Laura Alfers

Director, Social Protection Programme

“When those who earn their livelihoods in the informal economy are not seen as workers, there is the very real danger that the link between the owners of capital and the social good, and questions of the responsibility of capital to that society, are lost.”


Social policy and employment; Social protection for workers in the informal economy; improving access to health services, including occupational health and safety, for informal workers.

Laura has worked with WIEGO since 2009 in the Social Protection Programme, and was appointed Director in 2017. In 2013, Laura was one of 10 winners in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centennial Innovation Challenge for The Phephanathi Project, which aims to make the informal trading of Warwick Junction more secure and healthy for traders, customers, people passing through, and the officials who manage it.

Laura started her work with WIEGO, helping to manage the  Occupational Health & Safety for Informal Workers Project, which ran in Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru, and India, and since then has been involved in a number of other initiatives under the Social Protection Programme, including the Child Care Initiative. She has conducted several action research projects and has authored journal articles, reports and policy briefs emerging from this work. She has been actively involved in building the capacity of informal workers in Ghana & South Africa to demand better urban health services from local government, and continues to run projects on health and informal workers in India, South Africa and Thailand.

In 2015 Laura completed her PhD at the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, with a thesis titled: “Citizens, Workers & Health Policy: A Gendered Political & Economic History of Social Citizenship in ex-British Colonies, with a focus on Ghana and India, 1880-2012.” The thesis used a gendered historical analysis to critically engage with current health reforms which seek to be inclusive of informal workers. She is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Social & Economic Research at Rhodes University in South Africa

In the News

2014. Video: Approaches to Universal Health Coverage and Occupational Health and Safety for the Informal Workforce in Developing Countries – A Workshop. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

2014. Workplace safety with informal workers: Be safe with us. by Laura Alfers and Tasmi Quazi.