Focal Cities Delhi

HBW in Delhi

Urban employment trends in India have defied predictions. Rather than becoming absorbed into modern formal wage employment, the urban workforce in India has grown increasingly informal. Informal employment in Delhi constitutes 71 per cent of total employment in the city. Wage employment and self-employment account for a share of 54 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively, of total informal employment in Delhi. Further, informal employment within four occupational groups – home-based workers, street vendors, domestic workers, and waste pickers – together accounts for a share of 32 per cent of women’s non-agricultural employment in Delhi.

New articles: It's Time We Paid Women Workers Their Due by Shalini Sinha - While
the women engaged in the informal sector feed the economic engine of
our nation, their work and contributions largely go unrecognised.


For more statistics on informal work in Delhi, visit the WIEGO Dashboard.

WIEGO’s Focal Cities Delhi project works to bring into focus issues surrounding informal employment in the city of New Delhi and to improve outcomes for urban informal workers. The project was started in 2016, with a strong focus on three sectors – home-based workers, street vendors, and waste-pickers. The project has the following objectives:

  • Capacity-building with informal worker leaders and their organizations in areas such as policy advocacy, communications and negotiation to support them in raising awareness about their efforts and advocating for their needs.
  • Supporting membership-based organisations (MBOs) in engaging in dialogue and negotiations with city and national public officials to promote mutual understanding and to allow workers to provide input on laws, regulations and social policy.

Current and Future Activities and Outcomes

Creating a Knowledge Base on Informal Employment in Delhi

Focal Cities Delhi works to build the knowledge base about urban informal employment at both a local and global level. In 2016, this included a collaboration with the Harvard South Asia Institute on several initiatives, including a booklet and two webinars on home-based workers: “Home-based Workers, Invisible and Voiceless” and “Cities and Home-based Workers.”

In 2017, a major goal of Focal Cities Delhi is to increase visibility of home-based workers through action research.  In Delhi, home-based workers account for 13 per cent of total urban employment. However, there is very little evidence of the nature of their employment, work and living conditions. Focal Cities Delhi, in partnership with the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and FES India, is conducting a small scoping study in 4 locations in the Delhi to estimate the extent of home-based work, their status in employment, the nature of their activities and products and the related key issues and challenges they face. We plan to use this information to raise visibility of home-based workers and their issues among civil society actors and local policy makers, and will galvanize action to address the vulnerable situation of home-based workers.

Changing Perceptions of Informal Work through Media

In 2017, Focal Cities Delhi launched a campaign to change public perceptions about informal workers. We are hosting 13 episodes (each 15 minutes long) on the informal economy and the city, to be broadcast on All India Radio FM Rainbow. The objective of this activity is to use mainstream media to highlight the contribution of the informal economy to cities, and to showcase the challenges that they face and address social equity and inclusion of the working poor in city planning and local economic development. The program is called Kal Ki Subah Hamari Hai (Tomorrow’s Rising Sun Is Ours). Access each episode clicking on the links below:

Episode 1 - "Who are Informal Workers in Cities"

Episode 2 - "Women Informal Workers and the City"

Episode 3 - "Domestic Workers and the City"

Episode 4 - "Street Vendors and the City"

Episode 5 - "Home-based Workers and the City"

Episode 6 - "Construction Workers"

Episode 8

Episode 10

Episode 11

Episode 12

See Focal Cities Coordinator Shalini Sinha interviewed by NDTV on informal work and working women's rights in India

Advocating for Land Tenure and Access to Social Security

Savda Ghevra is a large resettlement site on the northern outskirts of Delhi, spread over 250 acres. It consists of more than 10,000 families relocated from over 28 locations in Delhi. Focal Cities Delhi is working with SEWA Mahila Housing Trust to develop strategies to advocate for adequate services, tenure security and livelihood options for the relocated families.

In the past decade, the residents have invested in upgrading their own homes and infrastructure and strengthening their livelihoods. Focal Cities Delhi, in partnership with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), is conducting a small study to capture information around this investment – affective, economic, financial and material – made by households in home and community-building in Ghevra. The research seeks to explore how this investment can serve as grounds for advocating around continued secure tenure.

Focal Cities Delhi will also work with Mahila Housing Trust, HomeNet South Asia and other workers organization to develop a specific strategy on advocating for housing for home-based workers.

Legal Advocacy for Informal Workers

Street vendors: Focal Cities Delhi works with the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) to build workers’ awareness about the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2014.  In 2016, a public hearing was organised by NASVI, in partnership with WIEGO to demand speedy implementation of the law.

Waste pickers: In 2016, Chintan, in partnership with Focal Cities Delhi, hosted a public hearing on new waste management rules passed in 2016 (The Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 and the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016). The public hearing involved 15 waste-pickers who presented specific challenges they faced, and proposed solutions. The public hearing on waste pickers highlighted their issues in the mainstream media and two reputed newspapers carried their stories, below:

In 2016, Focal Cities Delhi also commissioned a legal review of the 2016 Solid Waste Management Rules. Future proposed activities include public hearings with all stakeholders, capacity building workshops, and an advocacy campaign for issuing ID cards to the waste pickers in Delhi.

Driving a Campaign for Child Care

Focal Cities Delhi has taken up the WIEGO Childcare Campaign, with the goals of: creating space to share and reflect on the childcare needs of different informal workers in Delhi; share experiences on promotion of child care services; and increase advocacy for public child care provision.

Read about
the Childcare Campaign discussion held in Delhi on September 12, 2017.

Resources and Publications

“Photo Essay Part I: Home as a Place of Work” 2015. By Shalini Sinha on the WIEGO Blog.
“Photo Essay Part II: Hidden Workers in Sunder Nagari.” 2015. By Shalini Sinha on the WIEGO Blog.


India’s National Policy on Urban Street Vendors

Sinha, Shalini and Sally Roever. 2011.
India’s National Policy on Urban Street Vendors
WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No. 2

summary   |  download



Supporting Home-Based Workers in India, SEWA

Sinha, Shalini. 2013
Supporting Women Home-Based Workers: The Approach of the Self-Employed Women's Association in India
WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No. 13

summary  | download

Mixed-Use Zoning and Home-Based Production in India

Nohn, Matthias. 2011.
Mixed-Use Zoning and Home-Based Production in India

WIEGO Technical Brief (Urban Policies) No. 3

summary  |  download pdf

Home-Based Workers in India: Statistics and Trends

Raveendran, Govindan, Ratna M. Sudarshan and Joann Vanek. 2013
Home-Based Workers in India: Statistics and Trends
WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 10

summary  |  download pdf

Approaches to Basic Service Delivery for the Working Poor

Rusling, Sara. 2010.
Approaches to Basic Service Delivery for
the Working Poor: Assessing the Impact of Mahila Housing Trust’s
Parivartan Slum Upgrading Programme in Ahmedabad, India

WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No. 1

summary   |  download


Shalini Sinha: