Informal employment — defined as work that is not regulated or taxed — accounts for more than half of total employment in the Global South, and as much as 85% in small island states like Solomon Islands (ILO 2017:4). Market vending, one form of informal employment, provides a much-needed source of income for those excluded from wage jobs and struggling to feed, clothe and educate their families. The 2015 Pacific Urban Forum recognised that: ‘there should be increased acknowledgement of the influence and contribution of the informal sector to the national and urban economy’. Yet, the informal economy receives very limited institutional support.
In Honiara, many households rely on income from selling produce in informal (community-based) urban markets, yet little is known about these markets and their economic opportunities. What we do know about Honiara’s markets suggests their socio-economic value is high; estimates for the government-regulated Honiara Central Market puts the annual gross value at USD10–16 million (AUD13–19 million) with women responsible for about 90% of these earnings. Today, this is the equivalent of AUD40–60,000 going directly to households and the local economy each day. The Honiara planning scheme recognises the need for more serviced and planned marketplaces, but no action has occurred.
This In Brief is the first in a series of three that examines the socio-economic value, opportunities and challenges facing these markets. In this In Brief we provide an overview of the study and its generalised findings with subsequent papers providing more detail about market livelihoods and security. The Markets Matter research project is conducted in partnership with UN Women and funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. It engaged 189 vendors — 84% women — who sell fresh produce, fish and baked goods, but not illicit goods such as betel nut and alcohol.