Marlese von Broembsen

Marlese von BroembsenDirector, Law Programme

“All around the world, the law criminalises the activities of street traders and waste pickers,  and  excludes homeworkers from employment rights and benefits. What is needed are new legal and institutional approaches to informal workers that recognise informal workers as workers, and as contributors to the economy."


informal economy, development and labour law, global value chains, and legal empowerment of the poor

Marlese Von Broembsen, a law graduate of the University of Cape Town and Harvard Univeristy, is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School. Previously, Marlese was a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Law and Society, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, where she taught courses on Law, Development, Labour Law and Social Justice.

After qualifying as an attorney, Marlese worked for an NGO active in small business development in the informal settlements in Cape Town for four years. Upon graduating with a Masters in Development Studies, Marlese’s focus shifted to research and policy work related to labour markets and the informal economy. She  co-taught a Masters course on Social Policy at the Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape for three years. Marlese was also the lead researcher for UCT’s Graduate School of Business’ Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2005 publication on the informal economy, was commissioned to write an input paper for the Taylor Commission on Social Security, and wrote the South African paper on small business rights for the UNDP’s Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor.  As a partner of South Consulting, she project-managed projects on human rights and economic development in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Marlese’s research interests  include the political economy of work, and more particularly, distributive issues in the context of global value chains. She writes on labour law and development, the informal economy, and on global value chains. Marlese is completing a PhD at the University of Cape Town, and was a David and Elaine Potter Fellow in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 she was awarded a Harvard-South Africa Fellowship and graduated in 2015 with an LLM from Harvard Law School.