WIEGO is a global network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. For information, photos, and stories of the working poor in the informal economy, see Informal Workers.

WIEGO creates change by building capacity among informal worker organizations, expanding the knowledge base on the informal economy, and influencing the policy and regulatory environment.  

Our primary goals are:

  • to put work and workers – informal workers in particular – and informal workers’ organizations at the centre of development discourse, policies and processes relating to growth and poverty
  • to increase understanding of the size, composition and contribution of the informal economy and of the status, needs and constraints of specific groups of informal workers
  • to increase understanding of how different groups of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy are linked to the formal economy and inserted into the global economy
  • to promote appropriate and equitable policies, laws, regulations and institutions that can improve and secure the livelihoods of the working poor in the informal economy


Most of the world’s working poor make their living in the informal economy, where earnings are typically low but costs and risks are high. WIEGO contends that poverty and inequality can only be reduced by raising the earnings and lowering the risks of these workers.

The WIEGO Network was founded by 10 activists, researchers, and development practitioners who shared a concern that the working poor in the informal economy, especially women, are not understood, valued, or supported in policy circles or by the international development community. Read WIEGO Turns 15 – Born in Bellagio, 1997.

Today WIEGO is a thriving network of 176 Individual and Institutional Members in 40 countries who share this concern. 

What WIEGO Does

WIEGO has five core programmes:

  1. Organization & Representation works to increase the voice of informal workers and their organizations.
  2. Statistics seeks to increase the visibility of informal workers, units, and activities and their contribution to the economy by including them in official statistics.
  3. Global Trade explores ways to improve the terms of trade or employment of the working poor who produce goods in global value chains.
  4. Social Protection looks at expanding social protection coverage to the working poor in the informal economy and highlights how social protection needs to be retooled to fit the specific needs of the working poor.
  5. Urban Policies seeks to enhance the capacity of informal workers to shape the urban policies and environment in which they live and work.

In addition to (and cutting across) these five core programmes, WIEGO undertakes Special Initiatives. These include commissioned research for and technical consultations with international agencies (e.g. the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Labour Organization, the UN Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, UN Women, and the World Bank),  global advocacy initiatives, and exposure-dialogues series designed to expose academics and other professionals to the ground reality of informal work.

In collaboration with membership-based organizations of informal workers and support NGOs, WIEGO has undertaken large global projects: one on Inclusive Cities for the Urban Working Poor; another on Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment; and a sequel to the second, on Securing Economic Rights for Women with a focus on women’s leadership in organizations.

Who We Are

The WIEGO Network

The WIEGO Network consists of individuals and institutions from three broad constituencies:

  • membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers such as trade unions, cooperatives, and worker associations
  • researchers and statisticians who carry out research, data collection, or data analysis on the informal economy
  • practitioners from development agencies (inter-governmental, governmental, and non-governmental) who design programme interventions or shape policies towards the informal workforce

WIEGO's founders decided that the WIEGO network should build alliances and draw on the expertise of individuals and institutions from each of these constituencies around the globe.


MBOs of informal workers who are active in WIEGO are invited to become our Institutional Members. Individuals from the other two constituencies who are active in WIEGO are invited to become our Individual Members. As of March 2015, the WIEGO network had 176 Members – 34 Institutional and 142 Individual Members – from 40 countries.

Read the WIEGO MBO Newsletter.


A 10-person Board of Directors governs the WIEGO network. Board members are drawn from our three constituencies and come from diverse backgrounds and different regions. The Board has two committees: a Management (or executive) Committee and a Financial Committee. Meet our Board.


Thirty individuals based around the world bring their diverse expertise to WIEGO’s team. Only a small segment work full-time for WIEGO; many play important roles as teachers, researchers and consultants for other institutions.

  • The WIEGO Secretariat is located at Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, USA.
  • The WIEGO Ltd. Office in Manchester, UK includes Operations and Finance Teams.
  • The Communications Team is based in Ottawa, Canada. 
  • Programme Team members live and work in more than 10 countries in both the global South and North. This allows WIEGO to create and maintain strong partnerships and alliances in all regions.

Meet our Team Members.

Where We Work

WIEGO works around the globe, on almost every continent. View the WIEGO in the World map