Talk by Funda Ustek-Spilda on Choosing to be invisible, dying to be visible: Women’s survival strategies in informal labour markets

The Center for Information Technology and Public Policy (CITAPP)

International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB)

organised a talk titled

Choosing to be invisible, dying to be visible:

Women’s survival strategies in informal labour markets


Funda Ustek-Spilda

14:00 hours – 15:30 hours, 30th January 2020 (Thursday)

Venue: Room R106, IIITB campus

26/C, Electronic City, Hosur Road, Bangalore

About the talk: Across the world, women constitute the bottom segments of the informal labour market hierarchy. The story is no different for Turkish women, except they are further constrained by a patriarchal family and political culture and a labour market which favours high-skilled workers in full-time employment. A reading of the literature on the reasons for participating in the informal sector suggests that workers either end up in the informal sector as a result of structural factors, such as high unemployment, horizontal and vertical labour market discrimination, and limited job opportunities for the low-skilled and low-educated, or that they actively choose to participate in the labour market to seize the opportunities it provides, such as evading tax and/or bureaucratic costs, or testing out business ideas. However, this dichotomous understanding provides little scope, if any, to understand why women also enter the informal sector, in ever growing numbers and what the gender-specific constraints and opportunities in the informal sector are. This talk aims to give voice to the women who are in the informal sector in Turkey and explores the range of choices that are available to them in their opinion, and how they navigate through them. It specifically focuses on their survival strategies within the labour market in dealing with employers, middle-men, subcontracting employment agencies and their families. It investigates the individual and collective decision-making in the informal sector for women, and their reasons for engaging and not engaging in collective activities.

Speaker Bio: Funda Ustek-Spilda is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Project Manager at the Fairwork Foundation. She is interested in studying data invisibilities & visibilities, looking at the ethical, societal, political and economic implications of being counted and not being counted in data. She has approached this theme from various angles within the fields of labour, gender, migration and responsible technology design. Prior to joining the Fairwork Foundation, Funda held postdoctoral researcher positions at ARITHMUS: How data make a people (ERC Research Project, 2014-2018) based at Goldsmiths, University of London; and VIRT-EU: Values and Ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe (EC FP7 Horizon 2020 Project) based at the London School of Economics. She holds a D.Phil from the University of Oxford in Sociology (2015) and an MSc from the same university in Comparative Social Policy (2010). In her doctoral thesis, she studied survival strategies of women workers in Turkey as they navigated various jobs in the informal labour market. This talk is based on her thesis.

CITAPP at IIIT Bangalore is an interdisciplinary think-tank set-up to focus on the policy challenges and the organizational demands made by technological innovation. Of particular interest to the Centre is how technological advances, along with institutional changes that harness the legitimacy and the powers of bureaucracies and market, address the needs of underserved communities.