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Nest's State of the Handworker Economy Report is Here!

Recognizing a gaping lack of data on the informal economy—and more specifically, on the handworker economy, which is estimated to account for a large portion of informal work – we are proud to unveil our first-ever State of the Handworker Report, a comprehensive report housing troves of descriptive data on artisan small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and home-based workers engaged in craft work.



From our Contributors

With contributions from

Verna Eggleston, Bloomberg Philanthropies

Livia Firth, Eco-Age

Althea Erickson, Etsy

Steven Kolb, CFDA

Rachel Wald, Gerson Lehrman Group

Jennifer Schappert, OECD

Douglas Guiley, West Elm & Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Rebecca van Bergen, Nest

Facts and Figures

About the Report


1. Artisan businesses are powerful vehicles for women’s employment with most artisan businesses employing a majority female workforce. Women are documented to invest more earnings in their families and communities than their male counterparts, pointing to opportunity for craft-based work to drive both economic and social impact. Many artisan businesses cite gender equity as a primary cornerstone of their social missions.

2. Artisan businesses have exporting capabilities and most are already engaging in some level of product export beyond the local marketplace. This said, many artisan businesses sell in local markets despite their export capabilities, pointing to an untapped opportunity for expansion into new international markets.

3. Artisan businesses tend to grow their technology use as their companies grow over time. However, most businesses are limiting their technology use to basic platforms and social media like email, Facebook and Instagram, instead of utilizing the full scope of new and relatively inexpensive technologies like Google for business, CRM software, and selling platforms like Shopify.


1. More than one-third of companies who reported subcontracting to small workshops/homeworkers said that they do not have specific auditing processes in place for assessing production in these work environments. This points to a need for a reliable system that assesses home-based work. When assessments do take place, home visits are not common, pointing to a lack of visibility to the primary producer at the “bottom” of the supply chain.

2. A lack of industry standardization exists when it comes to assessing home or small workshop-based production. Most brands reported using standards set internally by their own companies as opposed to engaging third parties, pointing to an opportunity for the industry to better align on a universal, standardized system for validating work beyond the factory.

3. Brands are interested in programs that not only afford supply chain visibility but also include ways to remediate aspects of their supply chain that need improvement. Brands seem to want to be a part of the solution and are willing to invest in improving compliance in their supply chains.


1. Clear and consistent record keeping and documentation is a major challenge in documenting home-based work, making wage payments and hours worked difficult to track. Improved, standardized, and likely digitized record keeping systems are needed to make sure that handworkers are not exploited.

2. Home-based work environments pose unique safety challenges to handworkers, largely due to a lack of training on health and safety-promoting measures. Concerted training catering specifically to the unique home environment, in which most factory safety standards do not apply, is needed.

3. Handworkers are almost universally paid with piece rate wages as opposed to a salary. While there is nothing inherently wrong with piece-rate payments, the methodology for determining per piece work is often poorly defined or nonexistent, contributing to a greater likelihood that handworkers will be paid unfairly. Standardized methodology for implementing time motion studies should be implemented to ensure fair wages to handworkers.


1. Women doing handwork are invested in their children’s education, with many reporting that their primary use of income generated through handwork is to put children through school. In contrast, child’s education is not a financial priority for men.

2. Women feel that home‑based work is helping them to better care for the children and this ability to parent seems to be what women consider the primary benefit of home-based work.

3. Home-based work serves as an important alternative to factory work, particularly for mothers, who find that their family care demands prohibit them from working in factories. The need to care for children is the primary reason why women leave work in a factory to do handwork inside the home, making home-based work an important alternative for women who might otherwise have to stop working altogether.

This Report was made possible with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies