Informality, Manila and Global Cities

Aeon Magazine is a tough publication to pin down, and I don’t always trust that it can live up to its aim to present a “humane worldview“, but in “This striking feature of Manila makes it an emblematic global city” Nancy Kwak wrote closer to that principle than many. The piece presents a compelling look at Manila and how informality of housing and the broader economy works in the city and the world more broadly.


According to a recent report, 40 to 80 per cent of Filipino residents work in the informal economy. Meanwhile, informal settlements are everywhere apparent, with self-built structures lining the waterways and filling nearly every available space in the city, and with informal settlers working in seemingly every aspect of the urban economy.


Even a casual look at Manila, and other bourgeoning global cities, shows that the functioning of the urban economy depends on informality. Informality allows workers to subsist on marginal incomes. Informality provides homes where the formal market does not. Despite or perhaps because of their meagre pay, these workers’ role in the global service economy is anything but marginal.


Photo in featured image by Luca Bucken.

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