World Urban Forum 7: WIEGO's Impact at WUF in 2014

Durban street vendors

Cities work better when informal livelihoods are valued and informal workers recognized and included in decision making – that’s the message an international delegation from WIEGO conveyed at the World Urban Forum (WUF7) in Medellín, Colombia in April 2014.

WIEGO and associates’ events were well-attended and generated plenty of discussion. Hundreds of WUF7 attendees came to our booth to learn more from the experts and informal workers in the WIEGO delegation. Significantly, ours was the only delegation at the major international event to include informal workers and to highlight urban livelihoods.

The goal was to challenge city decision makers and urban professionals to open their eyes to this massive and important workforce. The attention received from both attendees and media suggests that goal was advanced.

Press Release: 

Cities Must Recognize the Value of Informal Workers

(April 2014) Cities work better when informal livelihoods are valued and informal workers recognized and included in decision making—that’s the message an international delegation from WIEGO is conveying at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia. Experts and informal workers in the delegation are challenging city decision makers and urban professionals to open their eyes to this massive and important workforce.

Statistics recently published by WIEGO show informal workers account for the majority of the working population in cities in most of the global South. Fully 82 per cent of non-agricultural workers in South Asia and 66 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa are informally employed, while in Latin America, 51 per cent are informal.

“The informal economy is what sustains millions of families and households in so many cities worldwide,” says Caroline Skinner, an urban policies specialist from South Africa who is with the WIEGO delegation.

Enormous contributions

She asserts that despite lacking secure income, social protection or the rights and recognition that accompanies formal employment, informal workers also make enormous economic, social and environmental contributions. However, they face multiple barriers that hinder their work.

For example, street vendors enliven city spaces, offering affordable goods in convenient locations. However, their visibility makes them targets of negative attention—including arrests and confiscations—from authorities.

Waste pickers (recicladores) provide both municipal and environmental services by collecting waste and diverting it from landfills, but receive little respect, recognition or reward.

Other informal workers are hidden, most notably home-based workers. Usually women and usually poor, these workers are vital to both domestic and global value chains, but struggle with inadequate housing and zoning, and are relocated with no thought to their business interests.

Marty Chen, International Coordinator for WIEGO and one of the world’s foremost experts on informal employment, says what is needed is a fundamental rethinking in cities worldwide. “Cities can improve by embracing the traditional and the modern, the small scale and the big scale, the informal and the formal.”

WIEGO booth at World Urban Forum 7 (WUF7)At Exhibition Booth 68 and through special events, WIEGO will share information on how informal workers contribute to vibrant cities—and how city planners should engage them. Events include:


Tuesday, 8 April
- Harnessing Economic Potential: Street Vending, Enterprise Growth, and Urban Equity - 4:30-6:30, Room 42, Red Pavilion


Wednesday, 9 April
- A Tale of 10 Cities: Findings from the Informal Economy Monitoring Study - 2:35-3:35, Urban Library


Friday, 11 April
- Integrating Waste Pickers into Municipal Waste Management: Waste Pickers’ Struggles and Victories -  8:30-10:30 a.m., City Changer Room B, UN-Habitat Pavilion

To arrange an interview contact Demetria Tsoutouras:
demetria.tsoutouras@wiego.org
Cell: +1 613 882-3364