Unbanked: The World’s Working Poor

Published January 2, 2015
Updated January 30, 2018
Informal Economy

‘To The Market’ These women in Vietnam travel across the desert each day in order to sell their goods. Photo by Tuan Kiet Pham

The working poor comprise a sizable chunk of the population in the world’s wealthiest and poorest countries. Millions of people worldwide work long hours in tough conditions to barely make ends meet.

Of course, their lives are made that much more difficult when they lack access to banking or financial institutions. In many of the world’s most impoverished areas, the only option for workers is to keep what little money they have made in their huts, shacks, and shanties. As you might imagine, this leaves the already vulnerable at a greater risk of theft, and over time tends to perpetuate poverty.

Informal Economy Plastics Worker

‘Recycling’ A Bangladesh man prepares plastic pieces for drying. Once they are dried, the pieces will be sold to plastic manufacturers who use recycled materials in their products. Photo by Probal Rashid

A number of groups, both public and private, have created programs around the world in an attempt to give people a means of gaining employment and improving their lives where these avenues were otherwise scarce or non-existent.

Every year, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) runs a photo contest to raise awareness about the importance of increased access to financial services. The 2014 winners were announced in November, and the images are poignant and stunning.

Informal Economy Fisher Friends
Informal Economy Dog Walkers
Jeweler's Eye
Stereo Shop
Unbanked: The World’s Working Poor
View Gallery
Erin Kelly
Erin Kelly is a freelance writer, artist, and video editor that splits her time between the humid Midwest and the dusty corners of her mind.