Is there a Link between Quality of Employment and Indebtedness? The Case of Urban Low-income Households in Ecuador
Working Paper No. 2008-08. 48 pages.
In recent decades, there has been a marked increase in the informalization of employment in developing countries. The risk and insecurity associated with a growing number of informal sector jobs have important consequences in inducing or maintaining vulnerability. This paper explores the incidence of high indebtedness or financial stress among urban, low-income households in Ecuador and demonstrates its interconnectedness with the quality of employment. The implications are non-trivial in the sense that high debt service burden, as with the lack of credit access, can undermine investment and maintain low productivity and earnings. It can also lead to higher probability of loan default and to increase in interest rates or termination of credit line. There are also longer term welfare consequences in terms of households’ ability to cope with future shocks such as illness. The analysis is based on a 2002 sample of men and women in urban, poor households in Ecuador. By means of tobit and regression analyses, the paper demonstrates that labor market informalization has led to higher incidence of indebtedness. Moreover, there are differentiated patterns of debt servicing among women and men in urban, poor households. The results provide a more nuanced yet illuminating picture of the interconnectedness of employment, financial stress and vulnerability. We argue that informalization of employment has consequences in other dimensions of vulnerability of households such as high debt servicing, and therefore requires rethinking of current economic and social policies in order to effectively reduce poverty.
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