provisioning role shifted from the government and private sector (mining companies) to poor women and girls who had to shoulder this responsibility, in the context of increased poverty and vulnerability.” (69)

“Mining regions such as Ndola, Kitwe and Chingola have recorded increased sex worker activity since November 2008 (first quarter of the crisis), and these regions bear the highest HIV prevalence rates at 26.6 percent, much over the national average of 15 percent.” (75)

Topics: Economies, Care Economies, Poverty, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Globalization, Health, HIV/AIDS, Households, Infrastructure, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Political Economies Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zambia

Year: 2011

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