One of my favourite topics of conversation when I meet foreign workers in factories and hotels is what they would do when they go back to their respective countries, when their formal contract of employment ends.
To my surprise, I always get a similar response: they would not need to work in a formal sector in their respective country, since their village has all the necessary resources to survive.
They have personal farms for growing food, chickens, cows and goats, which are used for personal or community consumption or their livestock may be sold to the cities through a supply chain.
There is an alternative ‘fallback’ into their rural ecosystem when there is a rupture or end to the employment in the formal economy.
What is interesting is there is an alternative informal rural economy that is built on the ethos of village living, which provides social security in a real sense, where you take ownership of your social interaction and economic activity – unlike the formal economic system where capitalist utilitarianism determines the organisation of society.
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The Covid pandemic has shown how a formal economy in the urban setting could be devastated, causing mass unemployment, business bankruptcies and, far worse, loss of lives to the virus.
The crisis has revealed an imbalanced world that was obsessed with economic prosperity and growth, while forgetting community solidarity, informal economic activities and integral ecology.
In fact, the last three elements should be the vision of a future built on the principle of subsidiarity, where local solutions to local issues are sought.
Are we fostering a sense of community living in our villages and urban housing areas? Are we working on abandoned land in our surrounding areas for community farming, which we could fall back on if there is a rupture in the formal economy, such as food shortages and inflation?
Are our decisions on day-to-day of community living strongly rooted in a consciousness of being part of whole natural environmental systems that need to be nurtured and protected?
Do we need a disastrous pandemic for us to realise the importance of an informal economy that enhances the skills and knowledge of people in our community?
The informal economy supports some of the most vulnerable people in society. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, it generates 90% of employment opportunities in some countries.
Let’s build up an alternative vision of community solidarity, an informal economy and integral ecology. – The Malaysian Insight