Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing (WIEGO) is a global network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. We believe all workers should have equal economic opportunities and rights.

 Ahmedabad, India: Rookmani Ram Naryan (left) and her daughter, Kavita Harshiresh Yemul, spend many hours each day on the floor of their small home hand rolling Indian-style cigarettes called bidi.Photo by: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage

WIEGO creates change by building capacity among informal worker organizations, expanding the knowledge base, and influencing local, national and international policies.

Informal Economy: Definition

The informal economy is comprised of economic activities, enterprises and workers that do not receive social protection through work or legal protection through the state. The concept originally applied to self-employment in small unregistered enterprises. It has been expanded to include wage employment in unprotected jobs. 

Often, the informal economy is stigmatized as “illegal”, “underground”, “black” or “grey”. The generalization is unfair. The vast majority of informal workers are trying to earn an honest living against great odds. 

In recent decades, informal employment has persisted or grown, emerging in unexpected places and in new guises. The first-ever global estimates of informal employment indicate 61 per cent of workers worldwide are informal (see Women and Men in the Informal Economy, ILO 2018).  




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. This summary of the WIEGO Manifesto has more information on poverty reduction.

WIEGO’s Origins

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 – Born in Bellagio, 1997.


Today WIEGO is a thriving network of 193 Individual and Institutional Members in 45 countries who share this concern. Together, our Members, Directors and Team strive:

  • to put issues of employment/work in general, and of informal workers in particular, at the centre of development discourse, policies and processes relating to growth and poverty
  • to investigate and 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 investigate and 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

Learn about the Defining Features of WIEGO.

The WIEGO Network comprises

  • membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers who are involved in the identification, prioritization and design of all our activities 
  • individual researchers who are engaged in analysis of  the informal economy
  • development practitioners who are concerned with poverty and informality 

See Who We Are and What We Do.

Annual Report 2017-18


WIEGO's Annual Report: 2017-2018

View past annual reports.