Law and the Informal Economy

Woman with no slave t-shirt

Law is an essential tool in improving livelihoods and lives. But legal and regulatory frameworks are designed for the formal economy. Too often, they fail to protect and support informal workers. Instead, legislation and law enforcement too often criminalize informal workers’ livelihood activities.

Informal workers – like all workers – require a regulatory framework that protects their rights in the workplace, balances the needs of all stakeholders, and promotes a climate of stability and security. An appropriate legal framework can encourage economic development, allowing informal workers to achieve their full potential as workers and, often, as micro-entrepreneurs.

Informal Workers and the Law

WIEGO works primarily with four occupational groups: domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers, all of whom face unique as well as common challenges. Our Informal Workers and the Law resource page outlines these challenges, and highlights progressive legal developments that respond to the needs of each group. Access the resource page here.

Resource Portal

WIEGO has compiled a repository of information and resources on law and the informal economy, grouped by category, to improve access to information and resources for workers, membership-based organizations (MBOs), researchers, policy-makers and lawyers. Access the legal resource portal here.

Law and Informality Project – 2006-2013

In 2006, WIEGO instituted a global project on law and the informal economy with pilot programs in India and Columbia. The project’s objectives were to deepen our understanding of how law – or the absence of legislation – affects informal workers, and to build the capacity of women informal worker leaders to engage in advocacy and negotiation for legal change. After pilots in India and Colombia, we worked with membership-based organizations of informal women workers in Ghana, Peru and Thailand between 2010 and 2013, and in India and South Africa in 2014. See Country Reports and a Final Report on the project.

In October 2015, WIEGO established a dedicated Law Programme, which builds on the work completed under the law project.  

This microsite offers access to laws, cases and policies relating to the informal economy. Please note: WIEGO does not claim that these resources represent best practice models, unless expressly stated.